Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Holocaust in Italian Literature and Film

ENGL 592.401
W 4-6 Screenings T 4-6

Though Italy's Jewish population had the highest rate of survival of any Nazi-occupied country,the Holocaust has continued to haunt the Italian literary and cinematic imagination in ways that warrant close critical scrutiny. The aesthetic and moral problem of how to represent this event in art gains special urgency in the Italian context, where a realist tradition dating back to Dante and Giotto joins forces with the postwar neorealist impulse to create a series of compelling literary and cinematic works. In keeping with the Holocaust's invitation to interdiscplinary study, the course will examine the intersection of a number of discourses--historical, literary, cinematic--viewed from a variety of perspectives--feminist, generic, philosophical, theological, and historiographic. Since a good portion of the authors willbe women, the question of the "voce femminile" and its creation of an alternative, or anti-history, will also be raised. The purpose of hte course will be three-fold:

1. To examine what the specificity of Italian cultural traditions brings to bear on our understanding of Holocaust history

2. to examine what effect, in turn, the Holocaust, as provileged object of representation, has on the literary and cinematic means of expression.

3. to continue, through this study, the authors' and filmmakers' own commitment to bear witness to what Primo Levi called "the central fact" of our times.

Note: Since the course will be conducted as a seminar, a great deal of emphasis will be placed on active class participation. Attendence at the Tuesday screenings is required.

fulfills requirements