Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Giovanni Bernardini | Università di Verona | Italy 


September 16th 2022 | 15.00 – 16.30
Panel #11 | “Apocalypses and conflicts”
Room G.127 | Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milan, Largo Gemelli 1

“How we got along before the bomb”. Scenarios of nuclear apocalypse between political discourse and dystopian fiction during the Cold War

Basing on primary sources and on an extensive bibliography, the paper deals with the interaction which took place during the Cold War between the political public discourse and the dystopic fiction about the prospective of a future nuclear war.
Since the event itself was regarded as unprecedented and unthinkable (as the atomic bombs dropped over Japan in 1945 were “toys” if compared to the postwar arsenals), the nuclear conflict was primarily a war of words for decades, leaving room for any kind of speculation aimed at warning or at reassuring the population. In this respect, while dystopic novels aimed often at achieving political goals (like mobilizing the population for disarmament), in many cases the political discourse borrowed tropes and figures from fiction, such as Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars”.
Although the paper will show examples of dialogue and cooperation between the two spheres, more often the interaction took shape of a competition for the “heart and mind” of the general public in portraying the causes and the course of such war, the consequences of a “nuclear Apocalypse” for civilization and for mankind itself, and the ways to prevent it from happening.
The paper will focus mainly on the anglosphere, due both to its political centrality and to its literary relevance during the decades taken into consideration.

Giovanni Bernardini is Researcher in Contemporary History at the University of Verona, Italy. His research focuses on the policies of planning In Western Europe during the 20th Century, the containment of Bolshevik in Europe after the “October Revolution”, West German foreign policy during the “Cold War”, the history of the South Tyrol question, the mediatization of history.
His main publications are: Parigi 1919. la Conferenza di pace (Il Mulino, 2019); Nuova Germania, antichi timori. Stati Uniti, Ostpolitik e sicurezza europea (Il Mulino, 2013); G. Bernardini, C. Cornelissen (eds.), La medialità della storia. Nuovi studi sulla rappresentazione della politica e della società (Il Mulino, 2019); G. Bernardini, G. Pallaver (eds.), Dialogue Against Violence. The question of the Trentino-South Tyrol in the international context (Duncker & Humblot, Il Mulino, 2017); Media, Propaganda, and Revolution: France and the International Spreading of Bolshevism in the Wake of WWI, in C. Cornelissen, M. Mondini, (eds.), The Mediatization of War and Peace. The Role of the Media in Political Communication, Narratives and Public Memory (1914-1939) (De Gruyter, 2021); Principled Pragmatism: the ‘Eastern Committee of the German Economy’ and West German-Chinese Relations during the early Cold War, 1949-1958, in Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, 1/2017.