by Alba Amoia
Southern Illinois University Press, 1996
eISBN: 978-0-8093-8311-5 | Cloth: 978-0-8093-2026-4
Library of Congress Classification PQ4174.A48 1996
Dewey Decimal Classification 853.91099287


As an international scholar and resident of Italy who has observed and shared the experiences of Italian women for the past twenty years, Alba Amoia has positioned herself perfectly to report to English-speaking audiences the great range and variety of writing produced by twentieth-century Italian women. Her personal contact with many of the authors she discusses lends further immediacy to her study.

Rather than focusing exclusively on contemporary living authors, Amoia discusses writers from the early part of the twentieth century as well, linking them with later writers spanning twentieth-century Italy’s literary movements and political, social, and economic developments. Yet the connections and contradictions that bind and divide these women are only beginning to be established because Italy is still a splintered country in which perceptions of Italian women as a historical group have only begun to crystallize. While feminine voices resound on the Italian literary scene, only recently has feminine authority made itself felt in the professional and institutional worlds.

The eleven writers in this volume criticize the female role in Italian society, externalize women’s unconscious needs, and offer unusual examples of feminine creativity. Amoia provides a critical treatment of each author, incorporating the accepted opinion of Italian and other critics. She isolates recurrent and fundamental themes in each author’s literary career: linguistic repression by males, personal frustration in the realm of "householditude," and disorientation within Italy’s unbalanced institutions and hierarchies still strongly anchored in archaic structures.

Amoia begins her discussion with two illustrious predecessors of Italy’s contemporary women writers: the 1926 Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda and the premier literary feminist Sibilla Aleramo. Continuing in chronological order, Amoia discusses Gianna Manzini, Lalla Romano, Elsa Morante, Natalia Ginzburg, Rosetta Loy, and Dacia Maraini. Amoia concludes her exploration of Italian women writers with three journalists: Matilde Serao, Oriana Fallaci, and Camilla Cederna.

Essentially, Amoia has provided a collection of succinct and accessible monographs featuring pertinent biographical information and extensive bibliographies. She discusses each author’s most representative works, seeking to give readers both a sense of these women as writers and an understanding of their significance in the male-dominated literary scene.

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