Postcoloniality and the Italian South. Race, Gender, Sexuality, Literature
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A recent stream of scholarship has described the Italian process of unification (1861-1865) as an instance of “internal colonialism”, in which the “Othering” of the South served in producing, by opposition, a “modern” Italian identity. The main question that this thesis aims to answer is how literary representations of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and nationhood, sustained or ran counter the process of Othering of the Italian South in some of the crucial periods of contemporary Italian history. It takes as case studies three different novels. The second half of the nineteenth century is the period when the problematic unification of the country was carried out. Federico de Roberto is probably the Italian writer of the time that has been the most critical about the process of Italian unification. In his major novel women play a pivotal role; the analysis of De Roberto's female characters in The Viceroys (1894) is carried out in relation to the ways in which the nationalist discourse of the time mobilized notions about gender and sexuality. The second chapter focuses on the fascist Ventennio. Elio Vittorini's Conversations in Sicily (1938) stands out in this moment as expressing a nuanced meditation on the status of difference in the fascist period; a meditation that is carried out from a “southern” point of view. Vittorini's meditative novel effectively deconstructs fascist gender stereotypes, a homogenous idea of Nation and makes visible the hybridity of the “southern Italian subject”. The postmodern period (from the 70s to the present) and the recently rediscovered novel by Goliarda Sapienza, The Art of Joy (written between 1968 and 1977) form the focus of the third chapter. The symbolism of Sapienza's style is particularly fit for being read with a method of close reading that can account for the rich texture of the language used by the author and the recurrence of some specific tropes and themes linked to the history of marginalization of the South.