The Italian canon of silence. Women in poetry 1920-1980

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Oral exam


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In 1976, two years before the anthology Italian poets of the twentieth century by Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo, Biancamaria Frabotta edited and introduced, with a note by Dacia Maraini, Donne in poesia, the first anthology of female voices only from the post-war period to the mid-1970s (Savelli ). The title had not been chosen easily, not without difficulties and second thoughts. What is the open question? Not only and not so much female poetry, as was initially thought for the anthology, but "women in poetry" as internalized voices as male, female, iridescent in the face of the worry of identity but united by the idea of ​​"separateness as point of strength ”, not of“ cultural exclusion ”with respect to men.

A courageous choice that sanctioned for the first time a historical and literary principle: the legitimation of the authorial specificity of a woman in the world of Italian poetry. And that meant dealing with at least two major aspects:

- that of identity as a changing expression of a journey that in women, starting from the history that their body draws in the world, is subject to metamorphosis as much as possible.

- that of the implicit admission of a silence: the impossibility of establishing one or more canons, or of affirming the non-existence of a canon, for the poetry of Italian women of the twentieth century in the light of literary history, of the history of anthologies, and especially that of poetry publishing in our country.

From the anthology Poets of today of 1925 (Papini-Pancrazi) to that of Antonio Porta of 1979 (Poetry of the Seventies), as well as in the main or minor Italian poetry series, for fifty years women have been drastically inferior as numerical presence to men. If not absent. Some recent studies are trying to reconstruct some first statistics in relation to the presence in anthologies published from the seventies to today. Overall, the voices of women from 1970 onwards are below the average of 3 percent, more often they correspond to 1 or 2 percent. While, according to some early surveys on the presence of women in the main poetry series from the 1920s to the 1980s, the curve is even lower.

Starting from the concrete data, the course does not aim to enumerate the literary absences of the voices of women in poetry in the main cultural operations of the Italian twentieth century, but rather intends to use these data to question the historical and social, aesthetic and literary reasons of this disproportion. Conversely, taking up the ranks of the works and work of Italian poets of the twentieth century, including their profession as translators and sometimes their role as intellectuals in a broad sense, the lessons aim to identify the existence of a latent canon also for women in Italian poetry of the twentieth century. Canon which - being able to use for historical-literary reasons only tools and parameters related to poetry written by men - in all probability founded its specificity precisely on the unspeakability (or illegitimacy) of its existence, on the principle of absence, of silence , of the shadow by transforming and translating, with awareness or not, these strategies into new forms of verse writing if not even erratic and as much original poetic as possible.

Educational aims

Acquire tools for understanding and commenting on Italian twentieth-century poetry.

Deepen and compare the most recent theoretical research, both national and international, on the genre of the poetry anthology.

Show hermeneutic skills in the intra and intertextual interpretation of works by one / one or more authors and authors.

Study the history of Italian peosia publishers. Reasoning on the historical matrix of authorial choices.

To deepen the knowledge of the literary, artistic and intellectual work of the Italian poets of the twentieth century.

Reasoning on the notion of canon in the poetic twentieth century.

Bibliographical references

Donne in poesia, a cura di B M. Frabotta, con una nota di D. Maraini, Savelli, Roma 1976 (e 2° ed. 1978) in confronto con Poeti italiani del Novecento, a cura di P. V. Mengaldo, Mondadori, Milano 1978.

Verranno prese in esame numerose antologie di poesia italiana del Novecento a partire da quella curata da Papini e Pancrazi nel 1925. Si segnalano in particolare da conoscere e leggere per la prova d’esame:

Poetesse del Novecento, All’insegna del Pesce d’Oro, Scheiwiller, Milano 1952 [verranno fornite fotocopie].

Poesia degli anni Settanta, a cura di A. Porta, Prefazione di E. Siciliano, Feltrinelli, Milano 1979.

Testi teorici e critici di riferimento:

J. Kristeva, Stranieri a sé stessiL’Europa, l’altro, l’identità, Nuova edizione accresciuta, Donzelli editore, Roma 2014.

L. Irigaray, Essere due, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 1994.