ITAL-UA 161.001 Of Villains and Vice: Italian Literature and Cinema through Their Antagonists
(Class # 1412)
Prof. Riccardo Antonangeli
Casa Italiana Library (Room 203)
Same as ENGL-UA 59.001 & CINE-UT 236.
This course will offer an overview of Italian literature, cinema, graphic novels by way of an unconventional point of view: that of the villain. Often overlooked as either caricature or cliché, the antagonist in many cases constitutes the most entertaining figure of a plot, bringing to the story its twists, mysteries, and unexpected turns of events. This class will investigate the motives behind the undeniable attraction that the enemy has always provided to generations of readers and viewers, including those villains we “love to hate.”
Why are evil and vice so fascinating? Why, despite their supposedly negative roles in history and society, are characters such as the Nazi, the fascist, the mafioso, the serial killer, the outlaw and the terrorist, still powerful in triggering our imagination and most forbidden desires? Beginning with the antagonists from 19th-century novels, we will explore the many variations the villain took throughout the 20th century up to the present day. Sadism, sexual perversion and ambiguity, physical deformation – to name a few – form the common traits of evil characters in war movies, spaghetti westerns, gialli, horrors and mafia epics, tracing a genealogy of evil and darkness that will guide us from Dracula to Tarantino’s inglorious Nazis.