National angels, homefront warriors and wounded doves of peace. The rhetorical construction of female identity in women’s literary writings of the Great War in Italy (1914-1919)

Begin - Einde 
2021 - 2025 (lopend)
Vakgroep Letterkunde



When you think about war literature, the first things that cross your mind are the testimonies of soldiers who fought in the trenches. Yet, it might surprise you that WWI also marked a prolific period for female writing. Indeed, there are archives full of texts, impatiently waiting to be explored but overlooked by literary scholars. This is remarkable, since Italy developed a unique debate in 1914, when the country was not yet at war, throughout the war years (1915-1918) and in its immediate aftermath (1919). This debate mainly focused on Italian national identity and left an unparalleled amount of literary writings by female authors. Moreover, since the total war required women at the homefront to take the place of men who went to war, traditional gender roles were called into question. This project starts from the hypothesis that the debate on Italy’s role in the war urged female writers to act as cultural agents and to reflect upon female identity. By examining periodicals, novels and diaries, the most common forms of female writing during the conflict, the project will provide insight into how women of different generational, social and cultural backgrounds shaped their identity within both the public and private sphere. I will analyse how this debate on female identity was developed through rhetorical strategies and how women engaged in dialogue with the circulating ideas of the period and the literary works of both their female predecessors and male contemporaries.