A feminist Pirandello: Female agency in As You Desire Me

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Abstract

Given that Luigi Pirandello's 1930 Come tu mi vuoi (As You Desire Me) is about a woman's attempt to determine her identity, one would think that the play would be praised by feminists. In fact, some critics argue that it simply reinforces traditional gender norms. This essay offers a different feminist interpretation of the play, one that foregrounds the question of female agency. L'Ignota is the only character who may know the truth of her identity. That she withholds this truth from both the other characters and the audience is evidence of the play's feminism. The character retains the right to her self, placing both the other characters and the audience in the position of "lack" and not the plenitude associated with male authority and subjectivity. The unmasking of that plenitude as illusory is for some theorists at least a feminist gesture par excellence. By the conclusion of "As You Desire Me," both characters and audience are confronted with a woman who refuses the usual rules of the game. The essay concludes by examining an earlier work of Pirandello's that also takes up the question of the identity of a woman. This suggests that perhaps a feminist re-evaluation of Pirandello's work is in order.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalForum Italicum
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2005

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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