Simona di Martino

Quality Milk and Nursing Bodies in Luigi Pirandello’s Novelle per un anno

My paper will examine depictions of mothers and wetnurses in Luigi Pirandello’s collection of short stories Novelle per un anno (Stories for a year). Among the 246 short stories the author composed between 1884 and 1936, twelve of them include the term ‘balia’, wetnurse, and involve such a character in their plots. In my analysis I will take as my primary case studies two novellas entitled La balia (The Wetnurse) and Il libretto rosso (The Red Booklet) in which breastfeeding, the intrinsically feminine occupation performed by the wetnurses, plays a crucial role. By relying on the key study by Gary P. Cestaro, Dante and the Grammar of the Nursing Body (2003), where Dante’s idea that breastmilk is herald of values and language is explained, and on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of ‘intersectionality’ (1991), I will investigate the sociological importance of wetnurses and breastfeeding together with the marginalisation of such figures, according to Pirandello’s fictional but realistic representations.