Dr Guido Bartolini

IRC Project:  

Adapting to a Difficult Heritage: The Memory and Responsibility for Fascism in Italian Literature and Cinema 

Project Outline: 

With the one-hundredth anniversary of Fascism's seizure of power approaching, the time seems ripe for reconsidering how Italian culture negotiated the legacy of its totalitarian past. The current dominant paradigm, supported by major scholars of Italian Fascism, contends that Italy has been unable to deal with this difficult heritage. This project aims to validate, further explain, and also problematise this interpretation by exploring the representation of the Fascist dictatorship in a wide body of largely canonical works of fiction (by ArpinoBassaniBertoBevilacquaBrancatiGinzburgManziniMarainiMorante, Moravia, PratoliniSapineza, and Sciascia) and their filmic adaptations, produced in the period 1945-1990. This enquiry will demonstrate that Italian culture developed numerous strategies in order to address the Fascist past through a series of recurrent discourses revolving around ideas of: political identity, masculinity, national character, and power. These discourses, however, downplayed the notions of collective and individual responsibility. By relying on theories of implication developed within the field of Memory Studies, the project shows that the lack of narratives centred on the notion of responsibility has constituted the major shortcoming of Italy's attempts to reflect on the difficult heritage of its totalitarian past.  

Based on thematic criticism, reader-response criticism, qualitative analysis, and computer-assisted data management, this will be the first academic study to analyse the cultural memory of Italian Fascism in an intermedial perspective and through cutting-edge theories of Memory Studies. The monograph that will result from this project will contribute to the pluralisation of the Italian memory discourse on Fascism by stressing the importance of taking responsibility for the past. 

Short bio: 

Dr Guido Bartolini studied at University of Florence and University of Oxford and completed an AHRC funded doctorate at Royal Holloway University of London on the Italian cultural memory of World War II. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Italian Literature of the Axis War: Memories of Self-Absolution and the Quest for Responsibility (Palgrave Macmillan: 2021). He is currently Visiting Fellow for the IMLR Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory for which he curates the interdisciplinary seminar series ‘Mediated Memories of Responsibility’.  

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