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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Modern and Contemporary Art: Art and Architecture under Fascism"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Laura Foster
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:30 PM 2:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Art History or permission of the instructor

Specialized courses offered periodically on specific aspects of the art of the modern and contemporary world. Courses are normally research-
led topics on an area of current academic concern.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.
The course focuses upon the development of art and architecture for political purposes during the Fascist regime in Italy, 1922-1944. It examines the art movements—Futurism, il Novecento, and Rationalism—that became part of this political project. From the Futurist environments of Giacomo Balla to the grand murals of Mario Sironi, the course will investigate how the Fascist regime manipulated a variety of media in forging a political identity as one of aesthetic revolution. The course also explores the tensions between the promotion of modernism and the Fascists’ desire to harness the language of Roman antiquity, seen in the works of architects Giuseppe Terragni, Luigi Moretti, and Marcello Piacentini. Special attention will be paid to the art critic Margherita Sarfatti who was pivotal in bringing artists to Mussolini’s attention and in defining a “Fascist spirit” as a mode of visual and spatial expression. The course will probe distinctions between art and propaganda, conceptions of artistic freedom, and problems of interpreting these works outside their historical and political contexts.

•in-depth knowledge of Italian artists and architects of the period between 1909-1945

•an understanding of the relationship between art production and modern media (advertising, product design, interior design, film) in the early 20th century

•an understanding of critical approaches to works in this historical period

•ability to write about the art movements and media of the period using appropriate terminology and applying critical analysis

•an understanding of Fascism as a political movement and form of government

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Fascist Visions: Art and Ideology in France and ItalyMark Antliff and Matthew AffronPrinceton University Press9780691027371N8846.F8F3 
Mario Sironi and Italian Modernism: Art and Politics Under FascismEmily BraunCambridge University Press9780521480154N6923.S53B73 
Modernism in Italian Architecture, 1890-1940Richard EtlinMIT Press9780262050388 E-Book
Futurism: An AnthologyLawrence S Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura WittmanYale University Press9781282352889 E-Book
Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s ItalySimonetta Falasca-ZamponiUniversity of California Press9780585081472 E-Book

Attendance and Active ParticipationAs an advanced level course, it is expected that students will take initiative in the discussion of course material. Students who are not able to participate in synchronous lectures will have the option to use forums posted to Moodle for class discussion. Evaluation of participation will be based upon consistency in engaging in class, demonstrating evidence of having reflected critically upon the reading assignments. Insufficient presence in class will be cause for a lowered grade.15%
Comparative EssayThis essay of 3-4 pages will be completed before the midterm examination and concerns the development a Fascist aesthetic growing out of Futurism and other modern art movements. It is a reflection paper based upon the course readings that does not require outside research. 20%
Midterm ExaminationThe exam will be composed of short essays based upon works discussed in class. Students will be provided with a list of works and should be able to identify them by artist/architect, title and date if presented with them in the essay question. An understanding of the historical component of the development of Fascism is expected as well. 20%
Term PaperThe paper of 7-10 pages in length will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the thematic and historical issues discussed in the course as well as the ability to building upon that understanding through research. Given the current restrictions on research because of lack of access to library materials, the topic of the term paper will be in part based upon the close examination of objects and critical analysis of the texts used in class. If the situation permits, students will be encouraged to select works of architecture or artworks in museums as topics of research. Students may also wish to engage the intersection of high art with popular design (advertisements, interior design, etc.) as a topic. 20%
Final ExaminationThe format of the final examination is similar to the midterm, with the inclusion of essay topics that are cumulative in scope. 25%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.







JAN 18

Course Overview




Readings for each lecture should be completed before the lecture


JAN 20

Italy and Modernism before World War I

Richard Etlin, Modernism in Italian Architecture, Ch. 2 “Arte Nuova: Turin, 1902” (E-Book)



JAN 25 -27

Futurism and Its Political Effects


F.T. Marinetti, “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism (1909)”; Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero, “Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe (1915)”; and Antonio Sant’Elia, “Manifesto of Futurist Architecture (1914),” in Futurism: An Anthology. (E-Book)


Christine Poggi, Inventing Futurism : The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism. Ch. 3 “Umberto Boccioni’s The City Rises: Picturing the Futurist Metropolis” (pdf)



FEB 1 - 3

The Rise of Fascism and Role of Aesthetics

Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy, Introduction, Ch. 1 “Mussolini’s Aesthetic Politics” and Ch. 3 “The Politics of Symbols from Content to Form” (E-Book)




FEB 8- 10 -12


Rationalism and the Development of the Stile Littorio

Richard Etlin, Ch. 7 “The Birth of Italian Rationalism” and Ch. 11 “Imperial Architecture for the Fascist Revolution, 1924-1934” pp. 391-407 only (E-Book)



FEB 15- 17

Il Novecento, from Formation to Exhibition

Rossana Bossaglia and Howard Rodger MacLean, “The Iconography of the Italian Novecento in the European Context,” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Vol. 3, Italian Theme Issue (Winter, 1987), pp. 52-65(pdf)

Braun, Emily, Mario Sironi and Italian Modernism: Art and Politics Under Fascism, Ch. 3 “Sironi and the Novecento” (pdf)




FEB 22

Margherita Sarfatti and the Fascist Aesthetic


Margherita Sarfatti, “Art and Fascism,” in Schnapp, Jeffrey, ed. A Primer of Italian Fascism (pdf)




FEB 24

The 1932 Exhibition of Fascist Revolution


Libero Andreotti, “Architecture as Media Event: Mario Sironi and the Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution, 1932,” Built Environment, 31, 1 (2005): pp. 9-20 (pdf)

Diane Ghirardo, “Architects, Exhibitions and the Politics of Culture in Fascist Italy,” Journal of Architectural Education 45, 2 (Feb 1992): pp. 67-75. (pdf)




Discussion and Review







MARCH 8-12


MAR 15 - 17

The Design of State Buildings and the Era of Competitions, 1932-1938


Richard Etlin, Modernism in Italian Architecture, Ch. 11, pp. 418-438 (E-Book)


MAR 22 - 24

Remaking Rome from Center to Periphery

Paul Baxa, Roads and Ruins: The Symbolic Landscape of Fascist Rome, Ch. 3 “Demolitions: De-familiarizing the Roman Cityscape” (E-Bpook)



MAR 29 - 31

Heroic Images, from Aeropittura to Mural Decoration

Emily Braun, Mario Sironi and Italian Modernism: Art and Politics Under Fascism, Ch.“Artist of the Fascist Revolution” (pdf)


Emily Braun, “Shock and Awe: Futurist Aeropittura and the Theories of Giulio Douhet,” in Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe.




After 1936: Art and Architecture for the Italian Empire




APR 12

The Planning and Design of E.U.R.


Richard Etlin, Modernism in Italian Architecture, Ch. 13, pp. 481-513 (E-Book)


APR 14

Inside and Outside of Fascism: Considering Modernist “Masterpieces”


Diane Ghirardo, “Terragni, Conventions, and the Critics,” in Critical Architecture and Contemporary Culture, pp. 91-103 (E-Book)


Thomas Schumacher, Terragni’s ‘Danteum’, Introduction (by Giorgio Ciucci) and Ch. 1 (pdf)



APR 19 -21

Media, Art and Liberatory Discourse

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936) (pdf)


Mark Antliff and Matthew Affron, Fascist Visions: Art and Ideology in France and Italy, Introduction, pp. 3-24 (pdf)


Term Paper due on Wednesday, April 21

APR 26 - 28

Postwar Assessments of Art and Architecture under Fascism: Aesthetic Import and Historical Value


George Mras, “Italian Fascist Architecture: Theory and Image, Art Journal 21, 1 (Autumn 1961): pp. 7-12 (pdf)


Dennis P. Doordan, "Changing Agendas: Architecture and Politics in Contemporary Italy." Assemblage, no. 8 (1989): 61-77.(pdf)


Joshua Arthurs, “Fascism as ‘Heritage’ in Contemporary Italy,” in Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe. (E-Book)