The We in I: Self-Representations and Their Communities in Italian Literature (Part 1) (Panel)


Kate Driscoll (University of California, Berkeley)

Interactions between individuals and groups are present across many literary texts. As images constructed through words, these social portraits feature multiple players existing—sometimes in harmony and sometimes in conflict—among shared contexts and communities. The act of self-representation specifically, insofar as it stands at the crossroads of self-fashioning and group identity, has long been a staple in the Italian literary tradition. From Dante’s philosophical treatises to Petrarch’s lyric love stories, from Ginzburg’s autobiographical writings to Siti’s autofictional novels, self-representations have appeared across genres and throughout the centuries as a gesture toward self-definition, never without an eye, however, to group settings and social influences. In the critical tradition, though, little attention has been paid to the broader social imagery that shapes individual representations. In keeping with current theoretical discourses on life-writing and group identity (e.g., Butler, Chapelle Wojciehowski, Eribon, Nelson), this panel seeks to expand the lens through which we may interpret self-representations by accounting for the essential social nature of personal identity, and the fundamental role played by groups in its formation. Adopting an innovative approach that will consider relationships among individuals to be at the heart of self-representation—fictional, historical, and/or theoretical—topics to be explored may include, but are not limited to:

- self-identification at the crossroads of group-identification

- self-fashioning conducted under social conditioning, pressures, and/or collaborations

- transhistorical connections among selves and communities

- group formation in an increasingly global world

- negotiations between the personal and the political through questions of language, experience, memory, heritage, and territory

- questions of self-representation in the context of gender, sexuality, feminism and LGBTQIA communities

Please consider submitting an abstract through the NeMLA website by September 30, 2019.

This panel’s primary interest is in how self-representations in Italian literature account for the essential role that communities and broader social contexts play in one’s formation and existence. By considering the “we” that shapes each literary “I,” this session critically reflects on different kinds of intersections between individuals and groups, and asks how these narrative moments speak to questions of identity, senses of belonging, and modes of sharing experiences.