Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere è una rivista annuale a stampa e online ad accesso aperto del Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici dell’Università di Trieste (DiSU), pubblicata dal 1994 presso la casa editrice EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste. È apparsa in precedenza con il complemento di titolo Rivista di letterature e civiltà Anglo-germaniche e, dal 2005 al 2011, con quello di Rivista di Letterature straniere, Comparatistica e Studi culturali. La rivista pubblica contributi originali dedicati alle letterature di lingua inglese, tedesca e francese. Prospero ospita contributi inediti di studiosi italiani e stranieri che pongono il testo letterario e l’analisi testuale al centro di più ampie riflessioni di carattere ermeneutico, filologico e storico-culturale. In particolare, si apre alle convergenze di carattere interdisciplinare e transdisciplinare tra la letteratura e gli altri saperi. Numeri monografici curati da guest editors italiani e stranieri su temi specifici si alternano a numeri miscellanei.
Sally Rooney’s Normal People (2018) is a refined, touching, and quintessentially current coming- of-age narrative that explores the romantic encounter and its effects upon the psyches and aspirations of two young people, Marianne and Connell, who experience the extraordinary luck (and misfortune?) of finding one another before becoming adults. Featuring a persistent subtheme of inequality among social classes, and the effects of such disparity on the lives of young generations, the narrative weaves together ‘the personal’ and ‘the structural’ in an elegantly told portrayal of young love. The novel does not only signal a welcome return of the topic of politics to a context – the contemporary construction of love and literary representation of romantic relationships – often dominated by a logic of purely individual responsibility, but it also portrays the specific burden, most achingly felt by the young, that comes with having one’s possibilities for love (and disappointment) multiplied in the current era. By discussing the novel as a romance narrative, this essay will argue for the importance and validity of a genre and the field of expertise attached to it – scholarship of the (popular) romance – that has developed, during the last decades, and especially since the beginning of the current century, important analytical tools for reading and understanding the representation of love in literary as well as popular narratives. Despite the undeniable revitalisation generic forms of literature are currently undergoing, the romance – and its critics – tend to remain excluded from academic debates concerning such revival.
William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) depicts, in contemporary Bildungsroman fashion, the life and quest for self-identity of the eponymous heroine. The third and last volume of Trevor’s Big House trilogy, including Fools of Fortune (1983) and The Silence in the Garden (1988), The Story of Lucy Gault is set in Trevor’s native Ireland, specifically in Lahardane, a mansion along the coast of County Cork. Irish history impacts adversely on Lucy’s story, as readers follow the heroine from her childhood years during the Troubles in the 1920s to World War II and Ireland’s economic miracle at the dawn of the second millennium. As usual in Trevor’s fiction, The Story of Lucy Gault can be read as a trauma story where individual and collective grief experiences are intertwined. The only child of a Protestant family, Lucy refuses to leave Lahardane in the aftermath of a failed arson attack by three Catholics from the local village. Trevor’s heroine resigns herself to a sort of self- imposed exile from the world. Lahardane, which works as a symbolic site of colonial heritage and religious conflicts, becomes a healing and contemplative place for Lucy. Here, while reading Victorian novels, keeping bees and gardening, the heroine espouses her wounds which turn out to be “paradoxically productive” (Butler 2003). The victim of familial and historical forces she is unable to control, Lucy embraces loss as a position of strength rather than weakness. Like a modern Saint Cecilia, whose martyrdom is metaphorically associated with the heroine’s suffering, Lucy reconciles with one of the arsonists, who has eventually been interned at a mental asylum. Moving from these claims, my paper aims to address Lucy’s painful coming-of-age as trauma and selfbegetting fiction. Following the recent critical debate on the nature of the Bildungsroman (Esty 2012; Golban 2018; Graham 2019), I will first argue that Trevor exploits the conventions of the genre to illuminate the mystery of human mind, juxtaposing realism with other non-realist genres such as the gothic and the elegiac. Then, I will discuss the influence that trauma exercises on the growth of the protagonist. Lucy’s self-quest is conveyed through silences, secrets and temporal disarray, thus showcasing the unspeakable nature of trauma. Unlike the physical journey undertaken by the male protagonists of the classical Bildungsroman, Lucy’s psychological quest is instead predicated upon suffering and contemplation. Finally, I will examine how the wounded heroine’s exile from the world can be read as a deliberate declaration of autonomy. As in a self-begetting novel (Kellman 1980), Lucy’s story begets both a self and itself. Self-reflexivity and retrospectivity are at the core of Trevor’s Bildungsroman, thereby lending a self-begetting quality since the heroine is both the object of the narrative and the producer. In The Story of Lucy Gault, exposure to vulnerability may be then seen in terms of dispossession (Butler and Athanasiou), thus promoting an ethical openness to the self and the other.