Literary and epistolary figurations of female desire in early post-Unification Italy, 1861-1914

Mitchell, Katharine (2015) Literary and epistolary figurations of female desire in early post-Unification Italy, 1861-1914. In: Italian Sexualities Uncovered, 1789-1914. Gender and Sexualities in History . Palgrave Macmillan Ltd, Basingstoke, Hampshire. ISBN 9781137396976

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    Abstract

    From the 1830s onwards, the topos of the sexually desiring woman in Italian tragic opera and imported French novels played a significant role in awakening a certain kind of desire in women in post-Unification Italy. Drawing on female performing artists’ and women writers’ expressions of sexual desire in letters and realist fiction respectively, and adapting aspects of Laura Mulvey’s theory of the gaze directed at women through male identification to articulate a female gaze, by way of female identification, Mitchell argues that these offered spectators new possibilities for the expression of female sexuality and desire: spectators were engaging cognitively and socially in the culture through the scopophilic mode, which was an important component in the identity formation of Italian women in the last decade of the nineteenth century.