Goliarda Sapienza’s Eccentric Interruptions: Multiple selves, gender ambiguities and disrupted desires


  • Charlotte Ross



parole chiave:

Goliarda Sapienza, autobiografia, genere, sessualità, identità queer, Teresa de Lauretis


This article considers the work of Goliarda Sapienza (1924-1996), which is currently undergoing a renaissance: early texts are being republished, posthumous works have appeared in print, and she is beginning to attract sustained critical attention for the first time. With reference to several texts, most notably "Lettera aperta", "Io Jean Gabin", "Il filo di mezzogiorno", "L’arte della gioia" and "Le certezze del dubbio", I show how her work challenges a series of received norms and concepts: in addition to deconstructing any notion of the coherent, unified subject, she also disrupts traditional (hetero)normative conceptions of gender identity, sexed body and sexual desire. I analyse her work and thought as a series of interrupted autobiographical chapters, and argue that she can be read as an «eccentric subject», as defined by Teresa de Lauretis: she is «dis-located» from normative society, and challenges and interrupts dominant discourses, but also calls into question alternative discourses, for example feminism. As a result, her work may be challenging to read, but it is richly provocative. Finally, I consider how Sapienza herself experiences modalities of «interruption»; she strives to rewrite herself following trauma, and struggles with same-sex desire. Her eccentricity is experienced as both a driving, productive force of which she is proud, and a source of personal contestation. I conclude that while her relationship with some strands of feminism is rather combative, her unorthodox self-questioning, and her questioning of all institutions, make her work and thought immensely important as a form of feminist self-(re-)definition that has hitherto received little attention.

Biografia autore

Charlotte Ross

Charlotte Ross is Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on how bodies, gender and sexuality are understood, constructed and represented in socio-cultural contexts. She is particularly interested in elaborations of sexuality and identity, in cultural texts as well as in practices of social engagement and activism. In Narratives of Embodiment in the Work of Primo Levi: Containing the Human (Routledge, 2011), she analyses Levi’s engagements with and representations of embodiment, from the imprisoned and abject body in the Lager to the posthuman technologized bodies of his science fiction writing. In 2008 she co-organized a conference entitled "Gender and Sexuality Studies Italian Style", in Prato, Italy, which has led to a special issue of the journal 'Italian Studies' on gender and sexuality (July 2010). She is also co-editor (with Dr Daniele Albertazzi, Dr Clodagh Brook and Dr Nina Rothenberg) of Resisting the Tide: Cultures of Opposition under Berlusconi 2001-06 (Continuum, 2009). She is currently working on lesbian representation in Italian literature and film. For more information about this project, see her blog: http://charlotterossresearch.wordpress.com/. For further informations: http://birmingham.academia.edu/CharlotteRoss




come citare

Ross, C. «Goliarda Sapienza’s Eccentric Interruptions: Multiple Selves, Gender Ambiguities and Disrupted Desires». Altrelettere, gennaio 2012, pagg. 25-47, doi:10.5903/al_uzh-2.