This hybrid history/cinema course provides an in-depth examination of Cosa nostra through a historical, social, and cultural perspective. The course will trace the progression of the Sicilian mafia from the Risorgimento to the present day, also considering the migration of this group into the States. The fiction – stereotypes, myths, and legends – surrounding the mafia will be examined through a scrupulous analysis of some of the most important American and Italian films portraying mafia culture.
An important aspect of this course will consist of discussions on important protagonists in the fight against mafias and collaborations between Italian and US law enforcement in their efforts to defeat transatlantic organized crime. To reinforce the classroom lessons on this particular subject, you will learn about first-hand experiences from representatives of Libera. Associations, names and numbers against mafias, an association established in 1995 that strives to involve and support all those who are interested in the fight against mafias and organized crime.
By the end of this course, you will:
- have developed a basic understanding of Cosa nostra, its origins, growth, and persistence;
- be able to relate historical facts about the mafia to a broader Italian and American context;
- be able to compare and contrast the Italian and American mafia;
- develop an interdisciplinary understanding of a specific aspect of Italian and U.S. history;
- acquire a sufficient appreciation of the representation of the mafia in cinematic popular culture;
- be able to relate films to your specific sociological and historical contexts; and
- have improved your ability to think critically about the impact of the Mafia on society (both in history and today).
- The Untouchables – evening screening*
- Godfather I
- Godfather II (selections)
- Goodfellas – evening screening*
- I cento passi (The Hundred Steps)
- Excellent Cadavers
- La mafia uccide solo in estate (The Mafia only kills in Summer)
- Sopranos (TV series, selections)
Bibliography (on reserve in the Umbra Institute Library)
- Dickie, John. Cosa nostra: A History of the Sicilian mafia. London: 2007.
- Newark, Timothy. Mafia Allies: The True Story of America’s Secret Alliance with the Mob in World War II. St. Paul, MN: Zenith, 2007.
- Pickering-Iazzi, Robin. Mafia and Outlaw Stories from Italian Life and Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.
- Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2005.
- Renga, Dana. Mafia Movies: A Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.
- Reppetto, Thomas. American Mafia: A History of its Rise to Power. New York: Holt, 2004.
- Stille, Alexander. Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic. New York: Pantheon, 1995.