'Envoicing' women on page, stage, and screen in early post-unification Italy

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In this essay, I present a selection of actual and imagined female, middle-class voices – both spoken and sung - in the period from the 1870s up until Italy’s entry into WW1 in 1915, in order to highlight their resonance and multi-chorality. Following Kaja Silverman, who, writing on cinema, insisted on the importance of the authorial voice for feminist purposes in 'The Acoustic Mirror' (1988), here I consider a selection of the many contributions - as authors, performers, readers and spectators – that middle-class women made to the expanding culture industry and its consumption in the early post-Unification period. In pointing to their output and interconnections, and drawing on Carolyn Abbate’s notion of ‘envoicing’ – literally meaning ‘in voice’ - I argue that as role models, women writers and performers (consciously, or otherwise) interpellated growing numbers of women readers and spectators as early-Capitalist, socio-economically-aware, independent consumers. Taken together, I suggest that they constituted a significant force in the struggle for emancipation from the 1890s onwards, even while they may not (in most cases) have identified with the movement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEdizioni della Scuola Normale Superiore
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Sep 2021


  • performers and writers
  • spectators and readers
  • envoicing
  • female emancipation


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