Cultures of Fascism

The use of the word “fascism” is on the rise, but what is meant by the term? The Fasci of Revolutionary Action were formed in January 1915, when Benito Mussolini declared that it was necessary for Italy to secure its national borders and engage in an aggressive foreign policy aimed at protecting national interests. By June 1940, when Marshal Philippe Pétain signed France’s surrender to Nazi Germany, all continental Europe except the Soviet Union was under some fascist regime. This course will focus on the cultural reasons that determined the global spread of fascism and explore literary, theoretical, and historical representations of fascism, from Italian to American ones. 

Class site: 

Zoom link: 


1/5 Introduction: Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism”
1/10 Theodor W.  Adono, Aspects of the New Right-Wing Extremism
1/12 F.T. Marinetti, Selection; Antonio Gramsci, “The Development of Fascism” (1921); “The Two Fascisms” (1921);  “Democracy and fascism” (1924); Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, “The Intellecutal Origins of Fascism” (1934)
1/19 Giacomo Debenedetti: October 16th, 1943 (1944, trans. Estelle Gilson) 

FILM: Rossellini, Rome Open City (1945) 

1/24 FILM: Bernardo Bertolucci, The Conformist (1970)
1/26 FILM: Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will (1935)
1/31 FILM: Erin Lubitsch, To Be or Not to Be (1942)
2/2 Katherine Burdekin, Swastika Night (1937)
2/7 Katherine Burdekin, Swastika Night (1937)
2/9 Massimo Bontempelli, The Boy with Two Mothers (1929): Chapters 1-5

FILM: Federico Fellini, Amarcord (1973)

2/14 Massimo Bontempelli, The Boy with Two Mothers (all) 
2/16 Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Torless (1906): 1-53

FILM: Lina Wertmüller, Seven Beauties (1975)

2/21 Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Torless: 54-111 RARE BOOKS VISIT
2/23 Musil, The Confusions of Young Torless: all
2/28 Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (If This is a Man, 1947): Authors Preface-A Good Day
3/2 Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: This Side of Good and Evil-Kraus
3/14 Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: Die Drei Leute vom Labor-The Story of Ten Days 

FILM: Gillo Pontecorvo, Kapò (1960)

3/16 Igiaba Scego, Adua (2015): Chapters 1-16
3/21 Scego, Adua (2015): all
3/23 Ben Pastor, The Horseman’s Song (2019): 
3/28 Pastor, The Horseman’s Song
3/30 Pastor, The Horseman’s Song
4/4 Visiting Scholar: Professor Leo Ching 
4/6 Visiting Scholar: Professor Leo Ching
4/11 Visiting Scholar: Samar Miled

FILM: Jacques Panijel, Octobre à Paris (2012)

4/13 Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (2004): Chapters 1-3
4/18 Roth, The Plot Against America: Chapters 4-6 & Undergraduate Final Project Discussion
4/20 Roth, The Plot Against America: all.



Class Participation: Please come to class having read and thought about the texts, so that you are ready to contribute to class conversation. 

Weekly Responses: Once a week, students are required to go to the class website and post questions, reflections, and observations on topics discussed in class. Posts can be short, and respond or refer to previous ones.

Comparison Paper (3 pages): Compare two scenes from any two of the first films of the semester (Rome Open City, The Conformist, Triumph of the Will, To Be or Not to Be). More details on the class site. 

Final Paper/Project 

Project Proposal: Submit a one-page proposal for your final project, which can take the form of a comparison paper (description on the site) or for a different medium (video, podcast). It must engage at least two of the works covered from the semester, excluding those you wrote about in your first paper. Due: 4/17 (Will be discussed in class 4/18).

Final Paper/Project, due: 4/30


One Theme: Read Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism. Choose one theme/idea from it to track and consider in the works throughout the semester. Write one blog that discusses the theme you plan on following and how it is discussed in Paxton. Due: 1/24

Write a three paged analysis of your theme and how it was portrayed in the course’s literature and films. Due: 4/14

One Country: Choose one country, other than Italy, Germany, or Austria, to explore in terms of fascism. Please share your choices on this google doc, ideally every student chooses a different country. Consider at least three sources – see Bosworth and Griffin for some initial ideas. Write a short blog for the class, summarizing the most important arguments and information about fascism and your chosen country. Include references at the end that could be useful for students wanting to read more about it. Due: 3/20

One Article: Choose an article from 2010 or later on fascism. Write a blog post about your reasons for selection (what is most interesting for you about the article’s approach) and some questions the article raises that it may be worth considering as a class. Due: 4/3

Write a review (one to two pages) that critically evaluates the article. What are the methods, goals, and scope of the article? What information or interpretations did you find most illuminating? Does it fail or succeed on its own terms? Are there critical blind spots that the author should have explored? Use quotations from the article as evidence as necessary. A good reading of a critical essay will read generously, present a synthetic summary of its argument, and provide a concise evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. Due: 4/3

Conference Paper: For your final assignment please write a conference paper (about eight pages) on a topic that engages fascism. Please pick a conference (past or future) where you would hypothetically give your paper. Submit an abstract (about 300 words), with a link to your conference. Due: 4/12 (earlier is also great).

Keep in mind your hypothetical audience when you write your paper. Due: 4/30