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Gendered Contexts

New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies

Series:

Edited By Laura Benedetti, Julia Hairston and Julia L. Hairston

The application of feminist thought to the study of Italian culture is generating some of the most innovative work in the field today. This volume presents a range of essays which focus on the construction of gender in Italian literature as well as essays in feminist theory. The contributions reflect the current diversity of critical approaches available to those interrogating gender and offer interpretations of prose, poetry, theater, and the visual arts from Boccaccio, Michelangelo, and Galileo to contemporary Italian writers such as Carla Cerati and Dacia Maraini.

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Introduction 1

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Introduction The conference Gendered Contexts: New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies issued from the desire to provide an interdisciplinary forum for scholars working on questions of gender in Italian studies. Graduate students from the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies of The Johns Hopkins University organized the symposium which was held in November 1990. The lively and sometimes heated debates of the conference prompted a follow-up conference. Two years later, Gendered Contexts 2, involving almost twice as many participants, a wider spectrum of disciplines, and a keynote address by the Italian feminist philosopher Luisa Muraro, helped contribute to the continually growing body of gender-oriented research in Italian studies. The following selection of papers from both conferences aims to achieve two ends: first, to demonstrate how gender functions and has functioned in various genres of Italian literature (poetry, theater, prose, scientific writings) and in a range of epochs (from the fourteenth century to the present) and second, to problematize further the very concept of gender. While all the essays are united in the application of gender-con- scious critical methods to Italian literature, they also provide widely diverse approaches from the historical, social, or linguistic, to the philo- sophical or artistic. The volume opens with "The Narrow Door," (the keynote address) in which Luisa Muraro critiques the politics of egalitarianism by theorizing the practice of sexual difference. She claims that only by "making sym- bolic order," by recognizing the differing power relations among women, can women reach a condition of freedom. Paradoxically,...

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