Adultery and Hysteria in the Nineteenth-century Novel: The Case of Gabriele D'annunzio

Michela Barisonzi

Research output: Book/ReportBookResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This monograph proposes a re-reading of D'Annunzio's female characters in five selected novels, Il Piacere, L'Innocente, Il Trionfo della Morte, Le Vergini delle Rocce and Il Fuoco, as a case study to examine how hysteria, adultery and female stereotypes enable both a reflection and critique of these socio-scientific beliefs of the period, exposing a covert criticism of Post-unified Italy.

D'Annunzio's works have historically been read through the lens of an autobiographical and intellectual superhomism, where female characters fade into the background, often considered minor figures, either passive-ethereal helpers or more active but negative antagonists, always bound to the male protagonists. However, hysteria, adultery and female stereotypes enable both a reflection and critique of the socio-scientific beliefs of the period, exposing a covert criticism of Post-unified Italy.

This work reflects on D'Annunzio's keen awareness of scientific trends, from which he draws as he engages in a discourse that emphasises female emancipation and the need to rise above a narrow morality typical of the Italian patriarchal society. In this light, adultery and hysteria become vehicles through which to explore the female characters and simultaneously shock the public, highlighting the hypocrisies of a stagnant bourgeois system and how the crisis of the individual mirrors the crisis of the fin-de-siècle society.

D'Annunzio's nineteenth-century novels bring to the fore a set of provocative images of traditional female stereotypes as they are not merely depicted as negative and passive, but rather, they are constructed in such a way as to underline their unfeasibility in a fin-de-siècle Italy that aspires to modernity. This paradoxical and ironic use of the traditional female typologies, especially in the first three novels, inevitably leads to a reflection on the qualities and functions commonly attributed to women. At the same time, it underlines the need for a new female model, more congruent to modern exigencies, a new type of woman in light of the nationalist and feminist movements emerging in Italy at the end of the nineteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLeicester UK
PublisherTroubador Publishing Ltd
Number of pages189
ISBN (Print)9781789017700
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameTroubador Italian Studies
PublisherTroubador Publishing
Volume36

Cite this

Barisonzi, M. (2019). Adultery and Hysteria in the Nineteenth-century Novel: The Case of Gabriele D'annunzio. (Troubador Italian Studies; Vol. 36). Troubador Publishing Ltd.