My dissertation is tentatively titled, “Womanhood Mediterranean Style: Authoritarianism and the Politics of Fiction in Italy and Turkey, 1919-1935.” My committee is Dr. A. Holly Shissler (Chair, University of Chicago Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), Dr. Hakan Karateke (University of Chicago Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), and Dr. Leah Feldman (University of Chicago Comparative Literature). Below is the dissertation abstract; if you have any questions about my work, please feel free to contact me.
This dissertation explores Italian and Turkish women authors’ responses to the patriarchal and authoritarian politics of the Fascist and Kemalist regimes from 1919-1935. These regimes emerged from the First World War with major grievances and cast themselves as new nations, severing recent failures from future glories. Within their projections of state power and authority, the Fascists and Kemalists used women symbolically to represent the nation and progress. As a result, women became the property of the collective, but these visions belonged to a constructed, idealized patriarchal imaginary.
I will analyze novels by four authors from each country: from Italy, Sibilla Aleramo (1876-1960), Grazia Deledda (1871-1936), Gianna Manzini (1896-1974), and Maria Messina (1887-1944), and from Turkey, Güzide Sabri Aygün (1886-1946), Suat Derviş (1903-1972), Halide Edip (1884 -1964), and Nezihe Muhiddin (1889-1958). This dissertation argues that in the act of writing novels, women authors occupied an essential space between the state and resistance. By producing fiction, they challenged the symbolism and rhetoric of Fascist and Kemalist gender politics. Fiction exposes affective registers and inserts women’s own subjectivity into conceptions and understandings of womanhood in ways that complicate authoritarian state narratives.
Furthermore, these authors transcended national affiliation: while the issues they faced were local, they often sought international means to resist dictatorial demands through engagement with the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). I argue that when national politics excluded politically engaged or motivated women, writing novels in Fascist Italy and Kemalist Turkey was inherently a political act.