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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cartographies of Estrangement: Transnational Female Identity and Literary Narratives between Italy and Eastern Europe

  • Author(s): Redford, Renata
  • Advisor(s): Re, Lucia
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates a vital body of women’s writing in Italian about the estranging effects of migration in order to emphasize the articulation of a literary discourse that undermines conventional depictions of the Eastern European female migrant. I provide evidence of the emergence in their work of a distinctly transnational approach to literary writing (narrative in particular), founded on a creative way of addressing questions of estrangement, the body, and memory. I consider the work of three authors, who have yet to be fully acknowledged in the Italian literary landscape: the Italophone writers Jarmila Očkayov? (1955-present; Italo-Slovakian) and Ingrid Beatrice Coman (1971-present; Italo-Romanian living in Malta), and Marisa Madieri (1938-1996; Italo-Hungarian from Istria), whose native language was Italian. My analysis focuses on the stylistic, thematic, and structural elements that Očkayov?, Coman and Madieri employ to engage with and re-envision European models of female subjectivity and national belonging. The scope of the project is multi-faceted: I attempt to 1) highlight the importance of these authors who have yet to be fully recognized by the Italian literary establishment; 2) demonstrate their critical engagement with transnationalism, illustrating how my take on transnationalism and the figure of the transnational are more appropriate to define their literary output than the traditional and racially charged figure of the “migrant” in Italian literature; 3) discuss their resistance to Eurocentric constructions of woman, emphasizing their feminist politics of location, which reflects new directions in European women’s ideas of intersubjectivity; and finally, 4) suggest how critics may conceive of new pathways for reading the literary identity of women as well as migrants. The authors highlighted in this dissertation, through their literary works, envision a transnational female subject and project new ways of “Italian” belonging that exist in a cultural and historical space of transcultural overlap, resisting patriarchal ideologies and drawing from the collective memories of various cultural traditions. Očkayov?, Coman and Madieri not only use estrangement (as first defined by Victor Shklovsky) as a narrative strategy to interrupt Eurocentric ideologies, but also create new figurations of femininity that redefine belonging.

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