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Imagining Italy

L’Italie sous la plume des femmes

Space, Gender and Discourse in Women’s Writing (1789-1914)

Espace, genre, discours (1789-1914)

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Published on Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Abstract

This conference will explore women writers’ contributions to the representation of Italy in Europe, from the 19th century to the outbreak of the First World War. At a time when women were increasingly present in the public sphere, Italy was for them a source of particular interest and attention, as women writers began to contribute to a discourse that had previously been predominantly restricted to men. Through a cross-cultural and comparative perspective, the conference aims to intersect representations of space and notions of gender, in order to trace the construction and reappropriation of Italy by women authors.

Announcement

International conference

Université de Lorraine, Nancy, 7-8 novembre 2024

Argument

The image of Italy in nineteenth-century Europe has been strongly influenced by a tradition of male writers, rooted in the practice of international travel dating back to the Grand Tour. This practice of visiting Italy, associated with the study and discovery of the ancient world or with artistic and aesthetic projects, has given rise to an infinite number of literary works, many of which have become essential references at national and European levels, and models for generations of writers. We need only cite names such as Goethe, Stendhal, Byron, the Shelleys and Henry James to understand the extent to which the male perspective shaped the vision of Italy through the arts, and literature in particular, in nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe. While there are many studies devoted to the nineteenth-century passion for Italy, women still rarely figure in them. They have been the subject of important critical works in recent years, in Great Britain, Germany and France (Walchester, Stabler/Chapman, Ujma, Bourguinat, among others), but whole sections of the history of women writers’ love of Italy have yet to be uncovered.

This conference will explore women writers’ contributions to the representation of Italy in Europe, from the 19th century to the outbreak of the First World War. At a time when women were increasingly present in the public sphere, Italy was for them a source of particular interest and attention, as women writers began to contribute to a discourse that had previously been predominantly restricted to men. The first women travellers, often from England, wrote extensively about their travels in the wake of the Grand Tour. Some of them settled in Italy and held salons, creating transnational contact zones. These women authors were emulated throughout Europe (Bourguinat) and established a genre that was highly diverse, breaking with established aesthetic codes (Walchester) and deconstructing the “sense of a static and monolithic Italy” (Chapman and Stabler). Nevertheless, travelling to Italy was not an absolute condition for writing about it. Like some male writers, women authors contributed to the construction of a purely fictional Italy, as in Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic novels.

Whether imagined or experienced, these encounters with a country undergoing profound political, economic and social transformation inspired a wide variety of literary outputs: poetry (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Anna Akhmatova, for example), theatre, novels (George Eliot), short stories (Mary Shelley, Selma Lagerlöf), non-fiction genres such as journalism, essays (Vernon Lee), travelogues (Zinaïda Hippius), letters (Marina Tsvetaïeva) and historiographical writing. Some of these texts show a predilection for the Renaissance (Sight and Song by Michael Field, 1892) or the Risorgimento and its famous figures, such as Garibaldi (Ricarda Huch). Questions around women’s place in society and representations of femininity are also associated with these visions of Italy, for example in texts such as Kvinnlighet och erotik (1883) by Anne-Charlotte Leffler.

Women writers’ vision of Italy has produced its own masterpieces, such as Madame de Staël's Corinne ou l'Italie. Published in 1807, the novel was an immediate success throughout Europe, especially with female readers, for whom it became a reference text on the conflict between art and the female condition. Through a cross-cultural and comparative perspective, the conference aims to intersect representations of space and notions of gender, in order to trace the construction and reappropriation of Italy by women authors. What was the impact of seminal texts, particularly those written by women (Mme de Staël, Lady Morgan, Mariana Starke and others)? Are these models mentioned? Are they accepted or rejected? Which social, cultural and aesthetic issues are at the centre of women's interest in the Italian peninsula? What motivated them to write in a variety of genres, often producing original and innovative work? Finally, which images of Italy, Italians and their culture - including literature, history, art, religion, and politics, will be uncovered by this largely unexplored corpus?

Topics

Possible topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

  • Literary texts about Italy: essays, minor genres, novels, prose, travelogues, historical studies or art writing, diaries, letters,
  • Articles, reviews and other journalistic publications on Italy by women writers
  • Guides to Italy aimed at a female readership
  • The influence of Mme de Staël's Corinne ou l'Italie and of other major texts on women's writing about Italy
  • The role of women writers as mediators between Italy and the rest of Europe
  • Female sociability, cultural and scientific networks and cosmopolitan salons in Italy

Submission guidelines

Please send proposals of approximately 300 words with a short biography to

  • braida-laplace@univ-lorraine.fr,
  • mckeown@univ-lorraine.fr,
  • wiedemann@univ-lorraine.fr

by 31 March 2024

Organizing committee

  • Antonella Braidav (IDEA)
  • Claire McKeown (IDEA)
  • Kerstin Wiedemann (CERCLE)

Scientific committee

  • Alessandra Ballotti (Sorbonne Université)
  • Caroline Bertonèche (Université Grenoble-Alpes)
  • Nicolas Bourguinat (Université de Strasbourg)
  • Joseph Cadeddu, (Université de Lorraine, LIS)
  • Lioudmila Chvedova (Université de Lorraine, CERCLE)
  • Gillian Dow (University of Southampton)
  • Annette Keilhauer (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen)
  • Elisabetta Marino (Università Tor Vergata, Roma)
  • Anne Rouhette (Université Clermont-Auvergne)
  • Diego Saglia (Università di Parma)
  • Alexandra Wojda (Université de Lorraine, CERCLE)

Places

  • 23, Boulevard Albert 1er
    Nancy, France (54000)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


Date(s)

  • Sunday, March 31, 2024

Keywords

  • roman, théâtre, imaginaire, Europe, femme, art, politique, littérature, corpus

Contact(s)

  • Kerstin Wiedemann
    courriel : kerstin [dot] wiedemann [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr
  • Antonella Braida
    courriel : antonella [dot] braida [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr
  • Claire McKeown
    courriel : claire [dot] mckeown [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Lucie Voinson
    courriel : lucie [dot] voinson [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Imagining Italy », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/vnqv

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