Italy & France: War & Resistance with Professor Theresa McBride

By Pamela Reponen


Examination of the nature of fascism and forms of resistance in Italy and France in the 1930s and 1940s, through an in-depth study of memoirs, works of fiction and films depicting this period in history. Students reflect on issues raised about the impact of modern culture on the individual and the importance of moral choice.

Sample course materials    
Texts:  Benito Mussolini: The First Fascist, by Anthony Cardoza; The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue and Survival, by Susan Zuccotti; Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi; The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation, by Richard Vinen; and a variety of films such as Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children), 1987; and Army of Shadows, 1969

Class participation; analysis of primary sources; film responses; mid-term examination and map quiz; oral presentation and a final paper

On the Day HCM Visited Class
Overview of fascism as a political movement: its roots, issues and place in the political spectrum. Discussion of Ignazio Silone's portrayal of day-to-day life in Italy under fascism in his novel Bread and Wine, focusing on the interactions between the protagonist Pietro Spina (disguised as priest Don Paolo Spada) and the peasants living in Abruzzo province. Exploration of the attitudes of ordinary folk in the story toward priests and the Catholic Church, which had signed a political pact with Mussolini's Fascist State

Professor Bio
Receiving her Ph.D. in modern European history from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, McBride joined the history department faculty at Holy Cross in 1973; appointed associate professor in 1979 and full professor in 1993, she was honored last fall with the College's 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award. The author of two dozen articles and the book, The Domestic Revolution: the Modernization of Household Service in England and France: 1820-1920 (Croom Helm Ltd., 1976), she includes among her research interests modern French and Italian history, women's history and environmental history. McBride has served as history department chair, director of the College Honors Program and Environmental Studies, and coordinator of Women's and Gender Studies; she is the recipient of many awards, including the Arthur J. O'Leary Faculty Recognition Award in 2002. Currently serving as director of the Self Cluster in the Montserrat program, McBride teaches in alternate years in the May Term in Luxembourg, a joint program of Holy Cross and Clark University.

Professor Quote   
"The theme of 'Collaboration or Resistance?' goes to the heart of the fundamental question of the moral responsibility we have to other humans, even if it means risking something of ourselves," says McBride. "I love teaching the history of France and Italy, and we examine the politics and culture of both countries in this course. My goal is not only to enrich students' understanding of other cultures, but also to explore the continuing necessity of democratic societies to achieve reasonable solutions to social problems, and to point out how freedoms can be quickly lost to our indifference to politics or our disillusionment with government."

Student Quote   
"This course is enriching my understanding of the nature of fascism by thoroughly analyzing its political, social and economic effects on Italy and France during the first half of the 20th century," says Katherine McCarthy '13 of Manhasset, N.Y. "Our class is viewing film, reading texts and analyzing multimedia to bolster our understanding of the implications of fascism on Europeans. We are taking a close look at Charlie Chaplin films, accounts of [Italian writer and painter] Carlo Levi and Mussolini propaganda."  ■