De-storying, re-storying : inscriptions of violence in the autobiographical acts of Auschwitz survivors, immigrants, and political prisoners in twentieth-century Italy / by H. Marie Orton.
This study examines the relationship between violence and the construction of identity in the autobiographical narratives of six writers in twentieth-century Italy, contending that violence inflicted on the subject--as well as violence inflicted by the subject--forces a redefinition of the parameters of selfhood. The inscriptions of violence on the body interrupt the inscription of identity in these autobiographical acts, and reveal a symbiotic relationship between the body and identity: violence to the body is always violence against identity. Chapter one pairs the autobiographical acts of two Auschwitz survivors, Se questo e un uomo by Primo Levi and C'e un punto della terra by Giuliana Tedeschi. Foucault's theories of the interdependence of power to space and power's manifestation upon the body, together with Deleuze's and Guattari's concept of the deterritorialization status of "minor" literature, serve as the springboard for my discussion of the "deterritorialization" of identity in these two writers. Chapter two juxtaposes the stories of two non-European immigrants to Italy, Nassera Chohra and Salah Methnani. These narrators attempt to invent identities within the interstitial space between cultures, but that construction is mediated by the violence and displacement they experience in Europe. The final chapter examines the autobiographical writings of two former Brigate rosse members, Adriana Faranda and Mario Moretti. Both narrators approach their histories of violent acts by responding to their monsterized image created by the mass media and fossilized in the public memory. Their autobiographical acts seek to contextualize and re-politicize the violence of the Brigate rosse in terms of the social climate in Italy from 1968 through the early 1980s. The study concludes with reflections on the relationship between violence and language. I submit that the six texts examined chart the codification of a language of violence; and while language is the mechanism for the recuperation of identity within in the discursive space of the text, language simultaneously testifies to the violence against and destruction of identity. This study asks, as long as the social order is one of hierarchy and violence--both implicit and overtly physical--to what extent can language actually communicate radical alterity?
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