Uomini si diventa. Il Bildungsroman italiano del secondo Novecento: uno studio di genere

  • Ilaria Masenga
  • Beatrice Manetti


The topic of this article is a study of the evolution of the Italian Bildungsroman in the second half of the twentieth century in a gender point of view. Subjects of the analysis are five novels (Agostino (1944) and La disubbidienza (1948) by Alberto Moravia, La confessione (1955) by Mario Soldati, Ernesto (1975) by Umberto Saba and Il lanciatore di giavellotto (1981) by Paolo Volponi) that share common narrative and structural features.
Starting with a brief recognition of the origin and the development of Men’s Studies, I mainly refer to social, psychoanalytical and historical contributions to the field. In particular, Connell’s theorization of masculinities as dynamic individualities is the basis of my research. I focus on the male protagonist of these novels, the adolescent, studying his acquisition of a mature gender identity thanks to the relationship with the “other”.
As for the literary genre, in opposition to Moretti’s theoretical opinion that states the Bildungsroman rapidly exhaustion in harmony with the First World War, I argue the perpetuation of the coming of age novel, with different outcomes. The analysis of narrative texts leads me to point out some common patterns that characterize the literary genre in the twentieth century: first of all, family relationships, represented by the mother, take on a peculiar importance in the process of gender and identity acquisition. Secondly, the sexual encounter with the other develops in two different ways: as an heterosexual relationship with the prostitute (completed or more often wished) or as an homosexual one. Finally, the adolescent does not aim to an integration within the patriarchal society, but he tends to a recognition within the peer community.

Keywords: Men’s Studies, gender, Bildungsroman, masculinity, Italian contemporary literature.
Parole chiave: Men’s Studies, genere, Bildungsroman, mascolinità, letteratura italiana contemporanea.