Fascism, film, and female subjectivity : the case of Italian cinema 1936-1943 / by Jacqueline Beth Reich.
This dissertation examines the construction of female subjectivity in Italian commercial cinema of late Fascism, from 1936 to 1943. During this period, the government increased its intervention in the film industry, with the aim of using cinema as a cultural tool to help construct the ideal Fascist woman. Nevertheless, the era's ideologically-aligned cinematic production did not completely conform to Fascist gender ideology for several reasons. First, there was a decided lack of absolute control over the filmmaking process, allowing many potentially subversive texts to slip through government hands. Second, in turning to Hollywood cinema for its textual models, Italian commercial cinema neglected the implications of contextual spectatorship. These films introduced alternative representations of female subjectivity to the ones propagated by the regime, providing new models of appearance and behavior for the contemporary female spectator. These diverse female subject positions often found their expression in a specific narrative construction typical of classical cinema: the ideological collision between the primary and secondary female characters, one of whom personifies proper female subjectivity in accordance with the dominant ideology and the other the negative example. However, the tensions released and the conflicts expressed in the relationship between the female characters, although solved in a manner befitting Fascist imperatives, exposed the very inconsistencies in Fascist discourses on gender and the regime's perpetual struggle to enforce them. This study examines over twenty films which give voice to these conflicts and contradictions. Chapter One elucidates how Italian commercial cinema, in eschewing more overt propaganda and in relying instead on the classical Hollywood formula as textual guide, opened itself up to potential deviations and subversions from Fascist ideological constructs, particularly with respect to women. Each subsequent chapter is organized around one area of state intervention in women's lives--work and leisure, education, and the family--and how cinematic representations of working women, schoolgirls, wives, and mothers strongly differed from their corresponding Fascist ideals.
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