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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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Making the Lesbian Body: Writing and Desire in Dacia Maraini's Lettere a Marina: Beverly Ballaro 177

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Making the Lesbian Body: Writing and Desire in Dacia Maraini's Lettere a Marina Beverly Ballaro For Dacia Maraini, wntmg and desire have always been inextricably linked. At a poetry reading and lecture she gave in 1989 at Rome's Casa della donna, Maraini offered a genealogy of this link, recounting how she had often pretended to be able to read before she could actually do so, and how she began to write poetry at a precocious age. She understood her early, insistent attraction to the written word as natural and inevitable since she had been born into a family of authors. 1 For Maraini, writing represented, "a familiar everyday thing" ["una cosa familiare di tutti i giorni"] and, at the same time, "a great desire" ["un gran desiderio"]. It is perhaps not surprising then, that within Maraini's mature narratives, the process of writing is frequently intertwined with discourses of desire. In this essay, I would like to focus on these discourses as they play themselves out in Dacia Maraini's 1981 novel Lettere a Marina. 2 Lettere a Marina borrows from such genres as the epistolary novel, the autobiography, and the diary in order to tell the story of a volatile relation- ship between the protagonist, Bianca, a writer, and her somewhat mercurial former lover, Marina. The novel consists of a long series of unmailed letters written by Bianca to Marina from the Southern seaside town to which Bianca has retreated from Rome in order to escape Marina, and also to finish...

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