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Donne al cospetto dell'angelo: il sacro come epifania del fantastico in Paola Masino, Elsa Morante e Rossana Ombres


This paper starts with a discussion of the female fantastic in order to investigate the presence and the function of the sacred in some fantastic works of fiction by Paola Masino, Elsa Morante and Rossana Ombres. These three women writers have different backgrounds, cultural references, and poetics, but practice the systematic reuse of symbols, images and vocabulary of the Jewish-Christian tradition, comparing them with a female subject. The sacred, in fact, as a word of ambivalent meaning referring to the sphere of the “absolutely other," approaches in many respects the Freudian concept of the uncanny and can be seen as the founding moment or the moving cause of the fantastic.

The reutilization of themes, images, and narrative patterns coming from the realm of the sacred allows women writers of the twentieth-century fantastic genre to be at the same time inside and outside the canon: namely, to overthrow the nineteenth-century tradition by identifying the uncanny not only with the destruction of the self but also with a moment of liberation, and at the same time to preserve the disturbing, potentially destructive and always dangerous nature of that liberation. The essay focuses in particular on how Paola Masino looks at the implacable deity of the Old Testament, in relation to the female figures that the writer features in their dual representational role of purity and abjection; on Morante’s short stories of the Thirties, where the Gospel and the rites of the Catholic liturgy bring out  deep impulses in young women in the transition from childhood to adulthood; and on Rossana Ombres’s Serenata, in which the theme of the Annunciation opens a space for the elaboration of childhood trauma and the exploration of the individual and collective repressed content.

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