The Penelopes left behind. Griselda Gambaro's The Sea that brought us (2001)

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The novel El mar que nos trajo (The Sea that brought us, 2001), by playwright Griselda Gambaro (Argentina °1928), daughter of Italian immigrants, treats migration from a women-centred perspective. The novel is set both in Italy and Argentina during the late 19th and early 20th-century wave of Italian and Spanish labour migration to Argentina. Gambaro brings together depictions of three Italian and Italian-Argentinian women who are left behind by their husband, lover, father, respectively. She thus shifts the focus away from those who migrate to those who stay behind. This study connects the novel with the Heroides, or Letters of Heroines, in which Ovid gives voice to Penelope and other Greek and Roman women, such as Medea, Dido, or Ariadne, all of whom were abandoned by their husband or lover. Reading Gambaro’s novel in dialogue with Ovid’s Heroides illuminates the novel’s gender dimension and dramatic structure. The spectrum of abandoned women depicted by Gambaro differs from the series of female portraits included in the Heroides in that it comprises two generations of women who cope with abandonment in different ways. The first generation is similar to Ovid’s heroines who struggle, at a turning point in their lives, with their feelings of love, anxiety, and uncertainty about what may have kept their beloved from returning. The second generation, however, develops practices more similar to Penelope’s plan to regain control, or even to Medea’s cruel revenge intentions. This generation works out strategies to put an end to their situation of dependence and abandonment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-47
JournalRomance Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Myth Rewriting
  • Griselda Gambaro
  • Migration
  • intratextuality
  • Heroides
  • dramatic conflict
  • gender


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