Literary and epistolary figurations of female desire in early post-Unification Italy, 1861-1914

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From the 1830s onwards, the topos of the sexually desiring woman in Italian tragic opera and imported French novels played a significant role in awakening a certain kind of desire in women in post-Unification Italy. Drawing on female performing artists’ and women writers’ expressions of sexual desire in letters and realist fiction respectively, and adapting aspects of Laura Mulvey’s theory of the gaze directed at women through male identification to articulate a female gaze, by way of female identification, Mitchell argues that these offered spectators new possibilities for the expression of female sexuality and desire: spectators were engaging cognitively and socially in the culture through the scopophilic mode, which was an important component in the identity formation of Italian women in the last decade of the nineteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationItalian Sexualities Uncovered, 1789-1914
EditorsValeria P. Babini, Chiara Beccalossi, Lucy Riall
Place of PublicationBasingstoke, Hampshire
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
ISBN (Print)9781137396976
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2015

Publication series

NameGender and Sexualities in History
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan


  • gender
  • gender and sexuality
  • history
  • gender and women's history
  • italian history
  • literature
  • gender studies and women's writing


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