HSAR 410: Art, Architecture, and Culture in Fascist Italy

Instructor: Alessandro Celani - Ph.D.
Credits: 3
Course/Lab Fee: TBA for museum visits and travel (course reader fee announced by the Print Shop)
Prerequisite: None
Cross-Listing: Art History, Italian Studies-Interdisciplinary, Political Science

Course Description
This course aims to provide students with a critical knowledge of the main themes regarding Fascist Art and Culture. In an age which precedes the diffusion of mass media, art, architecture, literature, and music played a major role in the growth and the success of “Fascist ideals”. This course gives students a chance to study an important topic, which is usually relegated to minor chapters of monographs and publications regarding Fascism as a whole.





The focus of the course will be on the following main topics:

The search for a pure Italian style (Art, Architecture, Literature)

  • Simplicity
  • Tradition
  • Rejection of the ornate and the elaborate

The revival of the Antiquity (Archaeology, Architecture, Sculpture)

  • Monumentality
  • Symmetry
  • Durability

The growth of the National Ideal (Art and Architecture, Literature, Music, Cinema)

  • Idealism
  • Heroism
  • Duty
  • Tradition and Innovation
  • Technology (Photography and Cinema, Communications)
  • Fashion and design (Visual arts, music, dance)
  • Music and dance

The first part of the course will focus on an historical introduction to early 20th century Italy and the growth of the Fascist Ideals. It will present the major expressions of the Fascist propaganda: National Identity, the creation of a tradition, the use of Archaeology, the city of Rome as a “prototype of perfection”, the rejection of foreign styles and cultures, and the birth of a monu-mental architecture. The second part of the course will study in detail single places, topics, and individuals related to the success of Fascism or examples of (sometimes hidden) anti-Fascim: the controversial figure of the architect Giuseppe Terragni, the charming and mysterious villa of Curzio Malaparte in Capri, as well as documentaries about modernity and progress in the Fascist Italy.


Course Structure
Classroom lectures will focus on:
• historical overview about early 20th century Italy and Europe.
• history of the Fascist Italy in all its social implications
• study of peculiar social aspects: sense of belonging, national identity


Field visits will focus on understanding sites and specific buildings as results of social changes and interpreting the images on the basis of ideology, politics, and sociology.


Any lecture or field visit will always be structured as an interdisciplinary analysis. The major disciplines involved will be: history, art, archaeology, architecture, music, cinema, photography.


The major purpose of the course is to provide students with the ability to unveil the hidden layers of ideology, present in any expression of a mass communication, be it totalitarian or democratic.


Course Objectives

Students will:

  • acquire a sophisticated and in-depth understanding of Fascist history, society, and culture
  • gain knowledge of the main visual, cultural, and artistic expressions of Fascist propaganda
  • be able to analyze different types of documents: paintings, sculptures, architectures, movies

Course Materials

Mandatory course reader