California Italian Studies
Women Crossing Borders. Elena Ferrante’s Smarginature Across Media
- Author(s): Sarnelli, Laura
- et al.
The aim of this essay is to offer new insights into Elena Ferrante’s poetics and aesthetic re-appropriations. Specifically, it focuses on the topic of “women who cross borders.” Women trespass boundaries on multiple levels: on an extra-textual level, the writer herself transgresses thresholds of national belonging between her alleged hometown of Naples – a powerful symbolic locus/location that comes to signify a sort of Mediterranean matrix – and the English-speaking world where her work has been highly praised. In visual media, her characters have crossed from the confines of the page to the frame of the transnational television screen in the Rai/HBO series adaptation of My Brilliant Friend (2018, 2020). Ferrante’s fictional women are also translated in the photography of American artist Francesca Woodman, which powerfully (if unwittingly) foreshadows her poetics of frantumaglia and smarginatura. In this essay, I examine the ways in which Ferrante’s work and its transmedia translations interrogate the margin and its ambivalence in order to renegotiate complex and painful constructions of specifically feminine identities. In the process, I propose a new conceptualization of smarginatura. Rather than a dissolution or disappearance of margins, I argue that smarginatura proves to be a crossing of borders towards different forms of belonging at multiple intersections of gender, class, culture, origins and place.