This book highlights the centrality of the autobiographical enterprise to Italian women's writing through the twentieth century-a century that has frequently been referred to as the century of the self. Ursula Fanning addresses the thorny issue of essentialism potentially involved in underlining links between women's writing and autobiographical modes, and ultimately rejects it in favor of an argument based on the cultural, linguistic, and literary marginalization of women writers within the Italian context. It is concerned with Italian women writers' various ways of grappling with constructions of subjectivity throughout the century and sets out to explore them. Fanning reads autobiographical writing as subject to many of the same constraints as fiction and, in doing so, draws attention to the significance of the recurring use of the terms "pure" and "impure" in many critical and theoretical discussions of the autobiographical (where "pure" is used to suggest a truthful representation of a life, while "impure" suggests the messy undertaking of mixing lived experience with fiction).
Recurring patterns and paradigms are found in the works of the various writers considered (eighteen in all), and these paradigms are analyzed through close readings of their works. These close readings offer insights into approaches to the constructions of subjectivity in the narratives and are informed by feminist theories. The chapters focus on selves in relationship, taking their lead from the patterns unfolding in the writers' work, hence the subjects are constructed as daughters (with different views of the self in relation to fathers and mothers), within the confines of the romantic relationship (which involves reconsiderations and rewritings of the romance plot), as maternal subjects, and as writers (with an eye on their relationship to the literary canon, as well as to the relationship with readers).
This book argues that there is such a thing as gendered subjectivity and that its constructions may be traced through the texts analyzed.
Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Number of pages: 260
Weight: 572 g
Dimensions: 239 x 157 x 25 mm
Marking out some unique turf in the burgeoning literature on 20th-century Italian women's autobiographical writing, Fanning focuses on female subjectivity in both fiction and overt self-writing by "real women"-that is, specific women authors. Bridging the gap between fictive and overtly nonfictional self-writing, the author borrows Lilian Furst's concept of a "porous interface" between the two: each subject is fully embodied in her unique biographical conditions and specific political and social culture, and embedded within the literary scene in her unique career and preoccupations, but all are perceived as sharing a common struggle over the course of a revolutionary century-i.e., the struggle to use writing as a means of self-making. Thus the first movement in this rather symphonic assembly of voices becomes a kind of biographical tryout, in which Fanning establishes for each considered author (Sibilla Aleramo, Grazia Deledda, Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Francesca Sanvitale, Fabrizia Ramondino, to name just a few) a discrete "presence" across genres on dominant themes (e.g., father, mother, marriage, motherhood) before joining her to other common themes and forms and allowing her to reemerge whole again, shaded by her unique, subjective, embodied difference as a writer. Italian quotations are translated parenthetically, a welcome practice that allows one to appreciate the grace and precision of Fanning's English.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. * CHOICE *
This precious book by Ursula Fanning embarks on a courageous journey [of] reconnaissance and discoveries among the folds of feminine autobiographical writing [in] Twentieth century Italy. . . . Very useful as a handbook. . . this book by Ursula Fanning constitutes a point [of] essential reference in gender studies and research on autobiographical form in the twentieth century. [translated from original Italian] * OBLIO *