Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Italian Studies

First Advisor

Nicoletta Marini-Maio

Second Advisor

Nicola Lucchi

Third Advisor

Ellen Nerenberg




This thesis approaches Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet – which consists of the novels My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child – in two different modes. The first chapter concentrates on research that I undertook in Naples during the Winter Break of 2016-17. During that time I visited the areas that Ferrante writes about in the Quartet, and I annotated my bodily and emotional reactions to the Neapolitan environment, which, together with Italian feminist theory, helped me reflect how Naples impacts the main characters. This chapter becomes a memoir of my own relationship with Naples and a reflection of my own identity as a woman. The second chapter is a close reading of the relationship between the main characters of the novels, Lila and Lenù. I analyze how, despite the women’s stark differences, they begin as close friends and follow many of the ideals outlined by second wave feminists. However, Lenù’s constant jealousy of Lila’s brilliance incites her to write a story of their lives, in an attempt of asserting her own independence, but Lila is denied of the possibility of inserting her own voice that isn’t filtered or edited by Lenù’s. This follows the postfeminist individualistic stance, and the second chapter of this thesis thus analyzes the tension between the second wave feminist and postfeminist undercurrents of the novels.