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Book Reviews 195 psychoanalytic critics, who emphasize the prospects for an alternate "reality" implicit in the presence of human subjects differently constructed according to gender and race: "Through Huck's involvement with Jim, Twain envisioned, but could not seem to fully commit to, an alternative, phallic/ feminine or masculine/maternal adult identity that was morally superior to the phallidmasculine identity that Twain associated with a corrupt and dishonest patriarchal culture" (152). What Boker says about Twain here might be said about herself: her critique of classic American literature is predicated upon the dream of a "phallic/feminine adult identity," but she can't free herself from the idea that "reality-testing" is a process inevitably governed by fathers. Michael E. Nowlin University of British Columbia Robin Pickering-lazzi (ed.). Mothers of Invention: Women, Italian Fascism, and Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. Pp. xxxii + 271, illustrations, chronology, selected bibliography, and index. Since Susan Sontag's "Fascinating Fascism (1974)" (in Under the Sign of Saturn, New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1980) identified the life and work of Leni Riefenstahl as a watershed moment in the aestheticization of political violence and interrogated the transgressive/recuperative sadomasochistic subculture of fascist erotics, American Studies scholars have produced increasingly sophisticated analyses of the "ideological ruptures 1 ' (Andrew Hewitt, Fascist Modernism, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993, 2) in social consciousness that occasioned the emergence of fascism and avantgarde modernism as contemporaneous and sometimes compatible responses to sociohistorical developments in the West. Feminist theorists have, in the past, demonstrated that male anxiety about changing gender roles was an important constituent element in both fascist social policy and the construction (and postmodernist deconstruction) of the (male) modernist ''self.>' Indeed, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have effectively argued in The Female Imagination and the Modernist Aesthetic (New York: Gordon and 196 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes amencaines Breach, 1986) that one must speak "not only of male and female modernisms , but of masculinist and feminist modernisms'' (2). More recent feminist theorists have begun to redress a lacuna in the research regarding women's strategies for negotiating these historically convergent sociopolitical and cultural projects. Mothers of Invention: Women, Italian Fascism, and Culture, edited by Robin Pickering-lazzi, makes a substantial original contribution to this work. The volume offers a provocative feminist overview of the period that, without claiming representative status, nevertheless surveys an impressive range of cultural productions by Italian women under fascism. The collection's title captures an important tension operating between the fascist project of inventing women as mothers of the state and women's own processes as subjects and inventors of culture, coping with the necessities entailed by the historiopolitical crisis. In her introduction, Pickering-lazzi proposes the term "invention 11 as a category of critical interpretation which emphasizes modes of cultural production more or less self-consciously embedded in existing conditions, while nevertheless permitting strategic original moves from an array of micropolitical sites and power modalities. Distinguishing the term invention from received humanist constructions of imagination to assert the gendered subject's creative situatedness in the sociocultural formation, she argues that although Fascist sexual politics clearly applied pressures and boundaries on women's accomplishments and aspirations, it also created possibilities, deriving from the internal contradictions of Fascism and the politics it developed for incorporating women in national life. (xi) Mothers of Invention refuses the increasingly untenable view of fascism as an historical anomaly in an otherwise more or less "progressive" engagement of left- and right-wing political forces, locating its roots in "the reaction of latenineteenth century medicolegal anthropology and sociology to women's suffrage and emancipation movements 11 (101), and tracing contemporary implications of its legacies. This collection, then, explores gaps in fascist ideology and postwar assumptions about its boundaries, relocating a number of Italian women artists and thinkers from their more or less anonymous positions in reductive representations of fascist and modernist masses, to the sociocultural spaces they forged for themselves under the duress of a profoundly oppressive regime. Book Reviews 197 The volume opens with Rosalia Colombo Ascari's study of Anna Kuliscioff, a Russian immigrant to Italy who, by the turn of the century, had embraced a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 195-199
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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