Given that race is a socio-historical and political construction, this work argues that race is also a narrative construction. Examining the construction of race in works by Italian authors since national unification (Deledda, Serao, Ginzburg and Ghermandi), the book finds certain elements to be common in both racial and narrative formations. These include intertextuality; characterization, plot, and tropes; the tension between the projections of identity as individual, group, and universal; and the processes of identification and otherness.
Race as Narrative in Italian Women's Writing Since Unification explores racist ideas and critiques of racism in four long narratives by female authors Grazia Deledda, Matilde Serao, Natalia Ginzburg, and Gabriella Ghermandi, who wrote in Italy after national unification. Starting from the premise that race is a political and socio-historical construction, Melissa Coburn makes the argument that race is also a narrative construction. This is true in that many narratives have contributed to the historical construction of the idea of race; it is also true in that the concept of race metaphorically reflects certain formal qualities of narration. Coburn demonstrates that at least four sets of qualities are common among narratives and central to the development of race discourse: intertextuality; the processes of characterization, plot, and tropes; the tension between the projections of individual, group, and universal identities; and the processes of identification and otherness. These four sets of qualities become organizing principles of the four sequential chapters, paralleling a sequential focus on the four different narrative authors. The juxtaposition of these close, contextualized readings demonstrates salient continuities and discontinuities within race discourse over the period examined, revealing subtleties in the historical record overlooked by previous studies.
Introduction. Race as Narration: Studies of Italian Women’s Writings Since Unification
Chapter One. Grazia Deledda's Narrative Negotiations with the Racialization of Sardinian Character
Chapter Two. The Tropics of Race in the Land of Cockayne
Chapter Three. The Irreducible Individual and the Ethics of Writing in Natalia Ginzburg’s Lessico famigliare
Chapter Four. “We Are Stories of Stories in History”: Re-imagining Community as Narrative in Regina di fiori e di perle by Gabriella Ghermandi
Conclusions. The Persistent Past: Haunting as Metaphor for Racism in Texts from Deledda to Ghermandi