Domestic Bliss? Home Space and Gender-Based Violence in Giampaolo Simi’s La notte alle mie spalle (‘The Night behind Me’, 2012)

When and Where

Thursday, April 07, 2022 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Online Event


Silvia Ross


Home is often culturally constructed as a space of belonging and safety, a comforting ‘nest’ (Bachelard) for the family. The house, or casa, holds a prominent position in Italian culture, especially due to its associations with the social unit of the family, but it also looms large in the foreign imaginary, as witnessed in dreams of Tuscan villas and the proliferation of texts based on the reconstruction of country houses (e.g. Mayes’ bestselling Under the Tuscan Sun, among others). But this idealization is obviously a construct: for many subjects, home can be a place of danger, isolation, fear, or is even non-existent (i.e. domicide, homelessness etc.). Questions of class, gender, ethnicity, ability, age, all come into play in the individual’s experience of home. Feminist scholarship has, moreover, demonstrated that space is experienced in different ways according to gender and, as has been illustrated by statistics in many countries on gender-based violence during the pandemic, home can be a harmful place indeed, particularly for women and children.

Giampaolo Simi’s La notte alle mie spalle [2012, The Night behind Me] is an incisive and disturbing narration of intimate partner violence, told from the point of view of the perpetrator, Furio Guerri. Simi deftly employs narrative strategies and intertextual links with Brontë’s Wuthering Heights to construct a character who imagines himself an exemplary pater familias, who views his beautiful wife Elisa, their daughter, and their house in the Tuscan countryside as possessions which guarantee his status and masculinity. And yet within the four walls a pattern of domestic violence emerges, with the kitchen, living room and bedroom becoming spaces of fear and danger for Elisa, whose presence emerges posthumously in Furio’s flashbacks. Drawing on theories on masculinity and the angry white man (Michael Kimmel), on intimate partner violence (Liz Kelly) and on space, this talk will investigate how home emerges as a dangerous place and a locus of patriarchal control in a novel on femicide produced by a successful and innovative writer of Italian crime fiction.

Silvia Ross (BA U of Toronto; MA, PhD Johns Hopkins University) is Senior Lecturer (equiv. to Associate Professor) and former Head (2018-2021) of the Department of Italian, University College Cork, and was Associate Dean and Head of the Graduate School of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences from 2011 to 2013. Her research concentrates on the representation of space in modern and contemporary literature, the subject of her monograph, Tuscan Spaces: Literary Constructions of Place (U of Toronto P, 2010) and of her current research project entitled Subverted Sites: Textual Representations of Conflict in Tuscany. Her research areas also include Italian women writers, travel writing, ecocriticism and ecofeminism, and questions of conflict, identity and alterity and the text. She has co-edited the special issue of Annali d’Italianistica on ‘Urban Space and the Body’ (2019), and the volumes Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Italian Urban Space (DIDA Press, 2019); Rappresentare la violenza di genere. Sguardi femministi tra critica, attivismo e scrittura (Mimesis, 2018); Identity and Conflict in Tuscany (Firenze University Press, 2015); Mediterranean Travels: Writing Self and Other from the Ancient World to Contemporary Society (Legenda, 2011) and Gendered Contexts: New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies (Peter Lang, 1996). She is currently Senior Co-Editor of the journal Italian Studies (for post-1700 submissions). For more information see:

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Contact Information


Italian Studies