Date of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Matthew Calihman


The lives of Italian American women of the early twentieth century have been documented in fragments in histories of immigration and in the literature written by the children of first-wave immigrants. This documentation often leaves an incomplete picture of how Italian women lived and moved in their new American context in the first decades of the twentieth century. This thesis examines Pietro Di Donato’s portrayal of Annunziata in his 1939 novel Christ in Concretealongside the journals of Elba F. Gurzau, a real-life, second-generation Italian woman living in New York City during the 1930s. By holding these women up next to each other, this thesis shows how the confines of domesticity hindered the first-generation of Italian American immigrant women and left them unable to preserve the homeland values and traditions they were tasked with handing down, whereas the educational freedom and literacy attained by many members of the second generation allowed for women like Gurzau to effectively promote Italian culture in America. Likewise, these women’s relationships with Italo-Catholic religious practices determine the fluency with which they are able to interact and evolve in the New World. Annunziata is left, in both the domestic and religious realms, unable to find meaning and substance in her work because she is unable to recreate Italy in America. Elba Gurzau’s ability to find harmony between the two cultures and her freedom to explore outside of Cultural Catholicism breathe life into her work and allow her to effectively bridge the gap between Old World Italy and a quickly modernizing America.


Italian-American, American literature, Italian language, women, modern literature, domesticity, religion, Catholicism

Subject Categories

Italian Language and Literature | Modern Literature


© Madeleine J. Kirkpatrick

Open Access