Corporeal Bonds: The Daughter-Mother Relationship in Twentieth-Century Italian Women’s Writing

Corporeal Bonds: The Daughter-Mother Relationship in Twentieth-Century Italian Women’s Writing

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By Patrizia Sambuco
Toronto Italian Studies
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2012
World Rights
256 Pages
ISBN 9781442644250
Published Jun 2012
Online discount: 25%
 $59.00    $44.25
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442699502
Published Jun 2012
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The mother-daughter relationship is a popular theme in contemporary Italian writing but has never before been analysed in a comprehensive book-length study. In Corporeal Bonds, Patrizia Sambuco analyses novels by authors such as Elsa Morante, Francesca Sanvitale, Mariateresa Di Lascia, and Elena Ferrante, each of which is narrated from the daughter’s point of view and depicts the daughter’s bond with the mother.

Highlighting the recurrent images throughout these works, Sambuco traces these back to alternative forms of communication between mother and daughter, as well as to the female body. Sambuco also explores the attempts of the daughter-narrators to define a female self that is outside the constrictions of patriarchal society. Through these investigations, Corporeal Bonds identifies a strong connection between the ideas of post-Lacanian critical theorists, Italian feminist thinkers, and the stories within the novels.

Patrizia Sambuco is a lecturer in Italian Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Linguistics at Monash University.



1 Psychoanalytic Accounts of Sexual Difference: Luce Irigaray and Italian Feminism

The Denial of the Mother

The Mother Figure and the Maternal

Irigaray: Subjectivity and the Mother-Daughter Corporeal Bond

From Mothers to Daughters: The Italian Scene

Diotima and Luisa Muraro

Adriana Cavarero

2 Elsa Morante’s Menzogna e sortilegio: The Incorporeal Bond

Menzogna e sortilegio and the Critics

Motherhood and the Mother-Daughter Relationship: Cesira and Anna

Maternal Love: Rosaria and Alessandra


3 Francesca Sanvitale’s Madre e figlia: Bodies of Pain and Imagination

Body as Object of Desire

The Male Hero

Medical Establishment: The Attack on the Body

Critique and Re-imagining

Writing, Imagination, and Language

Narrator, Character, and Author in Search of Identity

4 Mariateresa Di Lascia’s Passaggio in ombra: The Maternal as Expression of Desire and Corporeality



The Daughter within the Heterosexual Economy

Body and Knowledge

5 Elena Ferrante’s L’amore molesto: The Renegotiation of the Mother’s Body

Delia: The Love and Hatred of a Selfless Subject

Reconstructing the Past

The Language of Dresses

6 Elena Stancanelli’s Benzina: The Surreal Mother-Daughter Relationship and New Possibilities

Elena Stancanelli and the Literary Scene, 1995–2000

Benzina 154

Mother and Daughter: Different Bodies, Different Personalities

A Relationship of Fusion and Independence

Oppressed Bodies in the Family Home

Looking, and Looking at Each Other





Corporeal Bonds makes a significant contribution to the field of women’s studies by positioning itself within a vibrant and longstanding debate on the importance of the mother in Italian feminist thought and in Italian women’s writing. Using a combination of literary analysis, psychoanalytic and feminist maternal theory, and comments by the authors, Patrizia Sambuco offers a reading of five well-known and important novels that re-evaluates and re-vindicates the importance of the mother, and in particular, a communication with her that is corporeal. Highly readable, easy to follow, and remarkably jargon free, her theorizations of corporeality within the framework of a daughter-mother bond will offer scholars much food for thought.’

Tommasina Gabriele, Department of Italian Studies, Wheaton College