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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

by Italo Calvino

Gender Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Your attention, as reader, is now completely concentrated on the woman, already for several pages you have been circling around her, I have—no, the author has—been circling around the feminine presence, for several pages you have been expecting this female shadow to take shape the way female shadows take shape on the written page, and it is your expectation, reader, that drives you toward her. (2.25)

The speaker of this passage draws a connection between your expectation as a reader and the manly expectation that comes with hearing that there's a lone woman in a room full of men. In this instance, Calvino sets up a dynamic that will pop up a bunch of times throughout the novel, showing the male reader's eye turning a woman into a sexual object. As a male reader (like it or not), you come to the book with certain expectations, and these expectations become especially strong when a female presence starts to "take shape on the written page."

Quote #2

Now, moreover, the professor's reactions at the name Ludmilla, coming after Irnerio's confidences, cast mysterious flashes of light, create about the Other Reader an apprehensive curiosity not unlike that which binds you to Zwida Ozkart […] and here you are in pursuit of all these shadows together, those of the imagination and those of life. (5.76)

As you wonder about Professor Uzzi-Tuzii's relationship with Ludmilla, you begin to realize that your attraction to her is similar to your attraction to the female characters in the books you've been trying to read. Hmmm. Also, check out how the passage refers to women as shadows, suggesting that it is their evasiveness that makes them so desirable to you. Calling them shadows, however, also happens to rob women of their humanity.

Quote #3

"I was coming to tell you I had found the novel you were looking for, and it is the very one our seminar on the feminist revolution needs. You're invited, if you want to hear us analyze and debate it!" (7.21)

Sure, Lotaria is a foil to the "innocent" reader, Ludmilla. But the book gives a view of Lotaria's feminist politics that is pretty stinkin' critical, lumping these politics into a pile of agenda-driven reading practices that just end up ruining everyone's enjoyment of things. The concern about academic reading often comes up in instances when Calvino takes jabs at feminism. The book strongly suggests that readers, and particularly female readers, should remain "shadows." Those who are too vocal, Calvino portrays as angry and annoying.

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