Women's literature and society in Italy from 1880 to 1920

Date of Completion

January 1997


Literature, Modern|Literature, Romance|Women's Studies




My dissertation takes as its focus literary production by women in Italy from 1880 to 1920. It was during this period that women made the entry into literature as the active subjects of writing and gained celebrity, commensurate to their efforts, in the literary marketplace. During these years, women's writing in Italy is marked by ambivalence and paradoxes stemming from its relation to the socio-cultural context and against which it made its presence felt, namely positivism. the ideas of which on women strangely coincided with those of orthodox Catholic morality. Such ambiguities are, on the one hand, the sign of a strong vitality in the epoch's feminine culture, because through them we are in a position to capture what was in fact the real condition of women at the time; while, on the other, they testify to the deep insecurities and fragility which will be exploited successively by Fascism in proposing its model of woman as "spouse and mother exemplary." This dissertation is part of a group of studies which in Italy, albeit with some delay in comparison to France, England and the United States, have begun to take strong hold, namely, studies that investigate the forms taken by women as subjects of writing in order to interact with literature as a system of social and moral values. My approach to women's writing, besides avoiding the risk of setting it even more apart from mainstream literature, in a separate history--as was actually done for many years--has the advantage of furnishing elements useful in the re-construction of the cultural and intellectual climate in Italy at the turn of the century, a time when the country, in the wake of significant social and political changes, was in the process of transformation that entailed the re-definition of its cultural heritage. ^