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Gendered Contexts

New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies


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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Woman as Subject: Theory and Micropolitical Practice in Italian Feminist Texts: Itala T. C. Rutter 19


Woman as Subject: Theory and Micropolitical Practices in Italian Feminist Texts ltala T.C. Rutter Contemporary Italian feminism differs in important respects from femi- nism in the U.S. and in Anglophone societies in general. As distinct from current manifestations in Anglo-American contexts, Italian feminism emphasizes women's difference and alterity from men and also tends to view political developments as intimately related to culture. Specific historical experiences as well as a complex cultural matrix have helped construct a widespread Italian conviction that it is extremely difficult to attempt to assess the relative importance or responsibility of the political versus the cultural origins of women's oppression. (The strikes of mondi- ne, women rice-field workers, which marked the beginnings of a women's movement in Italy in the late nineteenth century, were the earliest and most militant among all labor struggles. The song later adopt- ed by the anti-Fascist Partisans, Bella ciao, was initially addressed by a field worker to her daughter.) 1 It must be said here that less distinction is made, not just among feminists, but in Italian society as a whole between politics and culture, which are understood to be interconnected in complex, ineluctable ways. It has been argued that this is the inheritance of an older culture, with residues of an essentially "organic," irrational, and religious-sacramental view of the world.2 Personal and political elements also tend to be re- garded as inextricably interwoven by most Italian feminists. This percep- tion may be due to the fact that, historically, the oppression suffered...

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