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Gendered Contexts

New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies

Series:

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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Transgressive Transvestism in Three Scala Scenarios: Rosalind Kerr 109

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Transgressive Transvestism in Three Scala Scenarios Rosalind Kerr The appearance of women on the public stage was representative of a profound paradigm shift in western culture-a shift which the commedia dell 'arte reflected in theatrical form. The epistemic shift I refer to is one which Foucault, in The Order of Things, placed at the beginning of the seventeenth century, just at the time the commedia dell'arte was blossom- ing into a full-fledged art form. At this critical juncture, Foucault identi- fied a new classical self-consciousness which began to locate the meaning of representation in representation itself, rather than in the search for resemblances to an ideal which had characterized the Renaissance. 1 Several of the most important questions concerning theatrical reality which the commedia dell 'arte raised emanated from its greatest attrac- tion-the actual representation of women on stage. Covering up and silencing the sin-marked bodies of women to prevent the damnation of Christian men no longer served the ideological needs of the newly emerg- ing secular Republic. Since the acquisition of knowledge was now consid- ered to be mainly a function of individual observation rather than of communally shared Christian teachings, real women's bodies might profitably be re-examined to re-define the places permitted to women in the body politic. The Italian stage helped to give birth to "bourgeois sexuality" as the commedia dell'arte provided an ideal forum to explore the similarities and differences between the sexes from the predominantly visual perspective of bourgeois desire. 2 Based like their distant...

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