Contextualizing Family History
Jacopo Gliozzi (Physics and Mathematics, ’19)
Fascism is a word that we hear a lot in today’s climate. Especially on a politically conscious campus like William and Mary, the label of Fascist is applied often enough that it’s hard to keep track of what the word means exactly. That’s why, when browsing Open Course List last spring, a class titled “Fascism in Italy” caught my eye.
I was looking for the latest installment of my bi-annual humanities class, a strategy I’ve used to take a break from my physics major and stay on top of the COLL requirements. Besides the political relevance of first half of the course title, the second half piqued my curiosity for personal reasons. I was born in Italy and moved to the U.S. when I was four. While Italian language and culture have always been present in my home, I have always felt a little lacking in historical context. Through “Fascism in Italy,” my first course in the Italian department, I aimed to reconnect with the collective past of my parents and grandparents.
The course is a chronological study of the Fascist movement in Italy and its ramifications, starting from the unification of Italy and ending with Neo-Fascism today. Class discussions are rooted in various historical sources and, more commonly, critical analyses of these sources. Professor Sergio Ferrarese, who created the course, explains that his goal is to provide students with the critical tools to interpret Fascism as both a specific Italian phenomenon and a broader movement.
Now is the perfect time for a class on Fascism, according to Prof. Ferrarese, because the word is thrown around constantly in American political discourse. “When I was younger,” he continues, “I called anyone that didn’t share my political beliefs a fascist.” As he grew more experienced, Prof. Ferrarese learned the importance of applying the term properly, and his aim now is to share this perspective with his students.
A crucial aspect of “Fascism in Italy” is its interdisciplinary nature: as a COLL 200 anchored in the ALV domain but extending to CSI, the course utilizes a variety of perspectives to study Fascism. Throughout the semester, we have looked at the phenomenon in art, architecture, historical documents, speeches, film, philosophy, and critical theory. Prof. Ferrarese has a background in philosophy, but his vast knowledge of the history of the Italian peninsula makes for discussions that appeal to many different types of students.
For Prof. Ferrarese, this is another important reason for the creation of the class. Unlike most of the other courses in the Italian department, “Fascism in Italy” is taught in English to reach the widest audience of students possible. The ability to critically interpret information, especially of a political nature, is extremely valuable, and this course is a means of imparting it to students. Teaching a new class every two years is a personal goal of Prof. Ferrarese, who credits the undergraduate focus at William and Mary for constantly challenging professors to adapt and research new subjects. “Fascism in Italy” has been just that: a fresh course, tailored to today’s world and open to all students.