The Pirandello Society of America presents a panel at the Modern Languages Association Conference in Boston on January 5, 2013:
Pirandello and the Female Subject
1. Valentina Fulginiti, University of Toronto
“Lost (Women) in Translation. The Rewriting of Female Characters in Pirandello’s Self-Translations.”
2. Andrea Malaguti, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“The Pirandellian Trap: Michelangelo Antonioni’s La signora senza camelie (1952-53)”
3. Michael Subialka
“The Actress and Her Truth: Pirandello’s Model of Feminine Aesthetic Subjectivity,” Bilkent Univ., Ankara
Presiding: Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni, Baruch College, the City University of New York
Respondent: Michael Subialka, Bilkent Univ., Ankara
- 1. Lost (Women) in Translation.. The Rewriting of Female Characters in Pirandello’s Self-Translations.
Valentina Fulginiti, University of Toronto
How do translational changes affect the status of female characters on stage? Does the loss of concreteness typical of most translational processes (Berman 1999: 53; 65) affect the corporeal dimension of their speech? In my paper, I will refer to the language of three plays by Pirandello, Pensaci Giacomino, Liolà, and Il Berretto a sonagli — all composed in dialect, in cooperation with actor Angelo Musco and playwright Nino Martoglio, and later rewritten in Italian.
In all three texts, the traditional Sicilian family ethics is challenged to various extents: while in Liolà and Pensaci Giacomino the natural ethics of birth is opposed to the rigidity of social conventions and legal recognition, in Il berretto a sonagli the impotent rebellion of a woman is defeated by recurring to the slanderous label of madness. However, these plays are not left untouched by the general transformation triggered by self-translation: specific cultural conflicts thus come to provide the ground for a universal philosophical reflection on authenticity, madness, and social convention.
The aim of my presentation is to explore how these translational changes affect and reshape the conventional stage identity of “loose” women. On the one hand, I will analyze how the loss of iconicity and figurativeness affects the corporeal dimension of female speech. In particular, I will focus on the strategies for rendering proverbs and idioms, and on the treatment of cultural reference (e.g., the different treatment of sterility in the two versions of Il berretto and in the three versions of Liolà). It is my take that the loss of iconicity typical of translation has an attenuating effect over the language of female characters – a feature especially evident in the Italian rewriting of Donna Biatrìci’s most scandalous and challenging lines.
On the other hand, I will analyze how dramatic changes (such as elimination of sequences or merging of scenes) affect the power balance between female and male characters, reshaping the traditional role play of feudal Sicily into a new state, suitable for a nation-wide, bourgeois audience.
2. Captive in the Studio: Pirandello’s Shadow in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La signora senza camelie (1952-53)
Andrea Malaguti, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Antonioni’s second full-length feature film presents a series of references to Pirandello’s work. In setting Clara Manni’s story totally on sites strictly referring to film production (even her house as a married woman looks like a studio), the film represents her gradual awareness of her social subjugation to her image as a starlet not only in her work and in her personal life. Like Pirandello’s characters, Clara Manni is allowed to be the projection of everyone else’s wish, like Signora Ponza in Così è (se vi pare), or desire, like Marta in L’amica delle mogli. However, both these female characters have their feeble chance of empowerment in being able to withdraw from the common stage of social life: “Leave me alone! I want to be alone, alone, alone!” says Marta at the end of the play (whereas their male equivalents, are insightful observers, like Laudisi or Leone Gala, and later become stage masters, like Henry IV and Hinkfuss). On the contrary, Clara’s decision to seize empowerment by becoming a real actress – and studying Pirandello, of all authors – ultimately fails: she goes broke, needs work, and realizes that not only film production, but life itself will never allow her to be anything else than a starlet. Clara therefore signs a contract for a cheap production and resumes a superficial relationship that she scorned before. Antonioni brings Pirandello’s investigation on the porous boundaries between fiction and reality to its most radical conclusions: to the threatening siege of other people’s perceptions a woman has no alternative but surrender, however aware she might be of her own intimate difference and depth of character.
3. The Actress and Her Truth: Pirandello’s Model of Feminine Aesthetic Subjectivity
Michael Subialka, Bilkent University, Ankara
Pirandello’s work, both theatrical and narrative, hinges on a particular theory of the character and its relation to the world of actual life. As Ann Hallamore Caesar has argued, Pirandello’s characters are the primary unit structuring his production, and it is their vitality that motivates his work. Likewise, as Daniela Bini and Lucienne Kroha have shown, Pirandello’s theatrical production is increasingly dominated by his great muse, Marta Abba, and marked by his conflicted relation with the feminine. I will argue that his interest in Abba reveals an essential aspect of Pirandello’s notion of how the theatrical character connects the fictional world to the actual world: this connection is achieved thanks to performance of the actress. By performing a character’s truth, living it in the present on the stage, she makes it visible and tangible to the spectator. The result is that fictional truth and its power to reshape reality are conveyed in a model of aesthetic subjectivity that is gendered explicitly as feminine.
In this paper, I investigate that concept of feminine aesthetic subjectivity by analyzing Pirandello’s essay on Eleonora Duse. Putting this into dialogue with his famous play, Come tu mi vuoi, and a short story, “Colloquii coi personaggi,” I argue that his model of feminine subjectivity allows us to reconceive the relationship between literary form and philosophical truth, as well as the role of form in the modernist “revolt” against realism.