Architecture and The Novel under the Italian Fascist Regime

Francesca Billiani, Laura Pennacchietti

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


To date, both architecture and the novel of the Italian Fascist period (1922-43) have received significant critical attention as distinct research spheres. Yet, despite their importance in the construction of the Italian artistic system across two decades, these two fields have never been analysed in close dialogue; rather they have been studied as isolated endeavours which seemed to have very little aesthetic and political overlaps. This monograph aims to demonstrate how their intersections provided a solid platform for the construction of the totalitarian state apparatus on the one hand, and the development of an autonomous aesthetic field which will survive the regime on the other.

Specifically, to carry out such investigation, our analysis identifies common aesthetic principles on which the development of these artistic forms was grounded, which allows a consideration of them as deeply interconnected and integrated within an overall aesthetic system, broadly delineated by the regime. Our argument is that an effort of construction, or reconstruction, was the main driving force underlying the advocated ‘revolution’ of the novel form (realist) and of architecture (rationalist), both sustaining the ‘anthropological revolution’ brought about by Fascism, and creating spaces for the ‘new man’. This effort was directed at the construction, first on a theoretical and then on a practical level, of a cultural system, which would constitute the discursive (novel) and socio-material (architecture) frame structure of the regime. These aesthetic projects aimed at the cultural and social modernization of the new nation through a reconstruction and rationalization of artistic forms, and were marked by a strong belief in the moral and social role of art, which should sublimate the individual experience into an anti-bourgeois collective narrative and spectacle. The monograph considers the lifespan of the regime, with particular focus on the years 1932-1935 as the moment in which these aesthetic projects were at their height.

In short, this work responds to the need for identifying and theorizing structural points of contact between different artistic forms and their developments during Fascism, to demonstrate their significance not simply as discreet artistic phenomena, but rather as part of a system of the arts which was integral to the dictatorship and its legitimation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd
Number of pages275
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-19428-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-19427-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series



  • architecture, the Italian novel, Italian Fascist regime, Massimo Bontempelli, Quadrante, Literary Journals, Alberto Moravia, Pier Maria Bardi


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