Summer 2014 Philosophy of Italian Culture Discussion Questions

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Class Dates

Monday May 19, 2014

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Wednesday May 21, 2014

  • How would you characterize Italy in the first half of the 19th Century and what circumstances and events were particularly determining for its future?
  • What were the major objectives of Italian patriots in this period? Why?
  • What role did Garibaldi, Mazzini, Cavour and Vittorio Emanuele II play in the unification? Who would have been most and least satisfied with the outcome?
  • What seem to have been some limits of the unification?

Thursday May 22, 2014

  1. Why does Mazzini argue for "duties before rights"? What is the historical context for this argument?
  2. How does Mazzini connect eschatology (God's plan) to politics?
  3. What is Liberty for Mazzini and what is the legitimate role of government in social life?

Monday May 26, 2014

  1. What was the societal structure in a fascist state?
  2. In the fascist state, what determines the value of a man and a woman? What historical context/events explain this?
  3. In what way did the fascist state act a parental figure?
  4. What was the main problem(s) for the Turin Communists?

Tuesday May 27, 2014

1. What reasons for and against cultural variation did Wilson give, and how does that help define the major conflicts seen.
2. How did popular novels seem to have an effect of the overall popular culture and the attitudes of Italian citizens.
3. Why do Italians prefer to read foreign writers rather than their own - what does this disconnect arise from? And why does the play "A Doll's House" resound so prominently with the Italian psyche?
4. How is the human race like an ant colony? What role do individualism and altruism play in each?
5. What is the blurring of identity and how does one make decisions in relation to others (especially moral decision making)?

Wednesday May 28, 2014

1. Have you experienced difficulties in the culture barrier while living here so far? How would ethnography help? (not specifically language)
2. If you were an ethnographer, what would you say so far about Italian culture? What drives Italian culture? How would a sense of honor help to form culture?
3. How does honor differ for males and females in society in general?
4. How does Pia Di Bella characterize honor through the relationship between blood and name?
5. What is the role of grace in an honor society? Particularly in Italian and other Mediterranean cultures which have strong religious backgrounds and faith histories.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

  • What does this play tell us about the role of writers in Italian culture?
  • What was strange about the bombing in Milan?
  • What sparked the Feminist movements in the 1960's and 1970's? How did this change the family structure in Italy? Why did the state and Church oppose this? What was Mazzini's view of the role of women?
  • What was the common ideology of the terrorists? How did they combine the views of Karl Marx with Catholicism?

Monday June 2, 2014


Tuesday June 3, 2014

  • Why do you think the police chose to target a political group in the case of the Milan bombing (especially anarchists)?
  • The play will highlight the aspects of the story from the point of view of the left-wingers (Lotta Continua), do you believe most citizens at the time shared this viewpoint?
  • Why do you think the intellectuals feel as though they are willing to name names better than the journalists and politicians who have the clues?
  • Why do you think the intellectuals don't become journalists or politicians? Would they do a better job of it?
  • Why is it so important to name names?

Wednesday June 4, 2014

1. Why do you think Dario Fo added the maniac, even though it has no relation to real characters or persons apart of the events that occurred historically?
2. Why is Bertozzo or the commissioner of the police force the butt of many of the jokes in the play?
3. What do you think the importance is of having the introduction of the play as interactions between the inspector Bertozzo and the manic?
4. Why do you think the maniac created such tension between Bertozzo and the inspector with the phone call?

Thursday June 5, 2014


  • What are the main holes in the officers' story that are exposed by the Maniac?
  • How would you describe the Maniac's attitude toward the Superintendent? How does it change as he points out more and more of the inconsistencies in the police report?


  • What is the significance of Fo having many versions of his playwright? What does this say about himself and the play?
  • What does the thrid act of a "debate" say about Fo's objective?

Monday June 9, 2014

  • Why do you think they made Calabresi the protagonist of Piazza Fontana? Were you more sympathetic to his situation?
  • The theme of truth was very prevalent in the movie as well as the play. Which characters seemed to be true to their word and which did not? Did these interpretations shift between the movie and the play?
  • What was the purpose of the play and the movie? Did one serve that purpose better than the other?
  • Who do you think was responsible for the Pinelli's death? Why? Did the movie or play sway you one way or the other?
  • Did Maniac's antics help add humor to the play to get the message across or distract from the real purpose?

Tuesday June 10, 2014

  • How did Burlesconi's control over television contribute to his political reign?
  • In your opinion do the postiives that came from Burlesconi's "freeing" of advertising in Italy out weight the way he used it as a means of voicing his political propoganda?
  • How would you compare Berlusconi's improper political tactics to those that we have already studied? Would you say they were equally bad or worse?
  • What do you think of Berlusconi’s monopolization of the television? How did this affect the public? Good and bad?
  • How has the three main issues of the Cepernich article shaped Italian culture? How has the attempts of cleaning up after Berlusconi shaped it as well?

Wednesday June 11, 2014

Thursday June 12, 2014

Monday June 16, 2014

  • Why is negative liberty/the modern conception of liberty not enough for Viroli?
  • How is Viroli similar in his way of thinking to Mazzini?
  • What is the structure of the Court system? what roles do the Courtiers play? How are they like servants?
  • What kind of lives to courtiers lead in comparison to those who may be oppressed but remain free?
  • What is necessary for the leading member of a court system to do?

Tuesday June 17, 2014

  • Why would the prince surround himself with men “who are morally corrupt and incapable of noble and generous actions?” (62)
  • Why do Italians laugh more than others? (79) (moral pride) Do they seem to have a conscience? (83)
  • How does the statement "sovereignty belongs to the people and is exercised by the people in the forms and within the limits of the Constitution" change the amounts of liberties one has? Does it just depend of the Constitution?
  • How does wealth change a person's ability to get freedom or liberty? In America versus Italy?

Wendnesday June 18, 2014

  • How are the women presented on TV in Italy different or similar to the women on TV in the states?
  • Why would Italy choose to put up a mask for the representation of their women?
  • Why do women accept the humiliation?
  • How do you think the images of women in TV are affecting the average Italian women?
  • Why do you think that Veroli believes so highly in the Constitution as a savior for the Italian Republic even after seeing the way that it can be easily manipulated by the government?
  • Do you think the future is bright for Italy politically or are they doomed to repeat their history? Is Berlusconi the "darkness before the dawn"?

Thursday June 19, 2014

  • How does our history effect our understandings of women and men?
  • In what ways have women only had a minor history?
  • In what ways in both American and Italian culture is women's equality political but not philosophical?
  • How are the feminist movements in Italy and the United States similar? How are they different?
  • Are there any negative affects of the feminist movement?

Monday June 23, 2014

  • Through both sexual and gender roles, how do women play the passive role of ‘other’?
  • Do you think that the rejection of the 'honor defense' fails to understand the 'thick description' of Italian culture or helps to push the culture toward accepting a more modern concept of conscience?
  • Why were women held to such high modesty rules to keep their honor, yet at the same time exploited in the media?
  • "Boys confined to a female-dominated space are denied an accessible male figure with whom to identiity at the precise time that the primary gener identity formulation process is going on"- What does that say about Italy and single parent households, dads that travel often, and same sex parents?

Tuesday June 24, 2014


Wednesday June 25, 2014

  • “Even with a good law in place, it will take a lot more than new rules to change old attitudes.” What can be done to change these attitudes so domestic violence can be considered something else than a common occurrence?
  • Why do you think most acid attack victims are young females?
  • Why would the attackers choose to injure with acid rather than another weapon?
  • What do you think the reaction would be like in The United States if these events occurred?
  • Do you believe that these events would get the attention that many recent school shootings have gotten in the US?

Thursday June 26, 2014