"Oh, Fatina, Fatina! How did they bring my poor puppet to such a state?"
: a study of emerging political instrumentalization and its interrogation in subversive texts in Italian children's literature published between the beginning of the First World War and the advent of the fascist regime (1914-1921)

  • Laura Gaudino

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    My study aims to contribute to the research into the processes of nationalization of childhood and of the appropriation of children’s literature as a medium for patriotic propaganda that took place in Western Europe during the first half of the XIX century. In this historical period, in Italy, children progressively acquired an unprecedented role within the social fabric. In particular, the fascist authorities perceived children’s education as a privileged vehicle for the diffusion of the party’s doctrine and the assertion of its hegemony. Therefore, children became the object of specific educational strategies and policies, aimed at building on their aspirations and needs in order to shape and use them as a means for social control and conditioning.
    The foundations of the fascist interpretation of childhood emerged with the advent of the First World War. The Italian government authorities identified the involvement of young people in the war effort and their enthusiastic support as a decisive factor for the achievement of a widespread consensus among the popular masses on the necessity of the conflict. Children’s literature published during the Great War and in the first post-war period reflects the emerging practices of children’s involvement with the contemporary political agenda, which were going to be later resumed and emphasized by the fascist government. This historical period coincided therefore with the beginning of the incorporation of children and their literature into the mechanism of propaganda; moreover, it witnessed the creation of the nationalist and martial rhetoric that was to be at the heart of the fascist discourse. During this historical phase, many books and magazines for children addressed the current conflict, thus creating a subgenre of children’s literature on war largely aligned with the predominant patriotic ideology. The emergence of children’s texts supporting the war cause coexisted, however, with the presence of other genres, namely the “twilight” movement and the comical and satirical current, which enriched the panorama of contemporary children’s literature with creative and subversive inventions.
    By engaging in an extensive analysis of children’s books published in this period, I aim to demonstrate how they convey cultural values and images that represent an important foundation for the beginning of the politicization of children and the incorporation of their reading matter in the mechanism of propaganda during the fascist era, and to uncover and draw critical attention to the existence and potential of these works of literature that demonstrate the willingness and commitment of many children’s authors and editors to resist the authoritarian project to control the child imaginary.
    Date of Award31 May 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorKevin McCarron (Supervisor) & Gillian Lathey (Supervisor)


    • Children’s literature
    • Ideology
    • War

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