Maternal Momoirs in Contemporary Italy

Marina Bettaglio, University of Victoria, Canada

In a social context such as Italy, dominated by hyper-sexualised images of women (Zanardo 2010; Marzano 2010; Lipperini 2007, 2013; Gribaldo and Zapperi 2012), maternal representations have undergone significant though ambiguous transmutations. In a socio-economic anti-maternal climate in which neoliberal practices contribute to falling birth rates (Valentini 2012), women are confronted with a paradoxical situation in which “la madre si è affermata come la figura per eccellenza della completezza e dell’autorealizzazione femminile, ricalcando paradossalmente alcuni degli stereotipi più antichi e persistenti attorno all’identità femminile” (Gribaldo and Zapperi 2012, 62). In response to this situation, a myriad of voices have turned to humour to articulate maternal ambivalence, creating a new genre akin to the British and North-American maternal memoir or momoir. Enmeshed in the contradictions of contemporary Italian society, these maternal narratives participate in the neoliberal market economy, which commodifies maternal expression for a reading audience. This essay explores the discursive forces that shape Italian maternal chronicles, as well as the conflict, ambivalence and guilt that these writings foreground. It considers how those texts approach the resignification and mythification of the maternal figure in Italian popular culture, which glorifies retreatism, domesticity and the Mulino Bianco family syndrome.

Keywords: maternal memoirs, contemporary Italian society, work-life balance, post-feminism

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