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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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In Search of the Mother's Lost Voice: Davida Gavioli 201

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In Search of the Mother's Lost Voice Davida Gavioli In Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, published in 1976, Adrienne Rich emphasized the too often unacknowledged impor- tance of what she defines as the most formative relationship in a woman's life, the relationship between mother and daughter: This cathexis between mother and daughter-essential, distorted, misused-is the great unwritten story. Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. 1 During the past decade, though, the lack of interest in this subject lamented by Rich has given way to a wealth of studies in different disci- plines which sanction its centrality in feminist scholarship. But, especially in so far as psychoanalysis (and even psychoanalytic feminism) is con- cerned, the exclusive focus in this "charmed preoedipal dyad" is on the child, and the mother exists not as a subject in her own right but only in relation to her child. 2 As Marianne Hirsch points out in her recent study The Mother/Daughter Plot, "in her maternal function, [the mother] remains an object, always distanced, always idealized or denigrated, always mysti- fied, always represented through the small child's point of view."3 In Western literary tradition, on the one hand, the realist mother-daughter narrative has presented maternal absence and silence as the conditio sine qua non for...

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