Ramondino, Fabrizia (1936– )
Fabrizia Ramondino develops a discourse on women within a Neapolitan sociological and cultural context. The crossing of ethnicity and gender, which is central in her texts and is dealt with in a dispassionate manner, has gained Ramondino a special niche within the tradition of Neapolitan writers.
In Star di casa (1991) Naples symbolizes the human condition. The instability of life in Naples—epitomized here by the 1980 earthquake and the vicinity to the volcano Vesuvio—seems to be balanced off by the immobility of the family structure dominated by a powerful matriarch.
Among Ramondino’s short stories, ‘‘Una giornata della bambina Perfetta D’Ayala,’’ from Storie di Patio (1983), best sums up the writer’s views on Neapolitan matriarchy. The story is told by Perfetta, a preschooler who is entrusted to her great-grandmother and spends her days sitting on the floor. The enclosed space of the overcrowded apartment, the repetitive activities of her day, and the relationship between the child and the old matriarch effectively represent an unchangeable family structure. In the Neapolitan area, in fact, matriarchy is a system that exists inside patriarchy as a form of perpetuation of the law of the father. While it does not challenge the survival of patriarchy, it ensures a powerful although ambiguous status to older women in the family. The great-grandmother of Ramondino’s story, who dominates Perfetta and the rest of the women in the family, is herself a prisoner of a system that she has inherited from her female ancestors and that she will bequeath after her death.
Perfetta’s resolution to evade such a constricting role and to leave Naples when her time comes expresses the author’s view of matriarchy as an oppressive self-enclosed system, which is debilitating for both men and women.
Ramondino, however, distinguishes between the oppressive system of matriarchy and a possible vital relationship among women. In Althe´nopis (1981), a fictional autobiography, she maps female genealogies and traces the connection between ancestral links and female sexuality. Place plays an important role in this text too. The autobiographer shows her own life to be part of the surroundings she describes, in Naples and in the coastal town of Campania where she spends part of her childhood. In her somewhat defamiliarized narration, houses occupy a special role as the private sphere where women establish their limited power.
The mother/daughter relationship* is also central to her 1994 drama Terre-moto con madre e figlia (Earthquake with mother and daughter), where the domestic upheaval caused by the inevitable separation of mother and daughter is mirrored by the social upheaval created by the earthquake. In In viaggio (1995)—a collection of
essays and stories organized around the theme of travel and dealing with Ramondino’s numerous actual journeys and literary voyages— the writer weaves together autobiographical fragments with imaginary visions.
Bibliography: Fanning, Ursula. ‘‘Mother in the Text, Mothering the Text: Francesca Sanvitale and Fabrizia Ramondino.’’ The Italianist 14 (1994): 204– 17; Giorgio, Adalgisa. ‘‘Conversazione con Francesca Ramondino, 8 maggio 1994.’’ In Culture and Society in Southern Italy. Past and Present. Ed. Anna Cento Bull and Adalgisa Giorgio. Supplement to The Italianist 14 (1994): 26– 36; ———. ‘‘Narrativa napoletana e napoletanita`.’’ In Culture and Society in Southern Italy. Past and Present. 37–52; Marotti, Maria. ‘‘Filial Discourses: Feminism and Femininity in Italian Women’s Autobiography.’’ In Feminine Feminists: Cultural Practices in Italy. Ed. Giovanna Miceli Jeffries. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. 65–86; ———. ‘‘Ethnic Matriarchy: Fabrizia Ramondino’s Neapolitan World.’’ In Italian Women Writers from the Renaissance to the Present: Revising the Canon. Ed. Maria Ornella Marotti. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. 173–85.
MARIA O. MAROTTI
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