Studies in late nineteenth-century Italian cultural history during the last two decades have uncovered the gendering of writing and reading in this period, and elsewhere I have recently argued that the discursive construction of the Italian diva in relation to ideas of beauty was gendered (Hallamore Caesar 80-97; Re 155-200; Mitchell 330-46). Here, I demonstrate that realist fictional representations of dive – by which I mean female performing artists as dancers, singers, actors, etc.; the term circulated widely, and was used indiscriminately in print culture to refer to all kinds of female performers – were similarly gendered. While male writers’ representations are static and un-individuated (which was perhaps symptomatic of men’s (unconscious?) constructed fantasies and fears within a patriarchal and misogynistic culture at a time when women were beginning to emerge into the public sphere as writers, journalists, critics, and political activists), women writers re-imagine literary representations of “fatal femininity” in the figure of the diva to present less “fantastical”, more “realistic” images of femininities that bore a closer relation to the everyday experiences and lives of actual stage dive. Here, I posit that these female-authored re-imaginings can be understood not only a conscious strategy to undermine historical perceptions of “fatal” femininity in the Western male imagination, but also to readdress the somewhat inaccurate and one-dimensional portrayal of stage dive in a genre of literature that purported to document “photographically”, and in an apparently faithful, “realistic” way, an ‘authentic’ version of everyday life in late nineteenth-century Italy.
|Title of host publication||Women and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary Italy|
|Subtitle of host publication||Essays for Sharon Wood|
|Editors||Simona Storchi, Marina Spunta|
|Place of Publication||Leicester|
|Publication status||Published - 28 Sep 2017|
- female performing artists