Translating Memories Speaker Series: Guido Bartolini

Guido Bartolini, Ghent University 

What Happened to Italian Fascism? Placing the Study of Fascist Italy in Memory Studies’ Research 
10 May 2024 16.00 in room M-649, Tallinn University

 In 2005, Enzo Traverso argued that a problematic trend was affecting European culture; while the notion of totalitarianism was spreading, there was a progressive “disparition de la notion de ‘fascism’ du champ historiographique” [disappearance of the concept of ‘fascism’ from historiography]. Nearly twenty years later, with the worrying rise of far-right and populist movements around the world, the landscape has changed drastically, and discussions about fascism and its possible resurgence have gained momentum. Within the current cultural and political landscape, the Italian context can offer some interesting points of reflection for anyone interested in questions of memory. On the one hand, as the birthplace of the first Fascist movement, Italy has a long tradition of dealing with its dictatorial past, especially through cultural mediation; on the other hand, scholars and memory activists have often criticised the country’s collective memory, arguing that Italy has failed to come to terms with its Fascist past. In this talk, I will examine some of the main trends and debates that have characterised Italian memory culture, discussing them from the perspective of transnational memory studies and cultural memory studies. The talk will show that by conceptualising many of the shortcomings of Italian memory through theories of responsibility, complicity, and implication, it is possible to gain important insights into the process of dealing with the past, which are relevant for understanding the relationship between the present and the past beyond Italian culture.

Guido Bartolini is a FWO Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at Ghent University, where he works on the cultural memory of Fascism in Italian literature and the idea of responsibility for the past. He has published articles on the representation of Fascism and World War II in Italian literature and cinema. He is the author of The Italian Literature of the Axis War: Memories of Self-Absolution and the Quest for Responsibility (Palgrave Macmillan: 2021) and the co-editor of Fascism in Italian Culture: 1945-2023 (a special issue of the journal Annali d’Italianistica, 2023) and Mediating Historical Responsibility: Memories of ‘Difficult Pasts’ in European Cultures (forthcoming with De Gruyter in July 2024). He co-chairs the Memory Studies AssociationWorking Group on Memory and Literature.

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