De Grazia, Victoria
De Grazia, Victoria
CAREER: Writer, scholar, and educator. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, adjunct instructor, 1972; Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York, instructor, 1974–76, assistant professor of history, 1976–78; Rutgers University, Rutgers, NJ, assistant professor, 1977–80, associate professor, 1981–90, professor of history, 1991–94; project director of Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, 1991–93; Columbia University, New York, NY, professor of history, 1993–, director of Institute for Research on Women and Gender, 1994–96; European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy, professor of history, 2003–2004. Visiting and guest professor at numerous universities. Radical History Review, member of founding collective.
MEMBER: Member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow, 1968–69; Columbia University faculty fellow, 1969–73; best first manuscript prize, Society for Italian Historian Studies; Joan Kelly Prize, American Historical Association, 1992, and Primio Acquistoria, 1994, both for How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945; Guggenheim fellowship; Jean Monnet fellowship
The Culture of Consent: Mass Organization of Leisure in Fascist Italy (dissertation), Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1981.
How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1992.
(Editor, with Ellen Furlough) The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1996.
(Editor, with Sergio Luzzatto) Dizionario del fascismo (title means "Dictionary of Fascism"), 2 volumes, G. Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 2003.
Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Contributor of articles to numerous books and anthologies, and to journals and other periodicals, including Journal of Modern History, New York Times, American Film, and American Studies Journal. Member of board of editors of numerous publications, including Journal of Modern History, Geneses, Contemporary European History, and Journal of Consumer Culture.
SIDELIGHTS: A professor of history at Columbia University, Victoria de Grazia specializes in the contemporary history of Western Europe, focusing on consumer cultures, gender, and the history of family politics. Having grown up traveling between Italy and the United States, she has written with an insider's authority on aspects of both countries. Her doctoral thesis was published in 1981 as The Culture of Consent: Mass Organization of Leisure in Fascist Italy, and she returns to the theme of fascist Italy in her 1992 book, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945. That study reveals how the regime of Benito Mussolini prevented women from assuming a liberated place in Italian society, despite fascism's avowal of a policy of emancipation for women. In the book, de Grazia demonstrates how government, church, and commercial culture cooperated to define the woman of the time, maintaining the typical patriarchal model. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called How Fascism Ruled Women a "noteworthy study," and further praised the author's "meticulous research and deep contemplation." The reviewer concluded that the book is an "important contribution to women's studies."
De Grazia worked with Ellen Furlough as coeditor of the 1996 title The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, a book of essays examining the connections of consumerism and women. De Grazia also wrote the introductions to the various sections of the book and contributed an article titled "Empowering Women as Citizen Consumers," which questions the idea of consumerism and its stereotyped feminist persona. Kevin H. White, writing for Historian, found the work an "excellent collection … maintained by a solid historical organization." As White also observed, "the authors and de Grazia have brought massive sophistication to their analysis." A reviewer for Women's Studies deemed The Sex of Things an "impressive collection," and went on to praise the "strong editorial voice of Victoria de Grazia [that] repeatedly urges the reader to question received notions about consumption." Whitney Walton, writing in the Women's Review of Books, also had favorable comments for the book and de Grazia's contributions to the work. Walton wrote that "de Grazia's introductions are valuable histories of consumption and gender," and concluded that The Sex of Things is "especially thought-provoking among the increasing number of works on the history of consumption."
De Grazia returns to the topic of consumerism with her 2005 work, Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe. In this book she demonstrates how American mercantile power made inroads in Europe during the twentieth century, and fundamentally altered the way of life on that continent. The time frame she covers is from World War I to September 11, 2001, but she approaches her subject thematically rather than chronologically, devoting chapters to the hegemony of Hollywood, for example, or to inroads made by Rotary Clubs in Europe. Her analysis attempts to show that by mid-century, Europe was as caught up in the mass-consumer society as was the United States. In his review for Library Journal, Scott H. Silverman called the book "brilliantly argued, based on a rich sampling of popular Culture." However, due to its academic prose style, Silverman concluded that would "appeal to only a very narrow, scholarly readership." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed that "de Grazia writes clearly, giving an uncommon perspective on the ways and means by which the U.S. and Europe drew close" following World War II. A critic for Kirkus Reviews found the work "smart and engaging," as well as a "lucid, accessible introduction to globalism and its discontents." Further praise came from Jean-Christophe Agnew in Frontlist. Agnew described the book as a "brilliant account of how the American standard of living defeated the European way of life and achieved the global cultural hegemony." Stephen Bayley, writing in London's Independent Online, called Irresistible Empire an "elegant" and "eloquent" work, "written with measure and cadences and care which have their roots in Old World learning rather than New World Write-Lite and its flashy neologisms."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Historian, spring, 1998, Kevin H. White, review of The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, p. 682.
Journal of Modern History, March, 1999, Judy Coffin, review of The Sex of Things, p. 177.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe, p. 97.
Library Journal, April 15, 2005, Scott H. Silverman, review of Irresistible Empire, p. 101.
Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1991, review of How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–45, p. 69; February 14, 2005, review of Irresistible Empire, p. 64.
Women's Review of Books, April, 1997, Whitney Walton, review of The Sex of Things, p. 18.
Women's Studies, July, 1997, review of The Sex of Things, p. 387.
Columbia University Web site, http://www.columbia.edu/ (June 28, 2005), author profile.
Frontlist Web site, http://www.frontlist.com/ (June 29, 2005), Jean-Christophe Agnew, review of Irresistible Empire.
Independent Online, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/ (May 27, 2005), Stephen Bayley, "Under the Axles of Evil," review of Irresistible Empire.