Vivanti, Annie (1868-1942)

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Annie Vivanti explains the problematic nature of her national and religious identities in the poem "Ego":

La patria mia qual'è? Mamma è tedesca,
Babbo italiano, io nacqui in Inghilterra.
E quale la mia fede? Io vado a messa;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ma sono battezzata protestante.
Di nome e di profilo sono ebrea.

Although Vivanti was born in England and lived extensively in the United States, she made a name for herself principally through her works written in Italian and published in Italy, where she lived the majority of her life. Born in 1868, she rose quickly to literary fame in Italy, in large part due to her friendship with Giosuè Carducci, who conceded to write the prefatory letter to her first book of verse, Lyrica, published in 1890. Her early association with Carducci, purportedly of an amorous nature, has to some extent conditioned her reception by modern critics; she has been considered only as an episode in the poet laureate's life and an inspiration for some of his poetry.

Vivanti was born in London where her father Anselmo, Italian patriot and friend to Mazzoni, was in exile. Her mother, Anna Lindau, was of German Jewish descent. Vivanti was quite the polyglot, fluent in English, German, Italian, and French. In 1892 Vivanti married the Irish nationalist and journalist John Chartres (although some sources report the date of her marriage as 1902). During her married life, she lived predominantly in the United States and abandoned publishing in favor of caring for her daughter Vivien, a child prodigy at the violin. Motherhood, in fact, would become both the subject of the novel The Devourers (1910; I divoratori, 1911), her first published work in almost twenty years, and also one of the most enduring themes in her writing. Following the death of her husband she returned to Italy and lived in Turin, where she published extensively novels and short stories. Her fame flourished during the twenties among both critics and public, but her stature eventually waned under Fascist rule. Due to her mother's Jewish heritage, Vivanti was persecuted under Fascist racial laws and was forcibly relocated to Arezzo. In 1941 she learned of the death of her daughter and son-in-law Richard Young in the London bombing. Vivanti died in 1942 with very little notice by her colleagues or the public.

Vivanti's poetry has been likened to that of the school of crepuscolarismo, while her novels for the most part address the lives, travels and travails of women from a variety of backgrounds. Her fiction has been alternately condemned as facilely moralizing and sentimental, and praised as a realistic and heartfelt depiction of the difficult life women led in the first decades of the twentieth century. Her best-known works, in addition to those already mentioned, include: the social novel Marion, artista di caffè concerto (1891), which explores the life of young actresses (drawn largely from her own experiences as an actress, singer, and teacher); Circe (1912), a portrait of a femme fatale and a contemporary scandal; Vae Victis! (1917) (later Guai ai vinti!), an examination of the victimization of women during wartime; Zingaresca (1918), a collection of autobiographical stories and sketches; Naja tripudians (1921), a social novel concerning the move of two innocent young women from an idyllic village near Leeds to the corrupt social circles of London.


  • Vivanti, Anni. Lirica. New, enlarged edition. With a preface by G. Carducci. Florence: Bemporad, 1921. (“Ego” is the first poem of the collection; the citation is from p. 10).
  • Allen, Beverly, Muriel Kittel and Kaela Jane Jewell, eds. The Defiant Muse: Italian Feminist Poems From the Middle Ages to the Present: A Bilingual Anthology. New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 1986).
  • Croce, Benedetto. Letteratura della nuova Italia: saggi critici. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. Bari: Laterza, 1929. 326-33.
  • Lepschy, Anna Laura. "The Popular Novel." In A History of Women's Writing in Italy. Eds. Letizia Panizza and Sharon Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 177-189.
  • Merry, Bruce. "Annie Vivanti (1868-1942)." In Italian Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. Ed. Rinaldina Russell. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994. 441-6.
  • s.v. "Vivanti, Annie." In Dizionario della letteratura italiana. Vol. 2. Ed. Ettore Bonora. Milan: Rizzoli, 1977.
  • s.v. "Vivanti, Annie." In Dizionario enciclopedico italiano. Vol. 12 (Tau-Z). Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana fondata da G. Treccani, 1961.
  • Wood, Sharon. Italian Women's Writing 1860-1994. London: Athlone Press, 1995.
Submitted by Margaret E. Kern, The University of Chicago, 2002.

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