Professor Thomas Simpson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the Department of French and Italian, will discuss his latest work, “Murder and Media in the New Rome: The Fadda Affair,” at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.

The book explores a sensational crime and trial that took place in Rome in the late 1870s, when the bloody killing of a war hero triggered a national spectacle. A young wife’s murder of her impotent soldier husband exploded into the first great “media circus” in the new nation of Italy.

The trial of the widow and her acrobat lover shocked the young nation not only with its gruesome details, but also because masses of women flocked to the court, took sides and heatedly reacted to testimony, as a new generation of news-papers exploited the scandal to enchant an untapped readership.

Largely ignored by historians, the Fadda Affair, as it was called, crucially shaped the young nation’s self-image, but it still resists reduction to historiographical formula, even as its raucous messiness presages the postmodern centrality of performance and the displacement of substance by sensation.

The Evanston Northwestern Humanities Lecture Series is an ongoing  collaboration between The Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities  and the Evanston Public Library, whereby Northwestern University humanities faculty share their research with members of the Evanston community. Light refreshments will be served.