ITAL30110 Selected Twentieth-Century Italian Women Writers

Academic Year 2020/2021

This module investigates particular examples of Italian women's writing in the twentieth century, while problematizing the term 'women's writing' and considering what it might mean. Two novels written at crucial moments of the century (turn-of-the-century and the 1990s), from the point of view of women's changing position in society, are studied. The novels (Aleramo's 'Una donna' and Maraini's 'La lunga vita di Marianna Ucria') are firmly placed within their historical and cultural context, as well as within the context of each author's work. Feminist literary theory is also explored, particularly in its Italian dimension. Close readings of the texts, with an eye to themes and stylistic features of particular importance, are offered in lectures. Tutorials will initially focus mainly on commentary work, in small groups and later (after the class test) on critical readings of critical readings. Assessment is by means of a class test, an essay plan/abstract (including bibliographical references) and a long comparative essay. Students should have read the novels prior to the commencement of the module.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:- recognize the place of the novels studied in the broad historical and cultural context of Italy, as well as in the specific context of Italian women's history and culture; - develop an awareness of the complexities surrounding definitions of women's writing;- present ideas orally and engage in discussion in tutorials;analyse the texts in terms of both form and content through providing a detailed commentary on individual texts; write a critical essay appropriate to a third-year student of Italian literature, taking due account of critical sources.

Indicative Module Content:


1. Introduction to the course. Initial approaches: the canon.
2. How do women write? Theoretical approaches
3. Aleramo: Contexts; women in Italy at the turn of the century.
4. Una donna: The novel's structure and Autobiographical Fiction.
5. Una donna: Themes and Issues.
7. Maraini: Intellectual Backdrop and Intertextual Reference.
8. Maraini: Setting and Significance: Women in Italy in the 1700s.
9. Maraini: Themes and Issues; Structure and Perspective.
10. Further considerations on Feminist theory
11. Conclusion/overview

Tutorials (weekly) will involve detailed consideration of Italian Feminist Theory, close textual readings and commentary practice as well as discussion of essay-writing skills.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures, supplemented by tutorials. Active, task-based learning; group work; critical writing; case-based learning.
All classes will take place online, and are scheduled according to the university timetable. Active participation in these classes is required. In addition to that, full engagement with material and tasks made accessible in Brightspace is expected every week.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Students should have completed Italian Language IIb (ITAL20080) or have an equivalent competency in the language. Texts will be read in Italian. It would be useful if core texts were read in advance of commencement of the module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: Comparative essay of at least 2,500 words. Students have a wide choice of essays. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Detailed essay plan/abstract, including bibliographical references Week 6 n/a Graded No


Class Test: Commentary on one of the core texts. Students have a choice of text. Week 9 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

The (low-stakes) essay plan submitted in week 6 will receive individual feedback normally within 10-15 working days, in order to allow students to better structure the (high-stakes) essay due in week 12. The (class test) commentary (due in week 9) will normally be returned with 20 working days, with individual feedback.

Core texts:
S. Aleramo, Una donna (1906)
D. Maraini, La lunga vita di Marianna Ucría (1990)

Reading list:
E. Abel (ed.), Writing and Sexual Difference (Brighton, Harvester, 1982) 809 &SLC809
M. Angelone, L’apprendistato letterario di Sibilla Aleramo (Naples, Liguori, 1987) GEN853ALE/A
S.L. Aricò, Contemporary Women Writers in Italy: A Modern Renaissance (University of Massachussets Press, 1990) 850.9ARI
Z.G. Baranski & S.W. Vinall (eds.), Women and Italy: essays on gender, culture and history (Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1991) GEN305.40945BAR
C. Belsey, “Critical Approaches” in Bloomsbury Guide (see below)
______ & J. Moore (eds.), The Feminist Reader (Basingstoke, MacMillan, 1989) 809BEL SLC
P. Bono & S. Kemp (eds.), Italian Feminist Thought: A Reader (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1991) 305.42BON
L. Caldwell, Italian Family Matters: Women, Politics and Legal Reform (Basingstoke, MacMillan, 1991) 305.40945
M. Cicioni & N. Prunster, Visions and Revisions: Women in Italian Culture (Oxford, Berg, 1993) GEN305.40945CIC
C. Cretella, Architetture interiori: immagini domestiche nella letteratura femminile del novecento italiano: Sibilla Aleramo, Natalia Ginzburg, Dolores Prato, Joyce Lussu (Franco Cesati Editore, 2008) 850.9CRE
U. Fanning, “Italy” in Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature ed. C. Buck (& 220 Italian entries) (London, Bloomsbury, 1992) R809BLO
_______, “Sibilla Aleramo’s Una donna: A case study in women’s autobiographical fiction”, The italianist, 19, 1999
_______, “Some fragments of Daughterly Discourse: The Return to the Mother in Dacia Maraini’s La lunga vita di Marianna Ucría and La nave per Kobe” in Recent Italian Fiction, ed. Roberto Bertoni, TCD and Trauben Editori, 2005) [will be on Brightspace]
______, “Generation through Generations: Maternal and Paternal Paradigms in Sibilla Aleramo and Dacia Maraini” in Women’s Writing in Western Europe: Gender, Generation and Legacy (Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007) GEN809.894/GIO
________, Italian Women’s Autobiographical Writings in the Twentieth Century: Constructing Subjects (Madison, New Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017) GEN859/FAN
M. Federzoni et. al., Sibilla Aleramo (Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1980) GEN853/ALE/F
N. de Giovanni, Carta di donna: narratrici italiane del novecento (Turin, Sei, 1996) 853.08DEG
A. Giorgio, Writing Mothers and Daughters: Renegotiating the Mother in Western European Narratives by Women (Berghahn, 2002) 809.3GIO
C. Heilbrun, Reinventing Womanhood (Gollancz, 1979) 305.4HEI
C. Lazzaro-Weis, From Margins to Mainstream: Feminism and Fictional Modes in Italian Women’s Writing 1968-1990 (Philadelphia, University of Penn Press, 1993) 853.09LAZ
M.O. Marotti, Italian Women Writers from the Renaissance to the Present (Philadelphia, Penn State University Press, 1996) 850.9
K. Mitchell & H. Sanson, Women and Gender in Post-Unification Italy: between private and public spheres (Peter Lang, 2013) 305.40945MIT
P. Morris, Literature and Feminism (Oxford, Blackwell, 1993) 801.95MOR
Penelope Morris, Women and Italy: An interdisciplinary Study (Palgrave MacMillan, 2006) 305.40945MOR
M. Olivieri, Tra libertà e solitudine: saggi su letteratura e giornalismo femminile (Rome, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1990) GEN850.9OLI
L. Panizza & S. Wood, A History of Women’s Writing in Italy (Cambridge U.P., 2000) GEN850.9PAN
V. Picchetti, Relational Spaces: Daughterhood, Motherhood and Sisterhood in Dacia Maraini’s Writings (Madison, Fairleigh Dickinson U.P., 2002) GEN852/MAR/P
P. Sambuco, Italian Women Writers, 1800-2000: Boundaries, Borders and Transgression (Madison, Fairleigh Dickinson U.P., 2015) 850.9SAM
A. Testaferri, Donna: Women in Italian Culture (Toronto U.P., 1989) 850.09TES
S. Wood, Italian Women’s Writing 1860-1994 (London, Athlone Press, 1995) 850.09WOO
Name Role
Mrs Bianca Battilocchi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Ursula Fanning Lecturer / Co-Lecturer