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Two Sides of the Same Coin: Challenging the Mother-Daughter Trope in Contemporary Italian Women's Writings

Citation: Di Rollo, Aureliana (2013) Two Sides of the Same Coin: Challenging the Mother-Daughter Trope in Contemporary Italian Women's Writings. ["eprint_fieldopt_thesis_type_phd" not defined] thesis, Monash University, Australia.

In this thesis I engage with the tradition of writing about the mother in order to explore how the representation of the mother-daughter relationship has evolved in the works of contemporary Italian women writers. Within the corpus of mother-daughter narratives, I have looked for novels that, departing from the dominant pattern characterised by maternal passivity and by the predominance of daughters' narrations, endowed the mother and the daughter with the same degree of agency. I have focused on the expression of maternal subjectivity and I demonstrate how select women writers have subverted the passive idealisation of the maternal figure by challenging the wide-spread representation of the mother as a silent object. I have chosen four novels, which allowed me to trace an evolution in the expression of the maternal voice, framed in a mother-daughter plot: Goliarda Sapienza's L'Arte della Gioia (1994 and 2008), Igiaba Scego's Oltre Babilonia (2008), Valeria Parrella's Lo Spazio Bianco (2008) and Michela Murgia's Accabadora (2009). While still placing a definite stress on the mother-daughter relationship, these texts present maternal models that challenge the male-dominated symbolic order, forge filial bonds outside of bloodlines and normative family paradigms, and widen the notion of motherhood to include tasks that do not necessarily hinge on child-rearing. Drawing from ancient Greek myth, psychoanalysis, feminist thought and literary theory, I analyse how the experience of motherhood, disentangled from its bodily functions, becomes a relational practice, where the maternal perspective gradually emerges as dominant, although never completely severed from the daughter's. By redesigning the mother-daughter relationship, the novels discussed in the thesis also challenge the cultural context in which the mother-daughter plot is inscribed, revealing an underpinning logic that differs from a patriarchal symbolic through recurrent slippage between a patriarchal and a non-patriarchal frame of reference, which is, to some extent, consequential to their critique of maternal silence and passivity.

Creators: Di Rollo, Aureliana and
Official URL:
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing
  • September 2013 (submitted)


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