Fascist Fiction: Inventing the Lesser Evil in Italy and Brazil

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2019

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My dissertation, Fascist Fiction: Inventing the Lesser Evil in Italy and Brazil, accounts for the resilience of fascism by tracing the rhetoric of the “lesser evil”—a discursive practice constitutive of fascism—through contemporary politics and literature in Italy and Brazil. By invoking the looming presence of a graver, more insidious threat the rhetoric of the lesser evil legitimizes fascist violence against dissidents and vulnerable populations. Through an analysis of texts by fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile and his Brazilian counterpart Miguel Reale, I reveal that the rhetoric of the lesser evil is a constitutive part of fascist discourse and that in Italy and Brazil this aspect of fascist doctrine met a favorable combination of subjective and objective conditions which has allowed it to thrive within democratic structures. Finally, I argue that when moral claims such as the lesser evil work to obfuscate the understanding of traumatic and violent events within the public sphere, novels––precisely because of their putative fictionality––can offer persuasive counter-histories that re-contextualize fascist crimes and sometimes provoke acts of reparative justice by the State. My dissertation advances scholarship on the transcultural reach of fascist ideology: it contributes to an understanding of fascism’s place within a broader tradition of right-wing thought that continues to shape present-day politics in Europe and the world, and enriches our perception of the powers of literary forms.

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Ricco, Giulia (2019). Fascist Fiction: Inventing the Lesser Evil in Italy and Brazil. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18678.

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