Italian Studies

Fall Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
Students are taught to conceptualize in Italian as they learn to understand, read, write, and speak. Classes are conducted entirely in Italian and meet daily.
Texts of contemporary literary or social interest provide the focus for more advanced conversation, reading, and composition. Classes are conducted entirely in Italian.
This course will concern itself with the response to the Holocaust in the memoirs of Primo Levi and Liana Millu, and in the fiction of Giorgio Bassani. Framing their writings will be brief readings in the work of historians Liliana Picciotto Fargion, Michele Sarfatti and Susan Zuccotti.

Italy had no native tradition of anti-Semitism to compare with the French or Austrian (Action Française; Karl Lueger’s Christian Social Party). Moreover, the Holocaust in Italy begins comparably late–in 1943 with the overthrow of Mussolini–and continued with the consent of the Republic of Salò, the largely puppet state the Germans set up for him after his rescue. The class will briefly address such historical questions as the relation between Italian Fascism and anti-Semitism, the role and responsibility of the Papacy in the eventual deportations, and, finally, the heroism of Italian individuals and even institutions (the diplomatic corps) in the face of unspeakable atrocity. In Levi and Millu we shall address more literary questions: Italian identity, for example. What did it mean to be an Italian Jew in the camps– hence Sephardic–thus to speak no Yiddish and not to be observant, i.e. to be both culturally and religiously ignorant? On the other hand, what did it mean for an Italian Jew to be cultured and completely assimilated to Italian life: “tutti dottori, tutti avvocati” unlike Austrian, Hungarian and Russian Jews? We will study the development of the identity of the protagonist as s/he struggles to survive in the Italy of the race laws and then in the inconceivable conditions of Auschwitz. Incidentally, according to Liliana Picciotto Fargion, the total number of Jews deported was 8,613 or whom 7,631 died. She adds 291 who were murdered in Italy; this out of approximately 43,000 Jews. All readings are in English.