This dissertation aims to consider the works written in the Fascist era by Bendetta Cappa Marinetti, Paola Masino and Anna Maria Ortese, as part of a lineage of modern Italian fantastic, rather than the more accepted view as eccentric cases of non-realistic literature.
Fantastic literature has been considered a secondary trend within Italian literature of the 20th century, subordinated to the socially engaged “realisms.” Yet, recent studies have unveiled a tradition of the fantastic which, although more significant in the second half of the century, can be traced back to the “magic” cultural environment of the decades between the wars.
Chapter one offers a brief theoretical discourse on the definition of the fantastic as a literary category and a description of the history of the fantastic within Italian literature.
Chapter two focuses on Benedetta's work, in particular Le forze umane (1924) and Astra e il sottomarino (1935). These two short novels reflect Benedetta's spiritualistic beliefs in a reality which continues beyond the visible and the corporeal, and the artist's intellectual struggle for a harmonic union of the spiritual and the material worlds.
Chapter three is dedicated to Anna Maria Ortese's debut work, the collection of short stories titled Angelici dolori (1937), seen as testimony of the author's first exploration in the world of the fantastic. These short stories are indeed inspired by the desire to give representation to what lies beyond the empirical world, to the parts of reality which are unseen and hence generally find no expression.
Chapter four focuses on Paola Masino, whose fantastic aims at investigating the multilayered female personality, and the conflict between self definition and identities imposed from outside. From a more traditional fantastic in her first novel Monte Ignoso (1931), Masino also evolves to a more ironic and psychological fantastic in her last novel Nascita e morte della massaia (1945). Furthermore, against the backdrop of the Fascist regime's propaganda for the woman as the “angel of the hearth,” the novel's formal and thematic demolition of unity and fixity acquires a subversive political connotation.