Fatherland as Motherland: Unstable Gender and Nation in Italian Great War Literature

Fatherland as Motherland: Unstable Gender and Nation in Italian Great War Literature is an EU-funded project (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions – Individual Fellowship) that has been running at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures since September 2015.

Almanacco della guerra

 Its main aim is to explore the interplay between nationalism and gender in Italian Great War literature by bringing together literary studies, political history, and gender and cultural studies. An extraordinarily heterogeneous corpus in terms of genres, agents, and ideological backgrounds, Italian literature of the Great War is not only a compelling historical document but also a layered site of invention in which nationalism and, more generally, patriotic faith underwent a powerful process of re-writing and deconstruction.

Becoming male is a crucial chapter of the pedagogy of the nation and a main concern anxiously or euphorically expressed in war writings by both male and female writers. From ultra-manly warrior fantasies to the solace of brotherly comradeship, from the masculinizing of the image of motherland to the defeated virility haunting the narrative of war prisoners and veterans, war literature puts forth a broad range of conflicting masculine discourses, too often flattened on the gendered culture and biopolitics of the fascist Ventennio. The project will develop along three main lines:

1. It will provide a new interpretation of the representation of manliness and virility in Italian Great War literature as both supporting the official discourse of nationalism and undermining it.

2. It will study the female icon of the motherland in Italian Great War literature by analysing its unstable symbolic contents and rhetorical features and comparing them with nationalist propaganda.

3. It will propose a new interpretation of the exploitation of Great War literature in fascist nationalist culture by analysing edited collections of war writings published in the Twenties and Thirties.


While giving a fresh contribution to the diverse set of transnational research actions occurring on the occasion of WWI centenary, the project has also the ambition to produce far-reaching impact on the general public by fostering a better understanding of the gendered character of modern nationalism and its cultural roots against the backdrop of European integration. Therefore, public events involving wider communities are envisaged throughout the duration of the project.

Under the supervision of Professor Federica Pedriali (Scientific Supervisor), Dr Cristina Savettieri joined Italian at LLC as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (Experienced Researcher) in September 2015. Dissemination activities of the project already include research papers and invited talks held in Oxford (September 2015), Edinburgh (October 2015), London (UCL, February 2016) and Leeds (February 2016).