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

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2012


  • Goliarda Sapienza
  • autobiography
  • queer sexuality
  • Gender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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