Reading Italian authors Sibilla Aleramo (1876-1960), Grazia Deledda (1871-1936), and Maria Messina (1887-1944) together with Turkish writers Suat Derviş (1904/5-1972), Halide Edip (1884-1964), and Nezihe Muhiddin (1889-1958), this dissertation explores how Italian and Turkish women authors responded to and critiqued Fascist and Kemalist gender politics. By analyzing their novels as participating in a feminist conversation, historians can assess how some women sought political expression and articulated political consciousness outside traditional, institutional spheres in two independent, autonomous states in the interwar Mediterranean. The comparison between Fascist Italy and Kemalist Turkey highlight significant political concerns for these authoritarian regimes during the 1920s and early 1930s. Using cultural sources, like novels, expands the historical political archive when certain voices are marginalized and suppressed. This dissertation provides new interpretations of the authors’ personal and political lives and argues that their literary production and political commitments were mutually constitutive. Through the themes of romance and heartbreak, age, and motherhood, “Women on the Verge” highlights modes of feminist critique vis-à-vis the novels’ emotional content. In a period marked by the suppression of opposition and the continued, intensified subordination of women to men, these six novelists used fiction as a hidden transcript to advocate for women’s autonomy.



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