Decolonizing the Body of Naples: Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels

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This article addresses the construction of Naples in Elena Ferrante’s
“Neapolitan Novels” (2011–2014) with reference to Ramona Fernandez’s theorization of the “somatope.” It reads the relationship between Elena and Lila as a heuristic for that between the cultured “northern gaze” on Naples and the city as the object of that gaze, as constructed in the historical repertoire. Paying close attention to the ideological underpinnings of Elena’s educational trajectory and embodiment of national culture, I argue that the construction of Lila-Naples as an unruly subject is posited in order to be critiqued, in accordance with critical perspectives deriving from feminist and postcolonial theory. I conclude by highlighting the evolution of the values associated with Lila and Elena over the course of the tetralogy to facilitate the recuperation of Neapolitan alterity and to propose a new way of writing the city beyond the colonizing gaze of the cultural tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-88
Number of pages28
JournalAnnali d'italianistica
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

The acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.


  • Elena Ferrante
  • Neapolitan novels
  • somatope
  • the body of Naples
  • feminist theory
  • postcolonial theory


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