In the Umbertian age, parliamentary novels introduced politics into popular literature plots. The article examines how this peculiar kind of novel treats the public and private sphere, using gender metaphors. Indeed, parliamentary novels describe the representative political system as corrupt and unproductive, associating it with "female" peculiarities: parliament is inept and weak. Women attending parliamentary sessions as spectators are described as shallow and gossipy, corrupting politics by their presence. Femininity is incompatible with a virtuous public sphere. Moreover, politicians are poor breadwinners and «political women» are bad mothers: politics and family life are at loggerheads. The article analyzes how these discursive constructions define social roles, the female and male nature and the relationship between the sexes.
Keywords: Romanzi parlamentari, Corruzione, Genere, Femminilità, Virilità