Whispering City by R. J. B. Bosworth
Rome and Its Histories

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In Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud claimed that Rome must be comprehended as "not a human dwelling place but a mental entity," in which the palaces of the Caesars still stand alongside modern apartment buildings in layers of brick, mortar, and memory. "The observer would need merely to shift the focus of his eyes, perhaps, or change his position, in order to call up a view of either the one or the other."

In this one-of-a-kind book, historian Richard Bosworth accepts Freud's challenge, drawing upon his expertise in Italian pasts to explore the many layers of history found within the Eternal City. Often beginning his analysis with sites and monuments that can still be found in contemporary Rome, Bosworth expands his scope to review how political groups of different eras—the Catholic Church, makers of the Italian nation, Fascists, and "ordinary" Romans (be they citizens, immigrants, or tourists)—read meaning into the city around them. Weaving in the city's quintessential figures (Garibaldi, Pius XII, Mussolini, and Berlusconi) and architectural icons (the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, and EUR) with those forgotten or unknown, Bosworth explores the many histories that whisper their rival and competing messages and seek to impose their truth upon the passing crowds. But as this delightful study will reveal, Rome, that magisterial palimpsest, has never accepted a single reading of its historic meaning.


About R. J. B. Bosworth

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A renowned Anglophone Italianist, Richard Bosworth is Professor of History at Reading University and Winthrop Professor of History at the University of Western Australia. In 2011, he will become a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford. He divides his time between Australia and England.
Published April 26, 2011 by Yale University Press. 358 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Travel, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Post–World War II contention over the meaning of Rome’s history (treated rather briefly here) included those on the far left, like the members of the Red Brigade that assassinated Christian Democratic politician Aldo Moro, who claimed themselves heirs to the anti-fascist Resistance.

Apr 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Whispering City: Rome and Its...

The Wall Street Journal

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The walker in the streets of Rome is bound to marvel at the splendid urban fabric of the place—it's so old, so solid, so visually harmonious that one is inclined to see it as all of a piece.

Dec 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Whispering City: Rome and Its...

BBC History Magazine

Bosworth’s rich and complex book focuses particularly on the 19th and 20th centuries, tracing the different appeals to different histories (republican, imperial, papal) made by revolutionaries, popes, the new government of united Italy, the fascist regime of Mussolini and beyond.

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