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Italy’s Other Women

Gender and Prostitution in Italian Cinema, 1940–1965

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Danielle Hipkins

In the period 1940 to 1965 the female prostitute featured in at least ten per cent of all Italian-made films, but she cast her shadow over many more. With reference to the changing social and film industrial context, this book explains why the figure of the female prostitute was so prevalent in Italian cinema of this period and offers a new account of her on-screen presence. It shows that the prostitutes that populate Italian cinema are much more than simply 'tarts with hearts' or martyr figures. Via the constant reworking of the prostitute trope across genres, the figure takes us to the heart of many ideological contradictions in postwar Italian cinema and society: these include the entanglement of rhetoric about political truth with the suppression of postwar guilt and shame, fears about racial contamination, and a preoccupation with non-normative forms of masculine behaviour and desire. The book also shows how the female prostitute is important to Italian national cinema as a 'borderline identity', used to establish, but also destabilize, the hegemony of respectable femininities. It is precisely through her borderline condition, this book argues, that the prostitute 'haunts' gender, sometimes policing it, but more often than not problematizing its very construction.

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image: set photograph from La tratta delle bianche (Comencini, 1952), A. Piatti. Photograph supplied by Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale, Rome. ISSN 1662-9108 ISBN 978-3-0343-1934-8 (print) • ISBN 978-1-78707-014-1 (ePub) ISBN 978-1-78707-015-8 (mobi) • ISBN 978-3-0353-0821-1 (ePDF) © Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Bern 2016 Hochfeldstrasse 32, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland info@peterlang.com, www.peterlang.com, www.peterlang.net All rights reserved. All parts of this publication are protected by copyright. Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems. This publication has been peer reviewed. Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche National bibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Control Number: 2016932427

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