The Mafia: A Cultural History

Faculty Bookwatch Publication

Roberto Dainotto

Romance Studies

Author profile

The Franklin Humanities Institute and Duke University Libraries hosted a Faculty Bookwatch panel discussion on Roberto Dainotto's The Mafia: A Cultural History on November 9, 2015. Panelists included Thomas Ferraro (English, Duke), Federico Luisetti (Italian Studies, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill) and Eric Zakim (Hebrew Literature & Culture and Middle East Studies, University of Maryland).

Book description:

What is it about Tony Soprano that makes him so amiable? For that matter, how is it that many of us secretly want Scarface to succeed or see Michael Corleone as, ultimately, a hero? What draws us into the otherwise horrifically violent world of the mafia? In The Mafia, Roberto Dainotto explores the irresistible appeal of this particular brand of organized crime, its history, and the mythology we have developed around it.
Dainotto traces the development of the mafia from its rural beginnings in Western Sicily to its growth into a global crime organization alongside a parallel examination of its evolution in music, print, and on the big screen. He probes the tension between the real mafia—its violent, often brutal reality—and how we imagine it to be: a mythical potpourri of codes of honor, family values, and chivalry. But rather than dismiss our collective imagining of the mafia as a complete fiction, Dainetto instead sets out to understand what needs and desires or material and psychic longing our fantasies about the mafia—the best kind of the bad life—are meant to satisfy.

Exploring the rich array of films, books, television programs, music, and even video games portraying and inspired by the mafia, this book offers not only a social, economic, and political history of one of the most iconic underground cultures, but a new way of understanding our enduring fascination with the complex society that lurks behind the sinister Omertà of the family business.

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press, 2015
The Mafia: A Cultural History book jacket
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