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Patriarchal Structural Violence and Narrative Space: The Reader’s Process of Identification with Female Characters in Italian Crime Fiction

Marco Paoli


This article focuses on the representation of some of the most unconventional female characters in Italian crime fiction with particular consideration to patriarchal structural violence and to the way in which readers engage empathically and cognitively with these characters during the reader’s process of identification. In particular, this analysis will demonstrate how spatial information given through the textual cues in the story world can affect readers’ perception of the fictional characters’ experience of narrative space and, specifically, how this can help explain the dominant position of certain male or female characters in the story world and their potential impact on the readers’ process of identification with these characters. The aim of this article thus is to reposition Italian crime fiction in the debate of patriarchal structural violence by exploring constructions and manipulations of masculinity and, particularly, femininity. It will be argued that, since the 1960s when Italian crime fiction succeeded in creating its own identity and respectability as a literary genre, crime fiction authors have engaged in structural violence by complying with the cultural debate about women’s social role in the private and in the public sphere according to patriarchal models of thought. In this context, it will also be argued that a recent trend of Italian women crime fiction has been making an important contribution to the evolution of this literary genre by engaging with the critical interrogation of patriarchal structural violence against women from a decisively female perspective.

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Spunti e Ricerche. Rivista d'italianistica.
ISSN (Print): 0816-5432.
ISSN (Electronic): 2200-8942.