Luca Pes (Venice International University)


From 13:30
to 15:00
From 13:30
to 15:00

Course description
The course is an introduction to modern Italian politics, society and culture in a historical and comparative perspective. Lectures will revolve around six major Italian movies, which will be object of collective discussion: Il Gattopardo by Luchino Visconti, Amarcord by Federico Fellini, La Notte di San Lorenzo by Giuseppe and Paolo Taviani, Don Camillo by Julien Divivier, Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore by Lina Wertmueller and Il Caimano by Nanni Moretti. The idea is that films can be useful as a starting point for historical discourses, as documents of the time in which they were made, as historiographical texts on the period in which they are set and as historical agents, as they can be constantly reinterpreted and can influence culture in different successive moments. They can also be useful because they talk about individuals, daily life, family and personal relations; they involve a “mise-en-scene” which make history much closer to life, and oblige to discuss events and phenomena also at a micro level, bringing in themes related to gender, family, collective psychology.

The period covered by the course spans from 1796 to 2013, i.e. from the process of Nation-Building to the Present. Similarly to Germany and unlike Spain, Italy is a new nation-state. The beginning of the process of unification can be traced back to the Napoleonic Age, which saw the diffusion of ideals of Liberalism, Democracy and Nationalism. The foundation of the new Kingdom (1861) was followed by attempts to forge a common identity in the context of a liberal but conservative State, which set the basis of the first industrialization. After the Great War, the peninsula saw the rise of the first Fascist Regime in Europe, as a result of an alliance between Mussolini, the Monarchy and the Catholic Church. The military defeat and the 1943-45 Civil War, paved the way for a Republic, characterized by a blocked political system with the Catholic Party in power and the largest Communist Party in the West on the opposition. In 1992-94 judges’ investigation and arrests of corrupt politicians contributed to a revolution in the party system, which founded the present political landscape. The course shall also deal with issues like: Church-State relations and the influence of Catholicism, origins and development of the Mafia, North-South divide, social transformations, emigration and immigration, 1968 movements, economic miracle and development of the Made in Italy, controversies over Berlusconi. The general focus will be on the relationship between politics and society.

A set of readings downloadable from the courseblog provide further insight, including articles by the best scholars published in English, such as John Davis, Adrian Lyttelton, Paul Corner, Gianfranco Pasquino, Percy Allum and Perry Anderson.

Students are expected to contribute to class, discussing the movies, doing one oral presentations and writing one research paper, developing themes of personal interest, in agreement with the Professor. Topics can range from Literature to Economics, from Law to Cinema. Past themes have included: Pinocchio and the Unification of Italy, A comparison between National-Socialism and Fascism, Milan as the capital of fashion, The American and the Italian Southern Question, Neorealist Cinema and Post-War Culture, Japanese and Italian Feminism Compared.

Oral presentations should be done possibly in groups of two participants, each one speaking for approx. 15 minutes, mixing nationality. Research papers must include bibliographical references and footnotes.

The course will be divided into six units:
1) Il Gattopardo - the Risorgimento and its aftermath 1796-1871 (weeks 1-2)
2) Amarcord - the origins and development of Fascism 1872-1935 (weeks 3-4)
3) La Notte di San Lorenzo - Fascism, War and Resistance 1936-1945 (weeks 5-6)
4) Don Camillo - the Republic and the Cold War 1946-1962 (weeks 7-8)
5) Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore - Economic Miracle, 1968 and the 1970s (weeks 9-10)
6) Il Caimano - Postfordism and crisis of democracy 1980-2013 (weeks 10-11)

Each one of the units will consist in (a) an introductory lecture on the movie and the historical context; (b) a collective discussion on the movie (which will be screened out of class); (c) a lecture on themes related to the movie; (d) student presentations.

Evaluation method
60% oral presentations and participation to class and to discussion of movies
40% final research paper

Best general book:
- Holmes George (ed.), The Illustrated Oxford History of Italy, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York 1997

Suggested readings on specific periods:
- Davis John (ed.), Italy in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York 2000
- Lyttelton Adrian (ed.), Liberal and Fascist Italy, 1900-1945, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York 2002
- Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy. Society and Politics 1943-1988, Penguin, London etc. 1990
- McCarthy Patrick (ed.), Italy since 1945, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York 2000

Other readings on Italian Cinema and Italian History will be suggested in class.


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272