Fall 2018 - HIST 445 D100

Problems in Modern Italian History (4)

Fascism Film Memory

Class Number: 5073

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 2503, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Paul Garfinkel
    1 778 782-4431
    Office: AQ 6233
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Examines topics in the social, political, and cultural history of Italy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Content may vary from offering to offering. See course outline for further information. HIST 445 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


Problems in Modern Italian History: Fascism, Film & Memory
This seminar takes an unconventional approach to studying the history of Mussolini’s Italy (1922-45): through representations of fascism (and anti-fascism) in Italian cinema since 1945. It is not surprising that Fascist Italy has been a frequent subject of commercial films since the end of World War II. Italy, after all, was the birthplace of fascism, a political ideology and movement that attracted millions of followers. It was also the site of the first-ever Fascist regime: the violent, repressive dictatorship of Benito Mussolini that ended first with his arrest in 1943 and then in military defeat and national catastrophe two years later. After the Second World War, Italy reemerged as a multi-party, democratic republic founded on the values of anti-fascism – but the legitimacy of that governing ideology has long been challenged on the political right. This challenge has been especially fierce over the past thirty years with the resurgence of right-wing political parties and far-right populists seeking to rehabilitate the legacy of fascism and discredit the anti-fascist consensus of the postwar nation. As a result, the question of how Fascist Italy should be interpreted and remembered remains unsettled and critically important today.

Treating our films as audio-visual histories, we will examine how fascism has been represented on screen since 1945; how and why those representations have changed over time; what has been remembered, and how selective have those memories been; what has been left out, silenced or simply forgotten; and to what extent Italians have ‘come to terms’ with their Fascist past and assumed some sense of responsibility for it. We will also analyze the films as historical texts, assessing their strengths and limitations in representing Fascist Italy and evaluating filmmakers’ effectiveness as interpreters of national history and creators of collective memory

Students will view one film (out of class) per week. All films will be available via stream on Canvas and subtitled in English. In order to situate the films in their social and political contexts, supplemental readings will be assigned each week. No background in film studies or Italian history is necessary.

Although the usual prerequisites are 45 credit hours, including 9 in lower-division History, I welcome upper-division students from other departments and faculties at SFU. If you are not a History major/minor and are interested in enrolling, then please contact me by e-mail. I will consider prerequisite waivers on a case-by-case basis so long as space is available.


  • Participation 20%
  • Portfolio 10%
  • Film analyses 35%
  • Capstone paper 35%



Alexander De Grand, Italian Fascism: Its Origins and Development, 3rd ed.

Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy

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