Giorgia Ghersi (University of Pisa)


Giorgia Ghersi earned her B.A. and M.A. in Modern Philology at the University of Pavia where she attended the University School for Advanced Studies IUSS. She spent research periods at the Universities of Ghent, Lausanne and Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle. She has just completed her PhD in Italian Studies at the University of Pisa and her thesis focuses on the personal essay genre in the Contemporary Italian Literature. In particular, the aim is to analyse the relationship between essay, narrativity and author self-representation. In addition, she studies the essay-form, the construction of the author’s voice and the rhetoric phenomena in Carlo Emilio Gadda’s work.

Unframed Modernism: Fausta Cialente’s Natalia

In order to reconsider the historiographic category of Modernism, this research is related to those studies that have recently re-read the 1930s-50s without accepting the established canon and labels (Baldini 2013; 2023; Savettieri 2022). To accomplish this, I would like to reconsider continuity and discontinuity between texts and authors in a social and relational manner. For too long many periodisations of the early twentieth century have only taken into account the books of authors, mostly male. Over time, this has biased the idea of Modernism, rendering unnoticed elements, texts, and problems that would enrich the panorama. While in the English-speaking field the role of women in Modernism has recently been emphasised, this has not yet been done systematically in Italy. Gianna Manzini, Anna Banti, Fausta Cialente, Anna Maria Ortese, among others, have employed modernist strategies in their texts and have developed relationships between themselves and with the other actors of the literary field that have yet to be studied.

From this perspective, I will focus on Fausta Cialente’s first novel Natalia (1930). Cialente’s posthumous inclusion in this panorama and the re-reading of Natalia in a modernist way is not a retrospective and arbitrary exercise: firstly, Cialente herself mentioned «l’incontro fatale con Andre Gide […] e più tardi la Woolf, Proust, James Joyce»; secondly, she was promoted by Bontempelli, editor of the journal 900 which is an Italian link with European Modernism. The physical marginality of the author, who lived many years in Egypt, together with the novel’s divergence from the fascist canons of the period are probably the reason for the writer’s difficult debut and the silence of the public and critics that has affected her to this day.

Through the analysis of significant passages from the novel, I will analyse in particular the structure of the text and the construction of the character’s voice. In comparison to the model of Virginia Woolf, we will see how Cialente builds a discourse full of intuitions and emotions, an inner monologue made up of visions and continuous shifts of perspective. The construction of Natalia’s split and fragmented subjectivity is conducted with attention to details, perceptions and the multiplication of memorial connections. Between the forced choices, the repressed desire, the Freudian slips, Cialente tells the jammed Bildung of Natalia in a way that is only apparently linear, but which in fact is constantly interrupted, disjointed between reality and dream.