Fascism in Italy: A Student Perspective

By Judith Tauber ’21

As an alumna of Professor Ferrarese’s Fascism in Italy, I’m very glad to see that the course will be offered once again in Spring 2021: it is without a doubt one of the best courses I have taken in my last 3 ½ years at William & Mary.

Professor Ferrarese examined the fascinating phenomenon that is Fascism from a variety of approaches, interweaving an exploration of the historical period with philosophical interludes, the screening of films, an examination of artistic movements, a discussion of gender and race, and an analysis of excerpts of literary texts.

We began the semester briefly summarizing the social, political and economic events leading up to the creation of the first fasci in 1919, followed by a discussion of the movement’s growth, paying particular attention to Fascism’s rhetorical strategies and inspirational precursors, particularly Futurism and D’Annunzio’s expedition to Fiume. What was especially striking was the insight into how fragile democracies are and how we should never assume that a version of Fascism cannot establish itself in our own societies. I also found the part on how Fascism maintains itself by diffusing a spectacle void of ideology but deadly in consequences to be thought-provoking.

Mussolini & Cinema (From Wikimedia Commons)

Mussolini & Cinema (From Wikimedia Commons)

Next, we examined life under Fascism, from cultural activities, racism, and the position of women in society to colonial projects and Mussolini’s attempt to create the new Italian. I especially liked that we took the time to investigate how Fascism affected individual lives without losing track of the bigger picture. The films discussed were particularly illuminating in this respect.

After investigating Fascism’s relations to the Church and the cinema industry as well as its other manifestations globally, we turned to its demise and reincarnations. I found the part on how neofascism manifests itself to be extremely relevant to today’s society.

I came away with a clear and deep understanding of an intriguing and complex whole, a comprehension that has enriched my perception of the world. If you have not yet taken this course, I strongly urge you to do so this spring!

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