Memories of Violence in Italy
Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media
30 Credits or 15 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Dr Rossella Merlino
Overall aims and purpose
To introduce students to ongoing debates concerning the “contested” memory of Italian political terrorism (1970s) and mafia terror strategy (1990s), and their enduring legacy in today’s Italian society.
To provide students with a nuanced understanding of the specific historical, social, and political factors that contributed to the development of political violence in the so-called “years of lead”.
To provide students with an understanding of theories of collective memory (e.g. M. Halbwachs) and trauma (C. Caruth) as an analytical tool.
To foster independent study and analytical skills through use of different primary sources and case study analysis.
This module focuses on the widespread violence and social unrests in Italy between the late 1960s and the early 1990s. In particular, drawing on theories of memory and trauma, this course will examine the highly ‘contested’ collective memory of this period and its enduring legacy in today’s Italy. The years known as the anni di piombo (‘years of lead’ 1969– c.1983) were marked by an extreme intensification of political violence by left and right-wing extremist groups. This period was followed by the increasing violence perpetrated by Italian organised crime, particularly the Sicilian mafia, which culminated with a direct attack on the State in the early 1990s. Although more than two decades have passed, Italy continues to struggle with the enduring legacy and the divided memory over this traumatic past. Were the bombings during the ‘years of lead’ aimed at destabilising the Italian democracy or symptoms of a flawed political system and civil society? Were the collective commemorations of high-profile mafia victims in the 1990s a state’s response to organised crime or a mechanism to turn attention away from the collusion between politicians and the mafia? Why are some massacres remembered and publicly commemorated and others largely forgotten? Through the analysis of selected case studies, this course will examine how individual stories about events related to Italian political terrorism and the mafia interact with existing narratives and other forms of commemoration. Through close examination of primary data (memorial plaques, interviews, films, photographs, and commemorations) and class discussions, students will critically engage with a range of media, developing their analytical skills, and gaining an understanding of some highly controversial themes in contemporary Italian society.
C- to C+
C- - C+: For the award of credit, students should demonstrate a satisfactory comprehension of the various themes and debates studied, showing a basic understanding of the nature, origins and development of political and criminal violence in Italy from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Students should demonstrate a limited ability to understand the events discussed in the context of Contemporary Italian History, and to analyse and evaluate cultural, audio-visual and documentary sources applying theoretical approaches to memory and trauma. Students will also show an awareness of accepted academic conventions.
Good B- - B+: For the award of credit, students should demonstrate a solid comprehension of the various themes and debates studied, showing a clear understanding of the nature, origins and development of political and criminal violence in Italy from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Students should demonstrate the ability to understand the events discussed in the context of Contemporary Italian history, and to analyse and evaluate cultural, audio-visual and documentary sources applying theoretical approaches to memory and trauma. Students will also show familiarity with accepted academic conventions.
A- - A*: For the award of credit, students should demonstrate a detailed comprehension of the various themes and debates studied, showing a nuanced understanding of the nature, origins and development of political and criminal violence in Italy from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Students should demonstrate the ability to understand the events discussed in the context of Contemporary Italian history, and to analyse and evaluate cultural, audio-visual and documentary sources thorough solid application of theoretical approaches to memory and trauma. Students will also demonstrate originality in their work, as well as full competence concerning accepted academic conventions.
- Through analysis of primary sources concerned with the memory of events related to terrorism and the mafia (e.g. autobiographies, films, monuments, photographs, memorials, music), develop a critical understanding of social mechanisms of remembrance, commemoration and amnesia in the context of contemporary Italy.
- Handle conceptual perspectives of collective memory and trauma, and develop an understanding of the relationship between history and memory.
- Gain an understanding of the main reasons behind Italy’s “divided” memory over the so-called years of lead (1969-1983) and the mafia bombings in the early 1990s.
Teaching and Learning Strategy
6 x two hour, fortnightly.
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
- Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
Subject specific skills
- Cognitive (Thinking\Intellectual) The course will foster conceptual thinking and skills in critical analysis of historical and cultural materials.
- Communication skills (written and oral) This course will foster both written and oral communication skills. Students will discuss and debate on a range of topics in informal class discussions, before developing and organising ideas in formally assessed written essays.
- Learning To Learn\Self Development (e.g. practical skills) Students will engage in focused independent study by using a broad selection of original sources and integrate it with relevant secondary literature on the subject. Students will also use target language source materials appropriately and will access electronic resources and use information and communication technologies (ICT) appropriately.
Subject Specific This course will foster intercultural awareness, understanding and competence. Students will engage critically with issues related to the contested memory of Italy’s difficult past. In analysing selected primary sources that deal with key episode of violence perpetrated by the mafia and by political armed groups, students will develop a critical understanding of mechanisms of remembrance, commemoration and amnesia.
Interpersonal skills: Students will be required to work together to prepare for presentations and discussions in informal class debates. This will provide them with occasions to interact, working creatively and flexibly as part of a team.
Resource implications for students
In relation to primary sources, DVDs will be made available in the library. Students will need access to a DVD player and should make their own arrangements to view films prior to dedicated tutorial. Secondary Texts: A number of these texts are already available in the library. Remaining texts will be ordered for purchase by the library.
Courses including this module
Optional in courses:
- R9AB: MA European Studies year 1 (MA/EURSTUD)