New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies
Edited By Laura Benedetti, Julia Hairston and Julia L. Hairston
Utopia and the Body: Gender and Androgyny in Casanova's Icosameron: Cynthia C. Craig 121
Utopia and the Body: Gender and Androgyny in Casanova's Icosameron Cynthia C. Craig Giacomo Casanova's Icosameron, first published in Prague in 1788, has received even less critical attention than his twelve-volume autobiography, the Histoire de ma vie. As a precursor to several of the autobiographical texts, it explores through the fictional framework of a utopian voyage and return to society many of the same issues which will appear later in the mode of autobiographical discourse, and in particular, the author's com- plex relationship to the realities of his own exile. This relationship is characterized by ambivalence: his nostalgia for, and eventual return to the society which had exiled him is frequently juxtaposed with a perverse inclination to commit transgressive acts. 1 In the Icosameron's fictional plot, Edward and his sister Elizabeth, long thought to have perished in a shipwreck, return untouched by the passage of many decades to their aged parents and recount to an audience of initially skeptical listeners a fantastic tale of their life among the Megamicres and of the society of four million of their descendants which still flourishes in their midst. The text's minute scientific and theoretical detail, while an annoyance to many readers and to the text's internal narratees as well, provides the means for an examination of the fundamen- tal way in which the construction and, alternatively, the effacing, of gender differences is at the very core of the text's compelling vision of the found- ing of a utopian society within a society. An...
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