Research Seminar: "Italian Cinemas/Italian Histories” - Alan O'Leary (Leeds)


Location: Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries

The Italian Research Seminar

Alan O'Leary (Leeds) - “Italian Cinemas/Italian Histories”

Thursday, October 29 at 4:30pm in Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries


How have Italians used films to negotiate their histories and interrogate their identities over more than a century of Italian cinema? This paper is a report from the Italian Cinemas/Italian Histories project, which aims to reconfigure the understanding of the relationship between Italian cinema and history. Historical feature films are a hugely influential form of historical representation, and history has been a particular preoccupation of Italian cinema: most conspicuously in ‘admirable’ forms that represent Italy abroad, but also in many less exportable films, from opera films to low-brow comedy. Italian Cinema Studies have, however, failed to capture this range, and scholarship has sometimes been prescriptive. The Italian Cinemas/Italian Histories project is intended to provide a radically extended account of the modes, genres and registers in which dramatic Italian films have dealt with the history of Italy. It will describe the variety of the technical and formal means employed to facilitate a relationship with the past in Italian films. It will analyse the role played by Hollywood, as the most watched form of cinema, in the construction of this relationship. And it will answer to a methodological imperative: to study the very many ‘typical’ and not just those ‘exceptional’ Italian films that have previously constituted a canon of historical cinema. The project will trace the development of this vastly extended corpus from the early cinema period to the Twenty-first Century. The paper will give an account of the intellectual context that generates the project, and describe the project research strands, methodologies and key concepts.

Alan O’Leary is Director of Research and Innovation in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds. He has published several books and many articles on Italian cinema and co-founded the annual Film Issue of The Italianist. His current project is entitled “Italian Cinemas/Italian Histories” ( and he is working on a monograph on film and history in Italy and another on the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers.