Fascism in Italy: Tales of Chiaroscuro during 1943-1945 | National Humanities Center

Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Fascism, the War, and Structures of Feeling in Italy, 1943–1945: Tales in Chiaroscuro

By Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (NHC Fellow, 2018–19)

Cover of Fascism, the War, and Structures of Feeling in Italy, 1943-1945

New York: Oxford University Press, 2023

From the publisher’s description:

On July 25, 1943, news of Mussolini's resignation and subsequent arrest stunned Italians leaving them dumbfounded. After two decades, fascism had fallen without any advance warning. As festive events marked the incredible outcome and reminders of the past were destroyed, an uncontainable joy seemed to pervade Italians. But what did people actually celebrate? How did they understand the bygone dictatorship, which was soon to be reincarnated in the Italian Social Republic (RSI)? Drawing on more than one hundred diaries written by ordinary citizens (and some prominent figures as well) and inspired by Raymond Williams's concept of structures of feeling, the book examines Italians' perspectives on fascism at a very critical moment in their history. With the country mired in a devastating war further complicated by the September 8, 1943 armistice with the Allies and subsequent German occupation—followed by the eruption of an Italian-against-Italian conflict, the switching of alliances, and the declaration of war against Germany on October 13, 1943—the fast pace of history seemed to deflect Italians' attention from their immediate past.

Amidst the daily experience of bombings, hunger, displacement, and death, coming to terms with twenty years of dictatorship turned out to be an arduous enterprise. Whether those who had lived under the fascist regime wished ‘not to think of it and not to speak any more about it’ as philosopher Benedetto Croce maintained, it is hard to ascertain. In truth, little is known of what Italians felt and thought about fascism after its precipitous demise. This book remedies the gap in historical scholarship by assessing how Italians confronted their present and negotiated their past during the two years from the fall of the regime to the definitive defeat of the RSI and the end of the world war in May 1945. By bringing to life the cultural imaginaries and practices of the past, the book raises ostensibly intractable questions on the epochal impact of what often appears as inconsequential: the typically unseen and seemingly banal power of everyday experiences.

History / Sociology / World War II / Social History / Political History / Military History / Fascism / Italy /

Falasca-Zamponi, Simonetta (NHC Fellow, 2018–19). Fascism, the War, and Structures of Feeling in Italy, 1943-1945: Tales in Chiaroscuro. New York: Oxford University Press, 2023.