Journal of Romance Studies

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels

Retelling history through gendered fiction

Journal of Romance Studies (2018), 18, (3), 317–340.

Abstract

Set for the most part in a violent and poor post-Second World War Naples, Elena Ferrante’s L’amica geniale (2011) [My Brilliant Friend (2012)] tetralogy, besides chronicling the lifelong friendship between the two main characters, Elena and Lila, also offers a cross-section of Italian history of the last seventy years through a revisited Bildungsroman structure. Based on this premise, the article analyses some of Ferrante’s narrative choices that combine genre and gender elements in readdressing and retelling, from an embodied female-gendered viewpoint, Italian historical turning points, such as the economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s, the social and sexual revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s, and the collapse of left-wing ideologies and the progressive degeneration of the Italian political system from the 1980s onwards.

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Boes, Tobias (2006) ‘Modernist studies and the Bildungsroman: A historical survey of critical trends’, Literature Compass 3–2: 230–243. ‘Modernist studies and the Bildungsroman: A historical survey of critical trends’ Literature Compass 3–2 230 243 Google Scholar

Bolaki, Stella (2011) Unsettling the Bildungsroman: Reading Contemporary Ethnic American Women’s Fiction (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi). Unsettling the Bildungsroman: Reading Contemporary Ethnic American Women’s Fiction Google Scholar

Bullaro, Grace Russo (2016) ‘The era of the “economic miracle” and the force of the context in Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend’, in The Works of Elena Ferrante: Reconfiguring the Margins, ed. Grace Bullaro and Stephanie V. Love (New York and London: Palgrave), 15–44. ‘The era of the “economic miracle” and the force of the context in Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend’ The Works of Elena Ferrante: Reconfiguring the Margins 15 44 Google Scholar

Cavarero, Adriana (2000) Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood (London and New York: Routledge). Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood Google Scholar

Chong, W.H. (2016) ‘Isn’t it un-ironic? Why Australia has better covers for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series’. Guardian, 2 May 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/02/isnt-it-un-iro…y-australia-has-better-covers-for-elena-ferrantes-neapolitan-series [accessed 21 May 2017]. Google Scholar

de Lauretis, Teresa (1987) Technology of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press). Technology of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction Google Scholar

de Lauretis, Teresa (1990) ‘Eccentric subjects: Feminist theory and historical consciousness’, Feminist Studies 16.1: 115–150. ‘Eccentric subjects: Feminist theory and historical consciousness’ Feminist Studies 16.1 115 150 Google Scholar

de Lauretis, Teresa (2007) Figures of Resistance: Essays in Feminist Theory (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). Figures of Resistance: Essays in Feminist Theory Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (1992) L’amore molesto (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2006) Troubling Love (New York: Europa Editions). L’amore molesto Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2002) I giorni dell’abbandono (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2005) The Days of Abandonment (New York: Europa Editions). I giorni dell’abbandono Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2006) La figlia oscura (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2008) The Lost Daughter (New York: Europa Editions). La figlia oscura Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2011) L’amica geniale (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2012b) My Brilliant Friend (New York: Europa Editions). L’amica geniale Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2012a) Cronache del mal d’amore (Rome: Edizioni E/O). Cronache del mal d’amore Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2012b) Storia del nuovo cognome (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2013b) The Story of the New Name (New York: Europa Editions). Storia del nuovo cognome Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2013a) Storia di chi fugge e chi resta (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2014b) Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (New York: Europa Editions). Storia di chi fugge e chi resta Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena (2014a) Storia della bambina perduta (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2015) The Story of the Lost Child (New York: Europa Editions). Storia della bambina perduta Google Scholar

Ferrante, Elena ([2003] 2016) La frantumaglia, Nuova edizione ampliata (Rome: Edizioni E/O); trans. Ann Goldstein (2016) Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey (New York: Europa Editions). La frantumaglia, Nuova edizione ampliata Google Scholar

Gambaro, Elisa (2014) ‘Il fascino del regresso. Note su L’amica geniale di Elena Ferrante’, Enthymema 11: 168–181, http://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/enthymema/issue/view/614 [accessed 21 May 2017]. Google Scholar

Gatti, Claudio (2016) ‘Ecco la vera identità di Elena Ferrante’, Il Sole 24 ORE, 2 October 2016, http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/cultura/2016-10-02/elena-ferrante-tracce-dell-autrice-ritrovata-105611.shtml?uuid=ADEqsgUB&refresh_ce=1 [accessed 21 May 2017]. Google Scholar

Gatti, Claudio, and Katherine Angel (2016) ‘Why uncover the identity of author Elena Ferrante?’, Today interview. BBC Radio 4, 3 October 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p049t2sd [accessed 21 May 2017]. Google Scholar

Ginsborg, Paul (1990) A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943–1988 (London: Penguin). A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943–1988 Google Scholar

Gjurgjan, Ljiljana Ina (2011) ‘The (im)possibility of women’s Bildungsroman’, SRAZ 56: 107–121. ‘The (im)possibility of women’s Bildungsroman’ SRAZ 56 107 121 Google Scholar

Glynn, Ruth (2013) Women, Terrorism, and Trauma in Italian Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan). Women, Terrorism, and Trauma in Italian Culture Google Scholar

Lazzaro-Weis, Carol (1993) From Margins to Mainstream: Feminism and Fictional Modes in Italian Women’s Writing (1968–1990)(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press). From Margins to Mainstream: Feminism and Fictional Modes in Italian Women’s Writing (1968–1990) Google Scholar

Lazzaro-Weis, Carol (2007) ‘Women’s histories, women’s stories: The Italian case’, in Women’s Writing in Western Europe Gender, Generation and Legacy, ed. Adalgisa Giorgio and Julia Waters (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing). 312–33. ‘Women’s histories, women’s stories: The Italian case’ Women’s Writing in Western Europe Gender, Generation and Legacy 312 33 Google Scholar

Lonzi, Carla (2010) Sputiamo su Hegel. La donna clitoridea e la donna vaginale e altri scritti. (Milano: Et Al.). Sputiamo su Hegel. La donna clitoridea e la donna vaginale e altri scritti Google Scholar

Love, Stephanie V. (2016) ‘“An educated identity”: The school as a modernist chronotope in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels’, in The Works of Elena Ferrante: Reconfiguring the Margins, ed. Grace Bullaro and Stephanie V. Love (New York and London: Palgrave), 71–97. ‘“An educated identity”: The school as a modernist chronotope in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels’ The Works of Elena Ferrante: Reconfiguring the Margins 71 97 Google Scholar

McWilliams, Ellen (2017) Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman (London and New York: Routledge). Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman Google Scholar

Ricci, Luca (2015) ‘Il fenomeno Elena Ferrante visto dai critici’, Il Messaggero, 19 March 2015, http://spettacoliecultura.ilmessaggero.it/index.php?p=print&id=930631 [accessed 21 May 2017]. Google Scholar

Rich, Adrienne (1984) ‘Notes toward a politics of location’, in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979–1985 (New York: Norton & Company, 1986), 210–231. ‘Notes toward a politics of location’ Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979–1985 210 231 Google Scholar

Summerfield, Giovanna, and Lisa Downward (2010) New Perspectives on the European Bildungsroman (London: A&C Black). New Perspectives on the European Bildungsroman Google Scholar

Winterson, Jeanette (2016) ‘The malice and sexism behind the “unmasking” of Elena Ferrante’, Guardian, 7 October 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/07/unmasking-elena-ferrante [accessed 21 May 2017]. Google Scholar

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Risi, Alessia

Risi, Alessia