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links: Fall 2006 Courses Previously Offered Courses Italian at Penn


ARTH 252/652 Art in the Time of Michelangelo
Michael Cole

An introductory survey of the art of the Late Renaissance, with an emphasis on drawing, painting, sculpture, and architecture in central Italy. The course will cover works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael, among others.

ARTH 255/655 Italian Renaissance Art
Michael Cole

Survey of the visual arts in Italy in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, with emphasis on painting, sculpture and architecture in the major cultural centers.  

ARTH 256/656 Italian Renaissance and Baroque Architecture
Michael Cole

An introductory survey of architecture on the Italian peninsula, ca. 1300-1750. The course will cover both standard types (palaces, churches, squares) and distinctive individual monuments. Topics may include urban planning, garden and fountain design, and the relation of practice to theory.


ARTH 275/675 Roman Baroque Art and Architecture
Michael Cole

An introduction to the city of Rome from the late-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century, The course will look at works by such artists as Caravaggio, Bernini, Poussin, and Borromini, considering them in relation to the conditions in which they were originally produced and viewed.


ARTH 552 Proseminar in Renaissance/Baroque Art
Micheal Cole

Topic varies. Recent topics include: The Early Modern Painter-Etcher (2005) and Dialogue and the Arts in Renaissance Italy (2006).


ARTH 752 Seminar in Renaissance/Baroque Italian Art
Michael Cole

Topic varies. Recent topics include: Leonardo da Vinci (2003) and Art and the Counter-Reformation (2004).


HIST 181 Florence and the Medici
Ann Moyer

For centuries, the city of Florence was one of Europe’s great economic and cultural centers. The city was at the heart of the humanist movement of the Renaissance. Florentines excelled in art, in business and banking. They were also highly literate keepers of records. Thanks to their archives, historians know more about medieval and Renaissance Florentines than about any other Europeans.
In this course, we will follow Florence’s rise from its medieval governments through the era of the Renaissance. We will focus especially on one of the city’s leading families, the Medici. They ran Florence’s political machine in the fifteenth century and ruled it directly in the sixteenth. At the same time they helped to support Florence’s cultural achievements. Readings will include both modern scholarship and primary sources from the period, and we will incorporate visits to a number of important sites in both Florence and Tuscany.


HIST 212-401 Italy: from Napoleon to Berlusconi 1800 to 2006
Jonathan Steinberg

The seminar looks at the evolution of modern Italy from the Napoleonic Era through the unification of the Kingdom in 1861, through its crisis in the First World War and the subsequent struggle for control of the new mass society.  It looks at the emergence of the first fascist regime and the first modern dictatorship under Benito Mussolini; the rise and consolidation of that dictatorship, its descent into anti-semitism, defeat in war and the civil war of 1943-45, which followed that defeat.  Out of that crisis a new prosperous republic has grown. It traces that story to the latest stage, the curious media dictatorship of  Silvio Berlusconi. Italian history contains in its history all the problems of modern Europe and some unique to it.  Its culture through the pizza, the pasta and the fine consumer products has become world-wide, and its children live in large numbers in every major city in the world.

One of the glories of modern Italian history has been the exceptional quality of its literature. Great fiction can form an alternative approach with which to gain insights into Italian history. Eight works of literature have been put on a list as required reading. Each student will be expected to chose one work and write a book review of it. All of them are in English translation, but, of course, if you can read them in Italian, you will have more fun.


HIST 308 Renaissance Europe
Ann Moyer

This course examines the cultural and intellectual movement known as the Renaissance, from its origins in fourteenth-century Italy to its diffusion into the rest of Europe in the sixteenth century. We will trace the great changes in the world of learning and letters, the visual arts, and music, along with those taking place in politics, economics, and social organization. We will be reading primary sources as well as modern works.

HIST 342 European Intellectual History 1300-1600
Ann Moyer

This course examines the formation of European traditions of scholarship and letters, including medieval, Renaissance and early modern writings. Topics will include court literature and romance; scholastic thought and university scholarship; political thought; the humanist tradition. It will consider the rise of printing, the formation of the "republic of letters," and the development of popular literature.

ITAL 80 / COML 280 / CINE 240 Introduction to Italian Cinema
Victoria Kirkham

This course 1) introduces Italian cinema through the work of a dozen major directors, from the Fascist era to the present (with a brief retrospective into the silents of 1912-15), focussing on major movements and genres (drama, comedy, epic, historical film), while exploring the close connections between film and national culture in Italy; 2) introduces cinema as a medium, teaching vocabulary of film analysis, criticism, and theory; 3) provides a cultural background on Italian history and society since the Risorgimento (unification movement in the 19th century), considering the struggle for independence, Fascism, World War II, national identity vs. regionalism, north vs. south, gender roles, contemporary problems of government corruption and the Mafia. Tuesday evening sessions will review and discuss material from previous sessions as the semester progresses, introduce the week's new film; and screen the new film. Thursday afternoon class will be for lecture and class discussion, organized around clips. No prerequisites; Italian majors may arrange to do readings and final paper in Italian.


ITAL 232 The World of Dante
(Freshman Seminar, usually taught every other year)
Victoria Kirkham

The Divine Comedy will be read in the context of Dante Alighieri's fourteenth-century cultural world. Discussions, focussed on selected cantos of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, will connect with such topics as: books and readers before the invention of printing (e.g, how manuscripts were made from sheepskins, transcribed, and decorated), life in a society dominated by the Catholic church (sinners vs. saints, Christian pilgrimage routes, the great Franciscan and Dominican religious orders), Dante's politics as a Florentine exile (power struggles between Pope and Emperor), his classical and Christian literary models (Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Bible), and his genius as a poet in the medieval structures of allegory, symbolism, and numerology. Illustrations of the Comedy, from early illuminated manuscripts to Renaissance printed books in the University of Pennsylvania Rare Book Collection and contemporary film will trace a history of the forms in which the poem has flourished for seven hundred years. Class conducted in English. The Divine Comedy will be available in a text with facing English and Italian versions. May be counted toward an Italian Studies major or minor.


ITAL 260 Worldviews in Collision: The Counterreformation and Scientific Revolution. (Offered occasionally as a Freshman Seminar or a Graduate Seminar)
Victoria Kirkham

Our project will be both to explore the radical conflicts that developed in 16th- and 17th-century Europe when Protestant reformers and scientific discoveries challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, and to consider these developments in the light of modern parallels (Darwin, Freud, Einstein). Freedom of thought, heresy, book censorship, and Utopian ideals will be discussed in conjunction with Machiavelli's comic play Mandragola, the vitriolic polemic involving Martin Luther, Thomas More, and King Henry VIII; Tommaso Campanella's Utopian dialogue The City of the Sun, selections from the scientists Copernicus and Galileo, and from The History of the Council of Trent by the Venetian Paolo Sarpi. We shall consider how these turbulent times found expression in poetry and the visual arts, with special attention to women writers and painters (Vittoria Colonna, Laura Battiferra, Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana). For modern retrospectives, we shall read two historical plays from the 20th century (Osborne's Luther, Brecht's Galileo) and view the a classic Hollywood film Utopia, Frank Capra's Lost Horizon.

ITAL 310  The Medieval Reader
(Taught occasionally as Freshman Seminar, General Honors course, or open elective)
Victoria Kirkham

Through a range of authors including Augustine, Dante, Petrarch, Galileo, and Umberto Eco, this course will explore the world of the book in the manuscript era. We shall consider 1) readers in fiction-male and female, good and bad; 2) books as material objects produced in monasteries and their subsequent role in the rise of the universities; 3) medieval women readers and writers; 4) medieval ideas of the book as a symbol (e.g., the notion of the world as God's book; 5) changes in book culture brought about by printing and electronic media. Lectures with discussion in English, to be supplemented by slide presentations and a visit to the Rare Book Room in Van Pelt Library. No prerequisites. Satisfies General Requirement in Arts and Letters.


ITAL 333 / COML 333 / ENGL 223 Dante's Divine Comedy
Kevin Brownlee

In this course we will read the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso, focusing on a series of interrelated problems raised by the poem: authority, fiction, history, politics and language. Particular attention will be given to how the Commedia presents itself as Dante's autobiography, and to how the autobiographical narrative serves as a unifying thread for this supremely rich literary text. Supplementary readings will include Virgil's Aeneid and selections from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

All readings and written work will be in English. Italian or Italian Studies credit will require reading Italian texts in their original language and doing the written assignments in Italian.


ITAL 336  Divina Commedia
Victoria Kirkham

Dante's Divina Commedia will be read and discussed in Italian. The first half of the semester will be devoted to Inferno; the second half to selected cantos of the Purgatorio and Paradiso. We shall consider this masterpiece of Italian literature in the context of Dante's medieval worldview and culture, his identity as a Florentine, his politics, and his poetics. The text will be read in a facing Italian-English edition with class discussion in Italian designed to arrive at an appreciation of the poem that builds on the students' previous knowledge of the language and is geared toward developing skills of literary analysis in Italian. Visual materials from illustrated manuscripts of the Commedia and recently developed web-based resources will complement class readings.
Prerequisite: 5 semesters of Italian or the equivalent.


ITAL 337. Petrarca e Boccaccio: Amore e amicizia
(Taught once every two or three years)
Victoria Kirkham

This course will introduce Francesco Petrarca, Italy's greatest lyric poet, and his contemporary Giovanni Boccaccio, the master of the Italian short story, in their historical context at a transitional moment between the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Selections will be read from Petrarca's Rime sparse, which tell the story of his life-long love for Madonna Laura, and from Boccaccio's novelle about love-ranging from romantic to forbidden, from parodic to tragic-in the Decameron, set during the Black Death of 1348. We shall also read some of the surviving letters exchanged in friendship by these two founding fathers of Italian poetry and prose, considering them as early expressions of Renassaissance humanism. The letters, originally in Latin, will be read in English; Petrarch will be read in an edition with facing text and translation; Boccaccio will be read in an Italian edition that assists the reader with explanatory notes. Prerequisite: 5 semesters of Italin or equivalent language skills.


ITAL 380 Italian Encores: Fiction into Film
Victoria Kirkham

Against a historical background from the Risorgimento to Fascism, World War II and the post-war period of recovery, "Italian Encores" will present fiction by 19th- and 20th-century authors in five film adaptations. Selections, representing literary styles from Verismo to Neorealismo, will alternate between novels and novelle: Verga's I Malavoglia and Visconti's La terra trema;  Il gattopardo by Tomasi di Lampedusa and Visconti; Porte aperte by Sciascia and Amelio; La Ciociara by Moravia and De Sica. The course will conclude with an autobiography (1975), Padre Padrone by Ledda and the Taviani Brothers. Topics to be addressed include issues specific to Italian culture--such as ideals and disillusionments of the Unification, the "Southern Question," regional identities (Sicily, Sardinia), and the family. Class conducted in Italian. Prerequisite: 5 semesters of Italian or equivalent.


ITAL 383 La novella italiana
Victoria Kirkham

Boccaccio's Decameron (ca. 1350) will orient a "viaggio in Italia" through the novella, a form of short fiction particularly Italian in its flavor and fertile history. The course will consist of three sections: 1) medieval examples of the genre (e.g., the Novellino, a collection of witty, elegant tales composed in the 13th-c. orbit of the Sicilian court of Emperor Frederick II); 2) selections from the Decameron chosen to illustrate life in early Renaissance Florence and the master story teller's range, from fable to history, from hillarious sexual escapades to high tragedy); 3) novelle after Boccaccio, which in the 16th and 17th centuries created such world famous characters as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and Cindarella; and in the 19th and 20th centuries began to attract female authors, including Grazia Deledda, a Sardinian who won the Nobel Prize in 1926. The course will conclude with Novecento writers (Sibilla Aleramo, Pirandello, Buzzati, and Calvino). We shall also screen Pasolini's film version of the Decameron, as well as one other Italian film constructed as a short story anthology. Course conducted in Italian. Prerequisite: 5 semesters of Italian.


ITAL 631-632 The Divine Comedy
Victoria Kirkham
A year-long close reading of the Commedia in its medieval cultural contexts. Among topics to be explored are literary antecedents from antiquity (especially Virgil's Aeneid, the vernacular heritage, including the Provencal, Sicilian, and stilnovistic writers and earlier works by Dante himself; the commentary tradition (e.g., Benvenuto da Imola, Boccaccio), medieval esthetic theory and Dante's poetics, numerology, and the Commedia in the visual tradition (portraits of Dante, charts and maps of Dante's Otherworld, illuminated manuscripts and paintings inspired by the poem. Cross-listed with Comparative Literature. Taught in alternating years on a rotating basis with K. Brownlee.

ITAL 634 Women in Poetry. From the Trobadours to the Petrarchans
(Offered every third year)
Victoria Kirkham

This course presents both poetry by women and about women, following in its first half the Romance lyric tradition from the 12th-c. Provencal Troubadours and their female counterparts, the Trobairitz, into the Sicilian School of the Duecento, the Tuscan Dolce Stil Novo, Dante's early "Stony Rhymes," and Petrarch's 14th-c. love poetry. The second half of the course will be devoted to Renaissance lyric, when Petrarchism becomes a European fashion, producing numerous polyvocal anthologies. We shall consider how Petrarch's "Scattered Rhymes" undergo a transformation into Petrarchismo, why this literary mode makes possible a flowering of poetry by women, how the women adapt a first-person male lyric voice to their own purposes (as maiden, wife, widow, courtisane), and how they gain acceptance by the male establishment (e.g., Bembo, della Casa, Michelangelo, Varchi, Bronzino, Cellini) in the art of poetry as "epistolary" exchange, or dialogue, linking members of a cultural community. Our female authors will include Vittoria Colonna, Chiara Matraini, Tullia d'Aragona, Isabella di Morra, Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, and Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati Their varying critical reception will raise larger questions: how do women enter a national literary history? Is their presence less stable than that of male authors? Do all-female canons reflect lines of literary influence or are they a kind of virtual matroneum that segregates and diminishes the female voice? Cross-listed with Comparative Literature and Women's Studies.


ITAL 637 Boccaccio
Victoria Kirkham

Taught every three years in one of following formats:

1. Boccaccio's Women. Female Identities in the Middle Ages. Cross-listed with Women's Studies.

This course will focus on the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio, the "father" of Italian fiction, in order to explore issues of female identities in the Middle Ages. Texts will represent the range of Boccaccio's corpus, from vernacular fiction to Latin history, including the first female biographies of Western Europe. His versatile literary imagination, which created both works in praise of women and savage misogyny, reflects a rich cultural heritage descended from classical and Christian traditions-the Bible and its patristic commentators, Aristotle and the Scholastic philosophers, Latin literature, medieval romance, and the poetry of courtly love. Selections from these philosophical, theological, scientific, and literary sources will supplement our primary readings as we recreate a panoply of medieval women and images of the female, from perfecting agent to an error of nature, from allegorical personification to aristocratic patron. Cross-listed with Comparative Literature and Women's Studies.

2. Boccaccio Visualized.

This course presents Giovanni Boccaccio and his literary corpus from three visual perspectives that capitalize on the 8,000 medieval and Renaissance images inspired by Boccaccio's writing. Focus will be on the Decameron, with selections from his literary criticism, biographies, and mythography (Defense of Poetry, Life of Dante, Life of Petrarch, Famous Women, Teseida). As we read, we shall 1) look at portraits of Boccaccio, 2) look at Renaissance illustrations of his writings, 3) search for visual intertexts-i.e., explore how images and material artifacts in Boccaccio's culture could have influenced his writing, and how our recovery of those icons serves us as literary interpreters. Cross-listed with Comparative Literature


ITAL 639 Cracking the Code: Numerology and Literature
(Taught every three years)
Victoria Kirkham

This course reconstructs traditions of Western number symbolism from antiquity (Plato, the Pythagoreans) and the Bible to the early modern period with readings both in encyclopedic treatises on Arithmetic (Macrobius, Martianus Capella, Rabanus Maurus) and in literary texts that are numerical compositions (Augustine's Confessions, Petrarch's epistle on the ascent of Mt. Ventoux, Dante's Vita nuova and Commedia, Boccaccio's Diana's Hunt, the Old French Vie de St. Alexis, and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose). Discussion will focus on numerology as it relates to the medieval esthetic of order, the literary text as microcosmic counterpart to God's macrocosm, veiled meaning, and "difficult" poetics. We shall also consider the end of the tradition and what changes in science and culture brought about the disappearance of number symbolism in literature, except for a few moderns (e.g., Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett). Students will do a final project (oral presentation and paper) on a text of their choosing from any period, national literature, or another medium--e.g., architecture, music.


PSCI 009 Italian Politics and Society
(Freshman Writing Seminar)
Julia Lynch

With 54 governments since World War II, a porn star in the Parliament, a secessionist movement in the North, corruption scandals, illegal immigration, terrorism, organized crime and a litany of other political woes, many see Italian politics as a perennial basket case. But while Italy may be better known for its great food, fashion and art than for serious statesmanship and high politics, it is an important country on the world stage—Italy has the fifth-largest economy in the world and a population larger than Britain or Spain. This course examines the perceptions and the realities of Italian politics, focusing on the problem of uneven regional development, the role of class politics, the persistence of Church and family in politics and society and Italy’s relationship with the European Union.


PSCI 414-301 Comparative Politics of the Welfare State
Julia Lynch

This class explores the origins, development, and possible futures of social policy regimes in the industrialized countries, in the context of broader political and historical trends.  Topics include pensions, health care, and poverty alleviation;  “families” of welfare states; the relationship between labor markets and social policy; feminist and Marxist critiques of welfare states and welfare state studies.  Open to graduate students and qualified undergraduates with permission of the instructor.


PSCI 498 Politics of Western Europe
Julia Lynch
This seminar is devoted to analysis of the domestic politics and political economy of Western European countries during the post-World War II period. Topics include political parties and party systems; economic regulation, labor relations, and the welfare state; political participation and political culture; and the interaction of subnational, national and supranational politics. Unifying these topics is an analytic emphasis on the historical antecedents of contemporary politics, and on the ways in which political scientists seek to understand continuities and discontinuities in European politics.

The course combines a broad overview of developments across the region with assignments that encourage each student to develop a specialization in the politics of one West European country. This seminar is a research seminar, but it is also a field seminar in West European politics, requiring the development of a more generalized knowledge of West European politics than could be attained solely from work on a single highly focused research project. In order to strike a productive balance between contextual and country-specific knowledge, the course combines required readings, research and examination.



Center for Italian Studies, UPenn, 549 Williams Hall, 255 South 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305