Motherhood and Female Identity in Oriana Fallaci and Valeria Parrella: A Case of Literary Matérnage?

Aureliana Di Rollo, Edith Cowan University, Australia

Contemporary women writers have provided a wide range of interpretations of the relationship between motherhood and female identity, drawing into their stories a range of issues related to the various experiences of motherhood. Among this rich variety, I analyse here two contemporary Italian novels: Lo spazio bianco (2008) by Valeria Parrella, and Lettera a un bambino mai nato (1975) by Oriana Fallaci. I argue that Parrella engages with the same question tackled by Fallaci thirty years earlier: can motherhood find its place in the life of an independent woman? Have thirty years opened up any possibility of negotiating a different balance?

The two novels share many similarities in structure, length and theme. Both texts centre on female protagonists who are alone in their experience of pregnancy. Neither novel depicts motherhood as an unavoidable destiny for women, but as a choice. However, the change in the social, political and economic context underlying the two texts leads to radically different outcomes. In spite of the obvious differences in style and generational background, the continuity between the two works provides the opportunity for a case study of the shifts (or the lack thereof) in the relationship between motherhood and female identity in contemporary Italian society. In addition, the affinity between the two novels allows a reflection on “the corrective and conflictual nature of inter-female intertextuality” (Giorgio 2002, 13), which I analyse using the tools provided by Italian Feminist Theorists.

Keywords: motherhood, female identity, mother-daughter relationship, literary entrustment, Italian feminist thought

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