ITAL30310 Women Writing Identities

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module investigates particular examples of Italian women's writing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, while problematizing the term 'women's writing' and considering what it might mean. The texts studied also interrogate constructions of identities and alterities/'otherness'. Sibilla Aleramo's 'Una donna', Rosetta Loy's 'La parola ebreo; and the collection of writings 'Future' (ed. Igiaba Scego) are firmly placed within their historical and cultural context, as well as within the context of their authors' work. Feminist literary theory is explored, particularly in its Italian dimension, as are theories of autobiography, alterity, and of 'migrant' and ethnic minority writing. 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, a group presentation and a comparative exam essay. Students should have read the texts prior to the commencement of the module.

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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, autobiographical writing and 'migrant' and ethnic minority writing and issues of genre; 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; present close analysis of one of the set texts as a group, with a focus on themes and structural features of importance; write a critical essay appropriate to a third-year student of Italian literature, taking due account of critical sources.

Indicative Module Content:

Questions around constructions of identity and alterity in narrative will be addressed, through an interrogation of autobiographical writing, the literature of memory, and 'migrant' and ethnic minority writing. Set texts are Sibilla Aleramo's 'Una donna', Rosetta Loy's 'La parola ebreo' and the edited collection 'Future' (ed. Igiaba Scego).


1. Introduction to the course. Initial approaches: the canon
2. How do women write? Theoretical approaches (including initial considerations on feminist theory, writing the Holocaust and 'migrant' and ethnic minority writing)
3. Aleramo: Contexts - women in Italy at the turn of the century.
4. Una donna: The novel's structure, Autobiographical Fiction.
5. Una donna: Themes and Issues.
6. Loy: Contexts - Memory, autobiographical writing, Holocaust literature
7. La parola ebreo - Structure, genre, themes and issues
9. La parola ebreo: addressing alterity
10. Future: Contexts -'migrant' and ethnic minority writing
11. Future: Close-up on narratives
12. Future: Close-up on stories, and concluding comments

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. Active participation in class is required. In addition to this, full engagement with material and tasks made available in Brightspace is expected each week. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this 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 In Module Component Repeat Offered
Presentation: Group Powerpoint presentation in tutorial/seminar slots; groups randomly assigned; presentation should focus on one set text and should address key themes and structural features Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Class Test: Seen class test commentary on 1 of 3 passages from each of the set texts Week 9 n/a Graded No


Examination: 2-hour examination; students must answer 1 comparative essay question from a choice of questions 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive group feedback post-assessment, in class after their group presentation during the trimester - this will normally be within one week of the presentation; students will receive individual feedback on their in-class commentary test from week 9, normally within 3 weeks of this assessment.

Core texts:
Sibilla Aleramo, Una donna (1906)
Rosetta Loy, La parola ebreo (1997)
Future, ed. Igiaba Scego (2019)

Reading list:
General background
E. Abel (ed.), Writing and Sexual Difference (Brighton, Harvester, 1982) 809 &SLC809
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
U. Fanning, “Italy” in Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature ed. C. Buck (& 220 Italian entries) (London, Bloomsbury, 1992) R809BLO
_______, Italian Women’s Autobiographical Writings in the Twentieth Century: Constructing Subjects (Madison, New Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017) GEN859/FAN
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. Lazzzaro-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
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

On Aleramo and Una donna:
M. Angelone, L’apprendistato letterario di Sibilla Aleramo (Naples, Liguori, 1987) GEN853ALE/A
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, “Sibilla Aleramo’s Una donna: A case study in women’s autobiographical fiction”, The italianist, 19, 1999
______, “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
M. Federzoni et. al., Sibilla Aleramo (Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1980) GEN853/ALE/F

On Loy, writing the Holocaust and La parola ebreo:
D. G. Roskies and N. Diamant, Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide, The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry series, 2012 (e-book from library)
G. Minghelli, ‘What’s in a Word? Rosetta Loy’s Search of History in Childhood’, MLN, 116:1 (2001), 162-176 (online article from library)
G. Cinelli, ‘Silenzio e verità ne La parola ebreo di Rosetta Loy’, MLN, 123:1 (2008), 8-21 (online article from library)
S. Lucamante, Forging Shoah memories: Italian women writers, Jewish identity, and the Holocaust (Palgrave, 2014) 850.9 LUC
S. Marchetti, ‘Private memory, Public History, and Testimony in Rosetta Loy’s La parola ebreo’, in Memoria collettiva e memoria privata: il ricordo della Shoah come politica sociale, ed. by S. Lucamante (Utrecht: Utrecht Publishing and Archiving Services, 2008), pp. 111-122 (on Brightspace)
R. Wilson, 'Time and Remembrance: Rosetta Loy' in Speculative Identities (Routledge, 2000), online from library

On Scego, 'migrant' and ethnic minority writing:
A. Ashna, Activist by Default: An Interview with Igiaba Scego, The Minnesota review (Minneapolis, Minn.), 2020, Volume 94, Issue 1 (online article from library)
A. Hafisi, La letteratura migrante come diario, Studia Universitatis Hereditati, 12/2019, Volume 7, Issue 2 (online article from library)
C. Romeo, From Pecore nere to Future: Anthologizing Intersectional Blackness in Contemporary Italy, Journal of postcolonial writing, 09/2022, Volume 58, Issue 5 (online article from library)
W. Sievers and Vlasta, S., Immigrant and ethnic-minority writers since 1945: fourteen national contexts in Europe (Brill/Rodopi, 2018) 809.8920691
K. Trifiro, L’Europa e lo straniero. Letteratura migrante come performance identitaria, Humanities, 03/2017, Volume 2, Issue 1 (online article from library)
Name Role
Dr Marco Bellardi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer