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La Marchesa Colombi, Matilde Serao, Neera : forging a female solidarity in late nineteenth-century journals for women

Mitchell, Katharine (2008) La Marchesa Colombi, Matilde Serao, Neera : forging a female solidarity in late nineteenth-century journals for women. Italian Studies, 63 (1). pp. 63-84. ISSN 0075-1634

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Abstract

The last two decades have seen the publication of studies on women writers from late-nineteenth-century Italy that have sought to reinstate their proper place in the Italian literary canon. This article examines the journalism of three such writers who wrote about common themes in their fiction and non-fiction. Through an examination of a selection of their journalism, I demonstrate that when intended for a predominantly male readership this typically upholds the status quo vis-à-vis women's 'proper' roles as wife and mother. Yet the writers' contributions to journals intended for a female readership are revealing of their concern for, and sympathy with, the social and psychological pressures affecting ordinary women in their daily lives (for example arranged marriages, women's legal subordination to men, their confinement to the 'private' sphere of the home and their limited access to education and to the professions). These issues were of the utmost concern to the campaigners of the nascent movement for female emancipation. Thus far, critics have indicated a disjunction between the fiction of women writers and their journalism. I argue here that this disjunction only holds when the writers are producing journalism addressed to a non-gender specific readership. For, while women writers do not explicitly address the notion of a female solidarity in their journalism, through a reading of their contributions to journals for women, an unarticulated, covert solidarity among them becomes evident.