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Gendered Contexts

New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies

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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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Fosca: The Myth of the Ugly Woman: Patrizia Bettella 133

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Fosca: the Myth of the Ugly Woman Patrizia Bettella "Non trovando il bello ci abbranchiamo all'orrendo." Arrigo Boito Ever since the Middle Ages, philogynist and misogynist literature have co-existed and portrayed Woman as angelic creature and perfect instrument for reaching divinity, or as sinful temptress, beautiful and fatal, or ugly, old, and lascivious; of the latter the Corbaccio represents a striking example. The general tendency in the aesthetic perception of women in literature is to divide feminine figures into two categories: the beautiful, good-natured, virtuous and the ugly, sinful, wicked. 1 Ugliness in women is often associated with the burlesque and is included simply for the sake of paradox, or as a clever juxtaposition. It is with the appearance of the Romantic sensibility that ugliness and horror enter the aesthetic canon as a source of poetic inspiration. The plight of the unattractive individual no longer belongs to the comic or ridiculous but is taken seriously. With Giacomo Leopardi, ugliness and physical deformity become tragic existential drama. In "L'ultimo canto di Saffo" the autobiographical theme of physical ugliness is intertwined with a state of unhappiness that leads to suicide. Nevertheless Leopardi's Sappho does not influence the dominant cliche of the Romantic narrative, where the ideal of feminine angelic beauty continues to prevail, as we find in Teresa of the Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis and Lucia of I Promessi Sposi. A woman like Fosca, protagonist of the eponymous novel by lginio U go Tarchetti, is an eccentric figure in nineteenth century...

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