B1678 - Politics and Visual Culture in Contemporary History (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

The course aims to offer a historical analysis of the political use of images from the late 19th century to the present, taking the global context as a reference but with particular attention, from a comparative perspective, to the Italian case. At the end of the course, students will: - master the methodologies proper to the discipline of historiography applied to the evolution of visual culture in the contemporary age; - know in depth the evolution of the media production of images aimed at political communication; - know how to analyze the purpose and impact that the development of visual culture has had on the political life of contemporary societies; - be able to apply acquired historical knowledge to the analysis of the processes of construction of the political imaginary of the present time; - be able to understand the implications that political communication exercised through the use of images has generated on a social, cultural and media level in the history of democratic systems and dictatorial regimes.

Course contents

The political use of images in 20th century history underwent a very significant development in the period between the two world wars, just as the concept of 'visual culture' began to take shape. After some introductory methodological lectures on the relationship between visual arts and political history, the course will focus on this period of the 20th century, with particular attention to the Italian context and Fascist propaganda, which made use of a complex apparatus of iconographic production (posters, postcards, illustrations, photographs, films, works of art, exhibitions, architectural projects, etc.). Starting from the analysis of the visual communication implemented by the Fascist regime, during the course a comparative approach will be adopted by also examining other aesthetic policies of the 1920s and 1930s, both in the field of totalitarianisms (the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany) and in that of western democracies.


For attending students (at least 10 out of 15 lectures):

1) Luca Acquarelli, Il fascismo e l'immagine dell'impero. Retoriche e culture visuali, Donzelli, Roma 2022

2) bibliography given during the lectures


For non-attending students:

1) Andrea Pinotti, Antonio Somaini, Cultura visuale. Immagini sguardi media dispositivi, Einaudi, Torino 2016

2) Emilio Gentile, Il culto del littorio. La sacralizzazione della politica nell'Italia fascista, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1993 (o edizioni successive), cap. IV, V, VI, e Conclusione

3) Luca Acquarelli, Il fascismo e l'immagine dell'impero. Retoriche e culture visuali, Donzelli, Roma 2022

Teaching methods

The course consists of 15 lectures, with the use of Powerpoint and audiovisual materials. Some of the lectures will have a seminar character with the active participation of the students and the presentation of content agreed upon with the lecturer.

Assessment methods

For both attending and non-attending students, the examination will consist of an oral test.

Participation in the seminar activities included in the course will also be taken into account for the assessment of the attending students.

An accurate and thorough knowledge of the topics covered in the course, together with good analytical and critical skills and a mastery of the specific language will be assessed with marks of excellence (30-30L).

A solid knowledge of the topics covered in the course, together with clear analytical and critical skills and a command of the specific language will be assessed with very good marks (27-29).

A mostly mechanical and/or mnemonic knowledge of the subject, an ability to analyse not always well articulated and/or a correct but not always appropriate language will lead to fair marks (23-26).

Weak analytical skills and approximate or inappropriate language, albeit in a context of minimal knowledge of the examination material, will lead to sufficient marks (18-22).

Teaching tools

In-depth texts, audiovisual materials and Powerpoint presentations (slides will be uploaded onto the Virtuale platform before each lesson).

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Pasetti


Quality education Responsible consumption and production

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.