Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writing Since Unification

Posted in Books, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2013-09-04 21:29Z by Steven

Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writing Since Unification

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
July 2013
127 pages
ISBN: 9781611475999

Melissa Coburn, Assistant Professor of Italian and Italian Program Director
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writing Since Unification explores racist ideas and critiques of racism in four long narratives by female authors Grazia Deledda, Matilde Serao, Natalia Ginzburg, and Gabriella Ghermandi, who wrote in Italy after national unification. Starting from the premise that race is a political and sociohistorical construction, Melissa Coburn makes the argument that race is also a narrative construction. This is true in that many narratives have contributed to the historical construction of the idea of race; it is also true in that the concept of race metaphorically reflects certain formal qualities of narration. Coburn demonstrates that at least four sets of qualities are common among narratives and also central to the development of race discourse: intertextuality; the processes of characterization, plot, and tropes; the tension between the projections of individual, group, and universal identities; and the processes of identification and otherness. These four sets of qualities become the organizing principles of the four sequential chapters, paralleling a sequential focus on the four different narrative authors. The juxtaposition of these close, contextualized readings demonstrates salient continuities and discontinuities within race discourse over the period examined, revealing subtleties in the historical record overlooked by previous studies.

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Passing: A Strategy to Dissolve Identities and Revamp Differences

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Philosophy on 2013-02-08 02:16Z by Steven

Passing: A Strategy to Dissolve Identities and Revamp Differences

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
January 2008
142 pages
ISBN: 9780838641255

Anna Camaiti Hostert, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Studies Program and Philosophy
Florida Atlantic University

This book takes its title from the homonymous novel by Nella Larsen who, during the Harlem Renaissance, posed the question of what it means to be black in a racist country. The practice of passing was in fact used by African Americans to escape discrimination during the time of segregation. Nella Larsen condemns this practice, but also shows its potential, defining it as “not entirely strange perhaps… but certainly not entirely friendly.”

Starting from this consideration, Camaiti Hostert’s book turns the meaning of the social practice of passing upside down and makes it become a universal tool to redefine any social, ethnic, gender, and religious identity. Based on the Foucauldian consideration that total visibility is a “trap,” the author focuses her attention on the interstices, on the spaces off and on the narratives between the lines. The emphasis is on the transitional moment, in a Gramscian sense: the fluid state flowing between the starting and ending points becomes the place of a counter-hegemony, which helps not only to rewrite history but also to change the political status quo. More interesting than the departure or arrival point is the phase any individual has to go through in order to redefine his/her own self and his/her position in society. It is a deterritorialization of the self and of social practices. It is a way to oppose any form of binary thinking and particularly cultural barriers. Post-colonial literatures, cinema, and new communication technologies that shape the many forms of popular culture are the common ground on which passing relies. From there, from the different conditions of in betweeness, stems the possibility of change.

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