The Mafia: A Cultural History

Author(s): Roberto M. Dainotto


What makes Tony Soprano so likeable? Why would we rather leave the cannoli and take the gun? Do we truly want Scarface's Tony Montana to succeed? Is Michael Corleone a misunderstood hero or a despicable villain? Roberto Dainotto traces the complex and fascinating development of the mafia: its rural beginnings in Western Sicily; its growth into what has been aptly described as a global multinational of crime; and its parallel evolution in music, print and on the big screen. The book probes the tension between the real mafia - its brutal and often violent reality - and how we imagine it to be: a mythical assembly of codes of honour, family values and chivalric masochism. Rather than dismissing such mafia stereotypes as untrue, Dainotto sets out to understand what needs and desires, material and psychic longings, are satisfied by our mafia fantasies. Exploring the rich array of films, books, television, music and even video games portraying and inspired by the mafia, this book offers not only a social, economic and political history of the mafia but a new way of understanding our enduring fascination with what lurks behind the sinister omerta of the family business.


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“The Mafia: A Cultural History hinges on a moral knot: the mythologising of chivalric Cosa Nostra values of honour, loyalty and family versus the grim realpolitik of institutionalised racketeering, money laundering, shakedown operations and assassinations. The Mafia: A Cultural History has its blind spots (Scorsese’s work gets short shrift), but the accent is on Italian history, not American culture. Your average gangster-movie buff might be better directed towards Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls or Brett Martin’s Difficult Men for the skinny on the making of Mean Streets or The Sopranos. But any reader interested in Mafia facts rather than myths will find Roberto Dainotto an exceptionally informed and illuminating guide.”

Peter Murphy – The Irish Times  (JC BookGrocer)

"This book helps to challenge the many clichEs written and said about the Mafia. Written with clarity, intelligence, and expertise, it makes us understand the true essence of the Mafia, a crime organization organically linked to power and wealth and which contributed to the survival of social antagonism. Dainotto does a superb job of weaving together the complex history of the Mafia. It is faithfully factual, gripping, prescribed reading." --Antonio Nicaso, author of Bloodlines and Angels, Mobsters and Narco-Terrorists: The Rising Menace of Global Criminal Empires

Born in Sicily, Roberto Dainotto is Professor of Romance Studies and of Literature at Duke University, North Carolina, and author of Europe (in Theory) (2007).

Preface, Chapter 1: Of Rustic Knights and Godfathers, Chapter 2: From Corleone and Hollywood, Chapter 3: The Far West is Here, Chapter 4: The Godfather, Chapter 5: Part Time, Chapter 6: Avatars, Works Cited

General Fields

  • : 9781780234434
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : March 2015
  • : 216mm X 138mm X 26mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : June 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Roberto M. Dainotto
  • : Hardback
  • : 364.10609
  • : 224
  • : 25