Between Private and Public Spheres
Edited By Katharine Mitchell and Helena Sanson
Part 1 Motherhood in the New Italy
Ursula Fanning Maternal Prescriptions and Descriptions in Post-Unification Italy Prescriptions and Proscriptions The ‘prescriptions’ alluded to in the title of this chapter refer, for the most part, to the public sphere – to public aspirations around motherhood, and to public expectations of mothers and of the maternal. The ‘descriptions’, in turn, have as one point of reference women writers’ ref lections of those public debates and thus of motherhood in the public sphere, but also the writers’ imaginative representations of motherhood in its private dimen- sion. The prescriptions, then, often map on to what Adrienne Rich has famously defined as the ‘institution’ of motherhood, necessarily public, while the descriptions certainly treat of that, but also engage with what Rich suggests can be the very dif ferent ‘experience’ of motherhood (often private).1 Rich explores what she defines as ‘two meanings of motherhood, one superimposed on the other: the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction and to children; and the institution, which aims at ensuring that that potential – and all women – shall remain under male control’.2 The tension between these two meanings of motherhood, already glimpsed by many Italian women writers in the post-Unification period in Italy, informs and complicates their representations of mother- hood, as we shall see. 1 A. Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (London: Virago, 1991 ). 2 Rich, Of Woman Born, 13. 14 Ursula Fanning This chapter begins by outlining some of the prescriptions around the maternal and motherhood in...
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