Marina Guglielmi is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Cagliari, and a faculty member of the Centre de Recherches Pluridisciplinaires Multilingues at Paris X, Nanterre. She is the founder and co-director of Between, the journal of the Italian Association for the Theory and Comparative History of Literature.
Her research work focuses primarily on literary translation, women studies, literary representations of spaces, psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Recent publications include Raccontare il manicomio. La macchina narrativa di Basaglia fra parole e immagini (2018), and the co-edited volumes with G. Iacoli, Piani sul mondo. Le mappe nell’immaginazione letteraria, (2012); with C. Cao, Sorelle e sorellanza nella letteratura e nelle arti, (2017).
Italian Narratives of the Asylum
The representation of psychiatry in the Italian cultural production is commonly periodized by the 1978 watershed, which coincided with the passing of Law 180. Promoted by the work of psychiatrist Franco Basaglia and by the association Democratic Psychiatry, which he directed and advocated for liberation of the ill and weak from segregation in mental hospitals by pushing for the Italian psychiatric reform, the legislation led to the permanent closure of asylums in Italy.
The world of asylums has been narrated by writers, directors, former patients, but also by psychiatrists, such as Mario Tobino (Le libere donne di Magliano, 1953; Gli ultimi giorni di Magliano, 1982). Today, more than forty years after the passing of the ‘Basaglia’ legislation, the narrative of the asylum is experiencing a significant revival; among the several new voices, at least Peppe dell’Acqua (Tra parentesi, 2019) and Paolo Milone (L’arte di legare le persone, 2021) are worthy of note and further study.
Both licensed psychiatrists, Dell’Acqua and Milone experienced firsthand the transformation over time of the idea of mental illness and the practices of treatment, which they represent the first through a theatrical pièce and the second by an autobiographical novel.
My paper focuses on these recently published narratives of the asylum and on their relationship with the Italian cultural tradition. I aim to define the psychiatric and asylum narrative as a genre independent to, and yet akin to that of the psychoanalytic novel (Alfano-Carrai eds., Literature and psychoanalysis in Italy, 2019).