The fictional Savonarola and the creation of modern Italy

Marina Hogan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis deals with Girolamo Savonarola and with his place in the imagination and collective memory of Italians from the early nineteenth century to the present. It examines the works of a variety of Italian fictional authors who turned to Savonarola in the belief that he could help them pursue objectives which, in their opinion, Italy and Italians should strive to achieve. At first, he was called upon by nationalist writers of the Risorgimento to inspire a people and convince it of the need for a free, united Italy. Later, as the new nation began to consolidate and Italians came to realize that unification had not delivered all that it had promised, Savonarola was employed in a negative way to show that military action and force were necessary to ensure Italy's progress to the status of great power. As Italians became more aware of the grave social issues facing their nation, he was called upon, once again, to help change social policy and to remind the people of its civic responsibility to the less fortunate members of society. The extent of Savonarola's adaptability is also explored through the analysis of his manipulation by the writers of Fascist Italy. Remarkably, he was used to highlight to Italians their duty to stand by Mussolini and the Fascist Regime during their struggle with the Catholic Church and the Pope. At the same time, however, one writer daringly used Savonarola's apostolate to condemn the Regime and the people's blind adherence to its philosophies. As Fascism fell and Italy began to rebuild after the Second World War, there was no longer a need for Savonarola to be used for political or militaristic ends. In recent times, emphasis has been placed on the human side of the Friar and he has been employed solely to guide Italians in a civic, moral and spiritual sense. From the Risorgimento to the present, the various changes in Italian history have been foreshadowed in the treatment of Savonarola by Italian fictional authors who turned to him in difficult times to help define what it is to be Italian.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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