Victorian Popular Fictions 2: 1 article 7 Tomaiuolo

Screening Collins in (and out of) Italy: from The Woman in White to La donna in bianco

Saverio Tomaiuolo


The Woman in White is an intrinsically visual narrative, in which images are as excessive as its themes. In light of the impact and influence of theatricality and of melodrama on Collins’s novel, visuality and sensation are thus constantly aligned in this narrative, which addresses its audience through a constant reference to the powerful appeal on the mind (and imagination) of the sensorial organ of sight. The first-rate value attributed by Collins to optical perception may be considered one of the reasons why many of his texts, and in particular The Woman in White, have had a fruitful visual afterlife on TV and cinema. After introducing a selection of movies and of TV renditions of Collins’s most famous novel, my essay will focus on its Italian adaptation, broadcast with the title of La donna in bianco on the National Public Broadcasting Company (RAI) in 1980. A common denominator in almost all screen translations of Collins’s story is their focusing on marital brutality, women’s legal imbalance, and female assertiveness. In this sense, my analysis aims at showing that Collins’s visual narrative succeeded in addressing its Italian audience in a specific historical, political and cultural phase of the nation’s history, during which divorce as well as social and domestic violence (including the inhumane treatment of the insane) were still cogent issues.

Key Words

Wilkie Collins; The Woman in White; divorce; domestic violence; La donna in bianco; Italian television; adaptation; treatment of the insane; RAI; BBC

Date of Acceptance: 9 July 2020

Date of Publication: 13 July 2020

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Tomaiuolo, Saverio. 2020. “Screening Collins in (and out of) Italy: from The Woman in White to La donna in bianco.Victorian Popular Fictions, 2.1: 98-115. DOI:

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