Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Agnes C Mueller


This study posits two main questions: first, why are Italian and German authors still compelled to thematize the Fascist and National Socialist past; and second, can the Holocaust be successfully incorporated into national memory through fiction? Thus, the primary focus of this dissertation is a comparative analysis of the engagement with the Fascist and National Socialist past in the works of Italian and German contemporary fiction. The study concentrates mainly on the works that were published and released after 1990 such as W. G. Sebald'sAusterlitz, Günter Grass'sBeim Häuten der Zwiebel, Umberto Eco'sLa misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana, Rosetta Loy'sLa parola ebreo, Roberto Benigni'sLa vita è bella, Stefan Ruzowitzky'sDie Fälscher, Ettore Scola'sConcorrenza sleale, and Ferzan Ozpetek'sLa finestra di fronte.

The choice of works analyzed in this study is primarily based on the thematic intertextuality between Italian and German literatures and cinemas. Accordingly, all these works partake in the discourse of memory and representation of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy by employing similar themes such as amnesia, childhood as an alibi, appropriation of victimhood, witnessing, and the problem of absence of the Holocaust. And while the majority of these works fail to address the past in an adequate manner (e.g., by evoking empathy), I argue that W. G. Sebald'sAusterlitz, Ferzan Ozpetek'sLa finestra di fronte, and Ettore Scola'sConcorrenza slealestand out as more successful in confronting the National Socialist and Fascist past and provide an exception to the trend.

Although there are a number of recent historiographic works that compare Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, there is no published literary-critical research that engages in such a comparative study. This research project employs methodology from a number of fields and consequently borrows theoretical framework from works of historiography, film studies, trauma literature, and cultural studies. Lastly, I hope that this dissertation will not only justify the comparative approach that it uses, but also open up a new area of inquiry and instigate further scholarly interest.


© 2010, Kristina Stefanic Brown