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Commissions + Articles

Elena Ferrante & the Condition of a Woman’s Body: Ploughshares

For Elena Ferrante, flesh consists of blood and hormones, tissues and cells, but also culture, creed, and ideology. Her women characters, living in 1950s Naples and the implicit, daily violence its gender norms entails, experience their femininity as a series of symptoms—lack of autonomy, systemic invisibility and matter-of-fact brutality—that alter their bodies’ terrains. Their gender identity, in short, functions as a kind chronic condition. In corporeal and metaphysical terms, Ferrante’s girls and women are made porous and penetrable, pervious and vulnerable, in ways that raise questions regarding the contemporary status of a woman’s body, and the modes of resistance we might fashion in changing its position.

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Sue Rainsford