Antonio Bresciani and the Sects: conspiracy myths in an intransigent Catholic response to the Risorgimento
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AbstractAntonio Bresciani's notorious trilogy of novels about the revolutions of 1848, starting with L'Ebreo di Verona, first appeared in the earliest issues of the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica from 1850. They constitute an intransigentist attack on the Risorgimento, and portray the events of 1848-9 as the result of a satanically inspired conspiracy by secret societies. This article re-analyses those novels by placing Bresciani in the context of the 'culture war' between lay and religious world views across Europe from the middle of the nineteenth century. The article argues that Bresciani represents a significant case study in the intransigent Catholic response to the kind of patriotic motifs identified by the recent cultural historiography on the Risorgimento. The 'paranoid style' of Bresciani's conspiracy myth is analysed, as is Bresciani's portrayal of Garibaldi, female fighters, and Jews--in particular the tale of Christian conversion presented in L'Ebreo di Verona. The article argues that, despite its polarising, reactionary intentions, Bresciani's fiction betrayed many influences from the Romantic culture of the Risorgimento that he claimed to despise.