The Sea Palace and the Golden Bee

Totaro, Paola. 2023. The Sea Palace and the Golden Bee. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis comprises two parts: The Sea Palace and the Golden Bee, a work of creative, historical nonfiction and a critical commentary which explores the role and influence of the Palazzo Donn’ Anna on a selection of literary works by the Italian novelist and critic, Raffaele La Capria.

Palazzo Donn’ Anna, a Baroque ruin on the shores of the Gulf of Naples opposite Vesuvius, was built in 1640 for Anna Carafa, wife of a Spanish Vice Roy, and abandoned unfinished when her husband returned to Spain alone in 1644. Its evocative, organic stone skeleton has inspired generations of artists and writers, among them Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Ruskin, Alexandre Dumas, Herman Melville and Shirley Hazzard. My creative project unearths its more recent history, seen through the eyes and lives of the people that animated the building since the mid-1800s. It is interlaced with first-person contemporary memoir, as I was the last of my family born in the building but knew very little about how my French great-grandfather came to buy the ancient ruin.

The critical commentary examines the role and creative influence of the palazzo in the work of Raffaele La Capria, beginning with his first two novels, Un Giorno d’Impazienza (1952) and Ferito a Morte (1961) and traces and analyses its evolving presence in three later works chosen to illustrate La Capria’s stylistic evolution from fiction to a new, hybrid, nonfiction genre, melding autobiographical philosophy, social commentary, and literary criticism.

I contend that Palazzo Donn’ Anna is a powerful muse and source of mnemonic and creative imagination throughout La Capria’s life’s oeuvre and discuss the way the building and his relationship with the ruin has also been a powerful influence on my imagining, constructing, and writing The Sea Palace and the Golden Bee. Only two La Capria books studied in my critical project have been published in English.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Naples, architecture, perfumer, Bourbon, Raffaele La Capria, Neapolitan literature, Palazzo Donn' Anna, Italy, Fascism, benign capitalism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


30 June 2023

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2023 14:01

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2023 18:00


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