The cult of the Duce

Mussolini and the Italians

This book provides the multifaceted analysis of the genesis, functioning and decline of the personality cult surrounding Benito Mussolini, the dictator who ruled Italy. It explores one of the ways in which Mussolini suppressed aspects of his personal life to suit the image that he sought to forge as he made his bid for power and then set about creating the Fascist regime. The book looks at the evolution of the iconography of the Duce in both painting and sculpture and at the links between formal elements and some of the aesthetic and ideological traits of the cult of Mussolini. It then reviews the history of Mussolini's presence on Italian television through the programmes which reshaped perceptions of his character to such an extent that, in the national imaginary, the man became almost completely detached from Fascism. The book examines how Margherita Sarfatti attempted to redefine the notions of the state, the leader and his relationship with the people. Focusing in particular on Mussolini's image and on his corporeality as presented in the biography, the book further demonstrates how in Dux Mussolini was portrayed as embodying the qualities of romanita and modernity. These were seen as essential both to Fascism and its leader. The analysis of the image of Mussolini presented in Dux sheds light on some issues related to the construction of the cult of personality and the manufacturing of charismatic leadership. It does this both within the Fascist project and in the age of mass culture.

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