Women, Writing and the Cultural Politics of Intimacy in Modern Romania
PhD Carmen Duţu, Associate Professor and Director of the Anglo‐American Intercultural Studies MA programme at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University in Bucharest.
In the keynote, the main points of Dr. Carmen Beatrice Duţu’s article will be presented. For the abstract of the article see p. 4.
Shaping the New Croatian Woman? On Gender, Modernity and Intimacy in Jagoda Truhelka's Novel Plein Air
M. A. Dajana Vasiljevićová, Charles University, Prague, The Czech Republic
In the Croatian society of the 19th century, the concept of women was both marginalized and mythological, heavily under the influence of essential religious and conservative androcentric intellectual concepts. As a result, Croatian female authors, much like authors from neighbouring regions, on the margins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Europe, were rarely acknowledged within respected literary canon. The negative assessment of their works was often prevalent because of their focus on private sphere, domestic family life and expression of intimate sensibility that were often considered to be of lesser literary value.
That is the reason why Jagoda Truhelka (1864–1957), author from Osijek, the multi-ethnic, cultural centre of the Slavonian region, and her works were usually overlooked.
In the blended feminist and family romance, novel Plein Air (1897) Truhelka offers an intriguing portrayal of modern intimacy and female artistic production that could be considered her answer to the concept of New Croatian Woman. As the heroine Zdenka, working artist in Vienna requests from moneyed gentry hero Hinko different forms of intimacy as well as new forms of affective joint activities, her novel anticipates the shift toward shared equality and modern perspectives on creating family life. Truhelka's artistic, blue stocking heroine advocates the concept of a woman's right to live a public as well as private life on her own terms, yet feels happy opting for marriage and motherhood, conclusion that is not surprising considering the author’s social status as a teacher that must stand for middle-class morality and pro-patriarchal catholic values.
Key words: modern intimacy, artistic production, The New Croatian Woman, equality, family life, Jagoda Truhelka, Plein Air
Mother-and-Daughter Intimacy: Two 1816 Travelogues by Polish Women writers, Izabela Czartoryska and Maria Wirtemberska
Assoc.Prof. Magdalena Ożarska PhD, Jan Kochanowski University, Poland
In the summer of 1816, two Polish women writers, Izabela Czartoryska and her daughter Maria Wirtemberska, set out on two radically different journeys. Czartoryska went to Bad Warmbrunn in the Habsburg Empire to take the waters, while Wirtemberska travelled to Italy and Switzerland through Silesia, Bohemia and Austria, for purposes which have still not been sufficiently documented. Both wrote travel accounts of their journeys, but in contrasting styles. Czartoryska’s travelogue is factual, while her daughter’s text had become the first ever sentimental journey, modelled after Sterne, written in Polish. Both texts, however, centre around the topos of intimacy between these two women: Izabela the beloved mother, and Maria the loving daughter. In both these travelogues, the absent roles of mother/daughter feature prominently and serve as a springboard to the actual meeting of the two women at Bad Warmbrunn. Much is written about the anticipated meeting, about the meeting actually happening, and – when the meeting is over – about the regret occasioned by the fact that it can no longer be reasonably anticipated. Maria, however, is accompanied by another woman, officially her charge but who is in fact her mother's illegitimate daughter, Cecylia Beydale (aka Beydall). Izabela in turn has with her her own charge named Zofia née Matuszewicz, who also wrote a journal of the trip. It is interesting that while Izabela uses the travellers' real names, her daughter Maria chooses to hide behind the fictional identity of Malvina, the eponymous protagonist of her best-selling 1816 romance, and changes the name of Cecylia to that of Lydia.
Key words: travel journal, mother-and-daughter intimacy, sentimentalism, imitation of Sterne, emotional expression
How to Write as a Woman: Character-Bound Narration in Kaymak Tabağı
Post doc. Müge Özoğlu, PhD, Leiden University/ Lund University, Sweden
Key words: narration, Ottoman Turkish literature, eroticism, the act of writing, Kaymak Tabağı
Kaymak Tabağı is one of the most famous popular erotic narratives of the early twentieth-century in Ottoman Turkish literature. It was published anonymously and without a publication date. Kaymak Tabağı is an epistolary narrative written entirely in letter format through which the character-bound narrator Kaymak Tabağı – whose name is taken from a real-life prostitute – tells the development story of her sexual awareness that expands by means of secretly looking at people engaging in sexual intimacy. Because the author is anonymous, this paper does not scrutinise Kaymak Tabağı as part of women’s writing outright, assuming intimacy as a unique female experience conveyed through the act of writing. Instead, regardless of the gender of its author, this paper explores the ways in which the narration of sexual intimacy by a female character-bound narrator becomes a performative act that suggests certain presuppositions on writing/narrating sexual intimacies from a female perspective and at a metal level. In other words, this paper concerns itself with the ‘gender-free’ author’s choice of representing women’s writing on intimacy rather than discussing women’s writing on intimacy per se. Thus, Kaymak Tabağı offers us a very productive reading of the writing process of a gender-oriented writing practice performed by a woman and enables us to look at women’s writing practice in fiction.
“Lacking Intimacy in Axelsson’s April Witch and Alem’s Fatma”, PhD. Gillian M.E. Alban, Assoc. Prof. at Istanbul Kültür University, Turkey
This chapter analyses the deprivation of female intimacy in the Swedish Majgull Axelsson’s psychological novel, April Witch (1997), and Raja Alem’s magical realist novel Fatma (2002) of Saudi Arabia, both strikingly illustrating women deprived of intimacy, leading to their psychic and erotic maiming, in such disparate settings as the developed Sweden of north-west Europe, contrasted with the south-east peripheries of Europe and into the Middle East, showing women’s common conditions under emotional restraint from these opposed ends of Europe. The fascinating April Witch relates the lives of intertwined foster sisters, connected in magical realist ways by their should-be sister, the ‘monstrous’ super-woman Desirée the April Witch. They are all painfully burdened during their maturation, exposing the physical and psychic limitations of twentieth century, patriarchal Sweden, as these girls struggle into independent life and partial emotional fruition. In Raja Alem’s Fatma, set in contemporary Saudi Arabia, serious consequences emerge from the abusive relationships that the eponymous protagonist undergoes while deprived of any intimacy in marriage, as she achieves emotional release through her interactions with snakes. In her abusive marriage with a snake-handler, Fatma achieves fulfilment in a world of imaginative and spiritual interaction with her snake shadow, becoming the supreme snake dealer despite her husband’s hatred and envy, while learning self-expression and gaining a divine life force. She achieves apotheosis even at the cost of death while countering her husband’s persistent rape with her own vagina dentata. These disparate works narrated from the peripheries of north-west Europe to the south-east extremity of Europe and the Middle East, on the cusp of the twenty-first century, unite in relating women’s powerful struggle for meaningful emotional and passionate self-expression, in novels of psychological realism and magic-realism and demonstrate how women deprived of all opportunities may yet find partial psychic and erotic release in imaginative self-expression.
Keywords: intimacy, sexual, relationship, taboo, frustration, lack, abuse, spiritual, physical
“The New Woman as an Evolutionary Necessity. The Temporality of Intimacy in Elin Wägner’s Penwoman”, PhD. Cecilia Annell, Senior Lecturer at Högskolan i Gävle, Sweden
Rarely has the concept of eros been so existentially and politically charged as it was for the New Woman writers at the turn of the 20th century. Swedish authors such as Ellen Key and Elin Wägner made connections in their writings about eros to individual life goals, as well as to social and political ends. This included representations of intimate relationships, and the way in which their needs and desires might be realised politically. The demand for female suffrage and independence, along with the desire to change sexual morals.
In the 1880s, Scandinavian authors debated “the woman question” in novels and dramas. The stories often focused on woman’s wish for autonomy, along with a vain attempt to combine love and marriage with intellectual or artistic work. At the beginning of the 20th century however, the theme of intimacy took on more radical political implications.
In the wake of Darwinism, evolutionary theory became a transcultural reference for feminists all over Europe. Evolutionary thinking could be used to reinforce conceptions of woman’s inferiority, but it could also be used, on the contrary, to find evidence supporting almost the opposite: female spiritual and moral authority. Most importantly, the idea of development would serve as a guarantee of woman’s liberation. The New Woman was constructed as an evolutionary necessity, and she would gradually materialize.
The potential of intimacy was the idea of future political change, and in that sense, intimacy was structured by temporality. This article will enquire into how this becomes a bearing idea in Elin Wägner’s Penwoman (1910). The novel is about the Swedish suffrage movement and about an intimate relationship between the protagonist and her fiancé. The novel is permeated with candid openness and wit, and there is a strong intimacy between the female characters which encourages them in the struggle for political change.
Keywords: desire, Eros, evolutionary theory, feminism, intimacy, suffrage movement, temporality, 1900
“Women, Writing and the Cultural Politics of Intimacy in Modern Romania”
PhD. Carmen-Beatrice Duţu, Assoc. Prof at Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University, Bucharest, Romania
Taking on Jonathan Flatley’s concept (2008), my stance is that the affective mapping of Romanian space at the turn of the 20th century emphasizes women’s self-fashioning their identity through intimacy. The challenge is to decide what stays within the borders and what is rejected by subjects and spaces, because when applied to specific contexts configuring a map requires a route, as well as boundaries, peripheries and fringes. How is the map shaped and contoured, and re-shaped again? What is the gendered reaction to all this, especially in the context of transnational mapping? In this sense, I am examining the narratives of three Romanian-born French women writers in order to trace the developments of intimacy as a key tool of identity construction from its traditional perception as a private sphere matter, to a public cultural category which permeates social roles and determines social judgements. In all three cases, the writers’ narratives of intimacy become a transient space where both gender and political emancipation discourses are intertwined, an in betweenness which underlines the subtle transfer of the French modernity into the Romanian culture, via women. Dora D’Istria lives in Paris, writes in French and uses her travelogues as platform for the intimate and the political. Anna de Noailles, born of Romanian parents in France, exhults the themes of love, nature and death and she fashions herself as a salonnière and a cultural icon; Martha Bibesco comes from Bucharest, chooses the Parisian scene when leaving Romania, writes in French and she, too becomes a French writer developing a vast work of travelogues, novels, articles and essays, expressing her femininity through writing. From Bucharest to Paris, and from Paris to Bucharest, the three Romanian women seize the French and Romanian cultures at their most intimate, internalize them and transform them into writing. Around them they grouped the Romanian intelligentsia in Bucharest and Paris alike: the road runs both ways and space is transformed and reconfigured in their narratives.
Thus, the contours of a politics of intimacy appear on the less defined boundaries between the personal and the public, between the masculine/public and the feminine/private divide, where intimacy shapes and is shaped by space– from the domestic to the national and beyond.
Keywords: affective mapping, intimacy, public, private, politics of intimacy, gender, cultural transfer, exile
“The Doors of Tears –Turning Points of Intimacy in Hanne Ørstavik’s Prose”, PhD. Irina Hron, Anna Ahrenberg-Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Literature, History of Ideas and Religion, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Our common definition of intimacy is shaped by forever changing ontological and epistemological basic assumptions. In my article “The Doors of Tears”, I will suggest refining the descriptive apparatus that helps us to classify various late modern conceptualizations of intimacy as well as their various transformations and transgressions. Accordingly, contemporary literature appears as a ‘burning-glass’ revealing the epistemological dimension of our preoccupation with intimacy and space. In exemplary fashion, in the fifty-first note of Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge the annalist gives an intriguing depiction of the unknown room next door: “One can easily imagine any sort of room, and often it more or less fits. But the room that one has next to one is always quite different than one thinks.” (MLB 51) In my proposed paper, I will focus on several intimate spaces such as the haunted art gallery next door or the carceral room behind an oppressively locked door: indeed, both prove to be “quite different than one thinks” (ibid.). By analyzing selected contemporary prose texts by Norwegian Hanne Ørstavik (48 rue Defacqz [2011, novel]; Like sant som jeg er virkelig [1997, novel]; I morgen skal det være åpent for alle, [2007, play]), I seek to illustrate how vicinity, in contrast to the common notion of community, can be conceptualized as a violent transgression of spatially and spiritually intimate space. More specifically, what does the enigmatic and fragmented address in Ørstavik’s title reveal about the relation between the pair of twins, living in the house, and the lonely young woman that “stands outside the house”? Equally disturbing is the interruption of intimacy in Like sant som jeg er virkelig where the claustrophobic bedroom proves to be “padded like a cocoon”. Against this background, my reading will focus on figures of love, space and vicinity that, according to Rilke, “are known only by the disturbances they cause in certain textures” (MLB 49).
Keywords: contemporary literature, intimacy, marginality, neighborship, Norwegian literature, skin studies, spatiality, vicinity
“Failing Intimacy in Saimi Öhrlund’s 1910s’ Novels”, PhD. Elsi Hyttinen, Adj. Prof. at the University of Turku, Finland
Saimi Öhrlund’s novel Night-time bat (Yölepakko, 1915) begins with Alli feeling her love for Arvi fading. “However much she wanted to give him love only empty, soulless tolerance was left.” (p. 6.) Alli is aware of not being good enough for Arvi’s mother and family who want him to marry someone from his own class. The man here, however, is not a villain: on the contrary, despite his relatives’ opinions he marries Alli. He is just completely oblivious to the woman’s incapability of experiencing intimacy with him. “He did not know those demands had already poisoned the chalice of their happiness.” (p.8.)
Turn-of-the-century was a time of reorganizing societies along the axes of citizenship, national identities and heterosexuality, resulting in what Lauren Berlant has called national heterosexuality. In Finland, the 1910s is a charged period in this respect, as the decade stretches from the installation of the first modern parliament in 1907 to the declaration of the country’s independence in 1917 and the subsequent civil war in 1918 (also known as the class war). During the decade, Saimi Öhrlund wrote a string of novels depicting the lives of young working-class women. Self-published, Öhrlund was a marginal figure on the Finnish literary field. An article published in Working-class calendar (Työväen kalenteri) in 1924 mentions Öhrlund as a working-class author but she is not included in Raoul Palmgren’s seminal work on Finnish pre-independence working-class literature (Joukkosydän I-II, ‘Collective heart I-II’, 1966), and she has hitherto not been studied from any other perspective either.
According to Berlant, national heterosexuality presumes heterosexual intimacy as its core. Even though that intimate space is effectively generated through various public discourses and gestures, it is however presented as located outside politics, as the private, imminent domain of selfhood preceding any structures of politics or representation. Öhrlund’s novels depict from a working-class woman’s perspective the experience of failing to inhabit that space: Alli is a wrong kind of subject to enter the essentially bourgeois intimate space with Arvi. This leads her quite literally to abandon that space and its metonymic concretization, the home, and choose fleeing and cheating instead of trying to fit in.
Öhrlund’s take on national heterosexuality as a classed structure is quite rare in the Finnish context. Her heroines are not renouncing married life on political grounds as the more middle-classed new women might have done, but neither is she writing about the working-class woman as a victim of the bourgeois double standards. Instead, Öhrlund traces working-class womens’ experience of living a life in close proximity of the kind of intimate space they feel incapable of entering.
Keywords: national heterosexuality, intimacy, 1910s, working-class women
“Discovering Intimacy: The Voice of the First Slovene Lyrical Poetess Vida Jeraj”, Assoc. Prof. Alenka Jensterle Doležalová, PhD, Charles University, Prague, the Czech Republic
In the study we research the poetry of Vida Jeraj (1875–1934) in the context of Central European modernism. In the period of Fin- de-Siècle Slovene women writers were no longer silent and hidden, women authors – similarly as female intellectuals in other parts of Monarchy – take on life and energy. Jeraj was a nomadic person, part of Habsburg myth with a bilingual, hybrid identity: Slovene and Austrian. Slovene from her origin she was educated in Vienna, where she also lived for a long period after her marriage. Her first texts were in German, never the more - as the other members of Slovene “moderna” she decided to write in Slovene. At the turn of the Century she was the most distinguished poet from the Slovene female women writers circle of the newspaper Slovenka (Slovene Women – newspaper published in Trieste, 1897-1902), connected to the beginning of the Slovene feminist movement.
The first wave of Slovenian modernism generally, mainly consisted of intimate, erotic poetry and that was also the topic of the texts of the first Slovenian female poets of the “Fin de Siècle” period, breaking away from the nineteenth-century habits of thought and writing. With passionate, delicate, and sometimes subversive voice Jeraj expresses intimacy and feelings in impressionist, decadent and symbolist style, engaging in dialogue with contemporary European literarians. Her poetry was very autobiographical: her poems represent a diary of her turbulent life. Writing was for her a kind of self- discovery and a rebellion from the social norms of the patriarchal society. Light, etheric poetry full of tender feelings proclaimed the new credo and also the philosophy of the ascending modernism in Slovenian poetry: she wrote about the moments in nature and the blessing of the meetings of lovers but also about parting and death.
Keywords: poetry of Vida Jeraj, Slovene “moderna”, intimacy in poetry, Slovene poetry, Central European women writers, Fin-de-Siècle literature.
“Melodramatic Spaces – Representations of Intimacy in Women’s Playwriting of the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough”, PhD. Birgitta Johansson Lindh, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Literature, History of Ideas and Religion, Gothenburg University, Sweden
The Swedish female playwrights Alfhild Agrell, Victoria Benedictson and Anne Charlotte Leffler were contemporaries of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg. In the1880s their plays were more frequently staged than Strindberg’s at Scandinavian theatres. They were also translated into several European languages. The three playwrights’ successes did not last for very long though; by the early 20th century their plays were being judged as low quality, recognised as simply constructed melodramatic pieces of indignation and frustration. However, the exact melodramatic elements, at the core of this critique, are vital components in a dramaturgy representing the emotional and bodily experiences of the female protagonists in these women’s plays. Different variations of the melodramatic figure of the garden of Eden from which the innocent heroine has been expelled interplay with representations of intimacy. Contrary to the melodramatic nostalgic view of the garden as a harmonic space for ever lost, in Agrell’s, Benedictsson’s and Leffler’s plays, these spaces render a utopian emancipatory quality, depicting intimate relationships beyond the prevailing social structures. The melodramatic spaces work as scenes for the exposure of women’s “unique selves” in intimate relationships (Cavarero 2000).
This spatial strategy of representation is characterized by the tension between the notion of home and foreign spaces involving the childhood home and married life, the city and the countryside, Sweden and foreign countries. The aim of my article is to illuminate the function of these spaces in the mediation of intimate relationships by using examples from Alfhild Agrell’s play Ensam (1884) (Alone), Victoria Benedictsson’s Final (1885) (Finale) and Anne Charlotte Leffler’s play Hur man gör godt (1884) (How to do good). How do these spaces structure the emancipatory exposure of “women’s selves” in terms of nation, gender and class.
Keywords: melodrama, spatiality, intimacy, emancipation, nineteenth century plays, Swedish literature and theatre, the Scandinavian modern breakthrough
“Intimate Spaces and Gender Violence in Two Novels by Carmen de Burgos”, PhD. Elena Lindholm, Assoc. Prof. at the Department of Language Studies, Umeå University Sweden
Carmen de Burgos (1867-1932) was one of Spain's most renowned feminists in the early 1900s. Born in the southern Spanish province Almería, she left her abusive husband and her hometown and moved to Madrid as a single mother, where she made a successful career as a journalist and writer. The transgressing of limits and spaces, both geographically and socially that characterizes Burgos’ biography is also reflected in several of her novels where she portrays young women who cross border between social classes and geographical areas in their search of love and intimacy. This chapter will focus on two novels where the transgressing of spaces is associated with gender violence: Los inadaptados (1909) and La malcasada (1923). Both these novels are set in Burgos’ native Almería, a personal space that she used for exploring the way that patriarchy hampers women’s intimate life through acts of violence. Apart from reflecting Burgos’ own experiences, the novels bear witness to the feminist intellectual settings of their time: the first one is of literary naturalism, and of Burgos’ encounter with pedagogical theory and European motherhood feminism. The second novel reveals traces of Freudian psychoanalysis that gained momentum among the Spanish intellectual elite in the 1920s. The purpose of the analysis is to show not only how Burgos made use of spaces linked to her own life experiences for portrayals of women's intimate lives as kinds of threatened existences, but also the possibility for them to get even. In the light of the writer’s own biography, literature itself, then, also appears as an imaginary space that offers a possibility for female vengeance to patriarchal violence.
Keywords: gender violence, feminism, Almería, Spain, early 20th century, Carmen de Burgos
“Middle-Class Marriage in the Writings of Central European Fin de Siècle Women Writers”, PhD. Katja Mihurko Poniž, Prof at University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia
The development of the middle-class and the emancipatory efforts of women in the 19th century also changed the roles of men and women in the intimate sphere and conflicts within marriage became a frequent topic in their writings. Ibsen’s Nora encouraged female playwrights but also prose writers all across Europe to touch upon the issues of middle-class marriage. In the fin de siècle period, women writers depicted the distresses of middle-class wives struggling with the double moral standards of bourgeois society and the discomforts of young women forced by their parents into marriages of convenience. Often, Kveder also showed the other side: the life of prostitutes and low middle-class young women who had relationships with married men. An obstacle to a harmonious relationship can also be the husband’s past, which is only disclosed to the young wife after marriage. While the mother generation persisted in such a marriage in silent suffering, the new woman leaves, for example, in Zofka Kveder’s early one-act play Strti (Crushed). Many of Zofka Kveder’s texts show the relationship of the female characters to their body and the related development of identity, which is importantly influenced by romantic or sexual relationships.
In my contribution, I focus on the writings of Zofka Kveder (1878-1926), a Slovenian author, whose works were published in many languages and staged in the first decade of the 20th century in four European capitals: Prague, Zagreb, Belgrade and Ljubljana. Her writings are thematically and formally connected with the works of her female contemporaries from other European literatures and fit into the complex representations of intimacy in the works of women writers from the European peripheries and so called small literatures.
Keywords: Zofka Kveder, marriage of convenience, double moral standards
“Spatialized Intimacy: Literary Mapping in Writing and Reception of the Russian–Finnish Cultural Mediator, Marie Linder (1840–70)”, PhD. Kati Launis, University of Helsinki, Adj. Prof. at the University of Turku; PhD. Viola Parente-Čapková, Adj. Prof. at the University of Turku and Charles University, Prague; Prof. Arja Rosenholm, University of Tampere, Natalia Mihailova, Researcher, University of Tampere, Finland
The presentation discusses the novel En qvinna af vår tid: karaktersteckning af Stella (A Woman of Our Time, 1867) written by the Russian-Finnish author, countess and feminist Marie Linder (neé Musin-Puškin, 1840-1870). As Linder was a cultural mediator and a carrier of cultural transfer between Russia, European and Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark), space assumes a great importance in her real and imagined life. Since we claim that Linder, as a cosmopolitan author, makes sense of the world by narrating, i.e. mapping it through both real and imagined places, we draw on the `literary cartography´ and the concept of gendering of spaces. The figure of ‘mapping’ is applied to study her transnational reception and the intertextual connections, whereby the literary analysis focuses on spaces of intimacy. We ask:
- What are the real and imagined spaces/places represented in the novel to make sense of the “world”, and how is intimacy produced and experienced in relation to gendered agency in private and public spaces?
- How does her transnationalism, multilingualism, and her social position as a Russian-Finnish noblewoman, resonate with narrative means, genres, aesthetic conventions, literary idols (esp. women writers) and contemporary discourses (e.g. marriage vs. education)?
- What kind of a cultural space of the mid-nineteenth century Finland is constructed by the conflicting reception of her novel?
How did Linder’s protagonist place herself in relation to other female protagonists in contemporary novels written by women in Finland?
The presentation utilizes the digitized collections of historical newspapers and other digital sources, engaging in the practice of data-rich literary history.
Keywords: transnational, periphery, intimacy, gendered space, Marie Linder
“Intimacy Between Women Writers Reading Each Other: Isabelle de Charrière, Inspired by Marie de Sévigné and Inspiring Now Josephine Rombouts”, Guest Senior Researcher Suzan van Dijk, PhD, Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Netherlands
This article was inspired, itself, by the recent WWIH-volume Women’s Literary Tradition and Twentieth -Century Hungarian Writers, in which Hungarian writer Anna Menyhért is communicating with five of her Hungarian “foremothers”. By reading their books, visiting their houses, she illustrates the kind of intimacy which can exist between women who express themselves in writing – intimacy, in a different way from the “normal” meaning in the sense that it is experienced only on one side: by the reader…. But this virtual closeness can be very helpful for those women who wish to consider becoming a writer.
Here, I want to discuss the case of an 18th-century woman author for whom we can document such “intimacies” in both directions: to the past and to the future, being herself clearly inspired by female predecessors, and inspiring present-day women who declare being influenced by her.
The Dutch-Swiss novelist Isabelle de Charrière (1740-1805) was a great reader and also letter-writer: the influence exerted by what she read is well-documented in this correspondence. Many of her readings were “male”, as she did not always appreciate books by female contemporaries– disliking strongly such celebrities as Germaine de Staël and Stéphanie de Genlis. But she was also very explicit about her admiration and closeness to several authors, by the very fact of their being women: in particular, 17th-century Margrave de Bayreuth and Marie de Sévigné, whom she extensively quotes and refers to. Charrière herself holds a similar position toward 21st-century Dutch writers Nelleke Noordervliet and Josephine Rombouts. Both expressed, in several ways, their having felt supported in becoming a writer by reading Charrière’s letters.
In the four “connections” mentioned, we note that the feeling of intimacy is especially experienced by reading these private documents: Sévigné actually wrote only letters, those addressing her daughter, which was not the case for Charrière – author, next to novels, of theatre pieces, essays, occasional poetry. Speaking about Dutch “followers”, it is important to mention the existence of two volumes of translations (by Greetje van den Bergh), which may have been instrumental in Rombouts’ saying that (compared to reading “male” writing): “Reading the first line of the letter of Belle van Zuylen was a completely different experience. It hit me between the eyes”.
Keywords: 18th century, “foremothers”, influence, correspondence, novel"
“Images of Intimacy, Reading and Writing. Spatiality in Three Novels of Regina di Luanto”, PhD. Ulla Åkerström, Assoc. Prof. at the Department of Languages and Literatures, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
The Italian writer Regina di Luanto (1862-1914), today almost forgotten but quite well-known in Italy around the turn of the century 1800-1900, explored various forms of intimacy and the interaction between spatiality and the experiences of her protagonists. This chapter will focus on three of Regina di Luanto’s novels and illustrate how the author used spatiality as a narrative strategy to reenforce her critique against hypocrisy and falsehood in society. In these novels, the writer investigates the relationship between man and woman, in the first two with disastrous results and death. In Luce e ombra (1893) the ties of matrimony ruin the life of a young wife, as she moves between the two main spaces that eventually tear her apart – the everyday routine in her own home and the fabulous villa of her lover, a decadent man, both places linked together with the train, a signifier of spatial movement as well as of modernity. In Un martirio (1894), a diary novel, a young wife strives to share intellectual thoughts with an uncomprehending husband. She suffers between the walls of a suffocating home, ending up eventually in an asylum. The writing and reading of the young woman are at the centre of this novel about the lack of intimacy in a stifling setting, a spatial practise recurring in literature. Contrary, Libera! (1895) presents a positive image of an inviting home, with the central positive image of space where two people sit and read together in harmony. In this novel, a young widow leads a life full of intellectual interests and friends with whom she reads, discusses literature and develops ideas. These thematics are recurrent in Regina di Luanto’s texts, in which a positivistic view of the world is mixed with a profound belief in science and art as a means to create a better world. Intimacy, and the lack of it or distorted forms of it, are at the centre of the three novels in question.
Keywords: Italian literature, Regina di Luanto, spatiality, reading, writing, love