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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Ritual Structures, Narratives and Female Identities

28th November 2017, 17:30 to 18:30, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary's College, Professor Tiziana de Rogatis (Università per Stranieri di Siena)


In this lecture, Professor Tiziana de Rogatis will identify the salient features that allow us to define the structure of initiation rites from an anthropological perspective. She will then establish a connection between these ritual repertoires and the narrative mechanisms of a selection of texts of premodern, modern and contemporary writers that describe the fate of a woman. According to Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner, the rites of passage were a way in which the community exorcised and reworked the changes. The ritual structure represents the continuity that contains the discontinuity, because it is the narrative web that holds the metamorphosis of the individual together in its community weave, and because it is the emotional tale that holds together past and present in an eternal conjunction (guaranteed by the transmission of the ceremonial ritual). The structures of the initiation rites are a privileged point of view through which the formation of feminine identities in modernity can be seen as identities in continuous and traumatic metamorphosis: these are, in fact, emerging subjectivities that are however weakened by the social and psychic inheritance of historical subordination. Her hypothesis is that at some decisive junctures of modernity many writers portray female characters through a problematic ritual structure within which an enormous amount of details, accessories, and symbolic scenes help to define the tragic status of these female protagonists: their belonging to a liminal phase (the nucleus of the initiation rites, according to Van Gennep and Turner) that is located between the time and space of community life and the time and space of a heterodox, transgressive and eccentric dimension. Professor de Rogatis will focus in particular on the figures of Lady Macbeth and Anna Karenina. Moreover, with reference to some textual examples drawn from the texts of Elsa Morante, Toni Morrison, Annie Ernaux, Elisabeth Strout and Elena Ferrante, she will also define a new parable of contemporary feminine ritual that moves away from the suicidal drift of pre-modern and twentieth-century heroines to identify with the enchantment of writing and metamorphosis instead

This lecture is free and open to all.


Details about Professor Tiziana de Rogatis

Directions to St Mary's College

Map - St Mary's College is denoted as building No: 10

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.