Journal of Romance Studies

Gender, confession and ethnicity: women writers and Trieste

Journal of Romance Studies (2007), 7, (1), 71–78.

Abstract

Located on the north-eastern border of Italy, Trieste was incorporated within Italy in 1918, when it lost the central position it had enjoyed for centuries as the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, becoming financially and historically marginal. Though speaking predominantly Italian, or, rather, a Venetian-based dialect, the local population was ethnically mixed. To this date Trieste remains a border city, weighed down by its peripheral position vis-à-vis Italy, on one side, and the Balkans on the other. Traditionally, many women from Trieste wrote and published, arguably more so than anywhere else in Italy, due to better and more sustained access to education under Austria-Hungary. This article discusses a number of women writers from Trieste with a view to reassessing the role they played in constructing the myth of Trieste in opposition to widespread local discourses, such as italianità, triestinità and ‘border anxiety’. In Allieve di Quarta, the Jewish novelist Haydée pursues a nationalist agenda by transposing contemporary Trieste over post-unification Florence. Her Trieste is mainly conceived in domestic terms, conforming to the rhetoric of the times, also prominent in the nationalist poetry of Nella Doria Cambon, but finally turning against her after the promulgation of the 1938 anti-Semitic laws. The Slav occupation of the city in 1945 and the issues of confrontation it dramatically brought to light are integral to the narrative of Lia Maier, who dealt with this thematic in psychoanalytical terms equating triestinità with anti-slavismo. The rhetoric associated with the city is, as it was under Fascism, predominantly maternal. A number of more ‘emancipated’ writers, however, offered alternative readings of the city in terms of difference, marginality and exclusion, particularly Nora Poliaghi.

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Author details

Pizzi, Katia

Pizzi, Katia