Benedetta Carnaghi

Visiting Lecturer


Benedetta Carnaghi is a visiting lecturer at the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines at Cornell University. She has previously taught first-year writing seminars on both espionage and wartime humor, worked as tutor for the Knight Institute’s Graduate Writing Service, and co-facilitated the Write Together at Home Program. Benedetta is co-authoring a chapter in the forthcoming volume Literacy & Learning in Times of Crisis with her colleagues from the Knight Institute. She greatly enjoys helping students craft compelling arguments, engage with momentous historical events and issues, and tell their own meaningful stories.

Benedetta earned her doctorate in History from Cornell University (2021), with material from her dissertation published in the Journal of Modern Italian Studies, S:I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation, and The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945. She has two Masters of Arts in Contemporary History of Foreign Countries and International Relations from the Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne University (2012 and 2013), an additional diploma from the excellence programme of the École normale supérieure in Paris (2015), and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Padua, Italy (2011).

Benedetta’s book manuscript in preparation—“Lives Under Cover: Comparative History of Fascist and Nazi Spies, 1927-1945”—is a comparative and transnational history of totalitarian surveillance extending from the creation of the Fascist secret police to the end of World War II. By analyzing the spies’ profiles and motives, she depicts the inner workings of the universe of terror that the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships created. Based on two years of multilingual archival research in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and the United States, Benedetta’s work draws on unexplored sources such as Fascist and Nazi police records and postwar court trials of convicted spies. It was supported by several grants and fellowships from the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

Benedetta’s second book project is tentatively titled “Making Fun of the Fascists: Humor Against the Leader Cult in Italy, France, and Germany, 1922–1945.” It is a study of how humor became a form of political resistance against dictators in Fascist Italy (1922–1945), Nazi Germany (1933–1945), and Vichy France (1940–1944). She will conduct archival research in Italy, Germany, and France, looking at records documenting anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi dissent and satire. This three-way comparison will help us understand the nature of power dynamics under fascist authoritarianism in a way that the study of a single country or subregion cannot. Benedetta is at the forefront of studying fascism and authoritarianism as transnational and global phenomena.

Research Focus

  • Modern European History with a particular focus on Italy, France, and Germany
  • Fascism and Nazism
  • World War I & II
  • History of the Resistance
  • Holocaust Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Political violence & terror
  • Humor


Edited Volumes:

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles & Contributions to Edited Volumes:

Book Reviews:

Blog Posts:

Courses - Spring 2022