Freshman Seminar: Cinema and War
Mondays/3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
This course investigates the relationship of cinema and war around the world from the early 20th century to the present. From the Italo-Turkish War for control of Libya (1911-1912) onwards, film has been integral to shaping public consciousness of military events as they unfold and the public memory of wars after the guns have fallen silent. The course looks at both feature films and non-fiction: we will watch government propaganda, commercial entertainment films and independent documentaries. Topics to be addressed include representations of violence and the enemy; the aestheticization of violence and war as spectacle; how changes in military technology have generated new modes of witnessing; the war film as history film. Case studies include the two World Wars, civil wars, colonial conquest and anti-colonial struggle, Vietnam, the Arab Spring, and American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Freshman Seminar: Hoarding Before Hoarders
Wednesdays/12:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m.
The early years of the twenty-first century have seen an overwhelming cultural interest in people who accumulate things. Hoarding is the subject of medical research, as well as documentary and narrative films, novels and memoirs, theater, painting, photography, and television episodes and series—including A&E’s ‘megahit,’ Hoarders. This seminar is guided by the questions “Why hoarding?” and “Why now?” We will address these questions by studying the contemporary hoarder within a broader literary and cultural context that encompasses fetishists, collectors, misers, rag pickers, gleaners, and other figures defined (and pathologized) by their attachments to things.
Texts: Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things; Primo Levi, “Argon”; E. L. Doctorow, Homer and Langley; Barry Yourgrau, Mess. One Man’s Struggle to Clean Up his House and his Act; W. D. King, Collections of Nothing; Scott Herring, The Hoarders; Gustave Flaubert, Three Tales; Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls; Alexander Stille, The Force of Things; Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Seeing and Hearing Things: Mystical Experience Before the Enlightenment
Required cohort meeting: Tuesday/11:00-12:15 p.m.
How should we tell the history of the divine entering into human events? This course will examine mystics and mysticism in medieval and early modern Italy, addressing central issues in the interpretation of these perplexing figures. Key topics to be addressed include: embodiment, identity, gender, medicine, authority, the political weight of mystical experience, ideas of the holy and canonization, the dolce stil novo, and speaking with the dead.
TEXTS & IDEAS: Mapping the Renaissance: Old Worlds and New
CORE UA 400
Tuesdays & Thursdays/9:30 a.m.-10:45 a.m.
Early modern men and women found themselves at the intersection of colliding ideas about the worlds they lived in. They both looked back to antiquity and the Bible, and ahead to new and unpredictable changes regarding religion, geography, and science. A Janus-faced moment, the Renaissance was rooted in the past and anticipatory in many ways of our own time. As we see from ancient texts, such anxiety about the unknown was not entirely new. As we move from the city of Ur (in modern-day Iraq) in 3000 b.c.e. to early modern Mexico in 1700, from a story about a powerful king facing his own mortality to poems by a mestiza nun, we read a variety of texts about borders, journeys, literal and figurative exile, and how one might best leave one’s mark on the world. We also consider the relationship between the literature and art of the period, and one assignment will be based on a direct study of a sculpture or painting at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Readings: selections from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, Gilgamesh, Homer’s Iliad, Vergil’s Aeneid, Tornabuoni’s Sacred Narratives, Columbus’s Four Voyages, Leon-Portilla’s Broken Spears, Tasso’s Jerusalem Liberated, Shakespeare's Tempest, excerpts from Sappho, Petrarch, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Literature and Machines
Advanced Honors Seminar
Machine metaphors and narratives play an important role in modern literature. They convey beliefs, anxieties, shifts, and reflections on key topics such as the nature of consciousness, the creative process, the dynamics of desire and gratification, gender roles, the organization of society, the meaning of 'nature', etc. This course explores different manifestations of the machine theme in literature, broadly clustered around the following categories: imaginary machines constituting the centerpiece of narrative plots; machine aesthetic as modernist ideal (e.g. Marinetti’s “identification of man with motor”); and mechanization of the inventive process (text-generating machines). You will have the opportunity to read and discuss a selection of works from different periods and cultural contexts (Victorian era, Belle Époque, Futurist period, Post-war experimental literature), representative of a wide spectrum of dispositions, ranging from the dreamy immersion in virtual realities to enlightened machine-assisted awakening, from the obsessive fear of mechanistic dehumanization to the desire of man-machine fusion.
Readings in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
ITAL UA 115
Tuesdays & Thursdays/9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
Class taught in Italian
Introductory-level literature course that through a close reading of authors such as Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Ariosto focuses on how to understand a literary text in Italian. Covers Italian literature from its origins through the 16th century. The readings will be chosen according to thematic threads: crisis, change, money and desire. The instructor will provide a selection of texts with helpful and accessible interpretive materials (translations, commentaries, secondary literature).
Dante's Lyric Poetry and the Medieval Tradition of Lyrical Poetry
ITAL UA 285
Tuesdays/3:30 p.m. - 6:10 p.m.
Maria Luisa Ardizzone
The course rereads the lyric poetry of Dante as a sort of diary of the intellectual and creative history of the poet beginning from his early youth to his maturity. We will examine the texts by looking at the relationship and exchanges between Dante and the poets of his circle, together with the poetic, rhetorical, and philosophical problems that such poetry faced. We will read also texts of the Italian lyrical tradition from the poets of the Sicilian school to Petrarch and Boccaccio.
***The course will be given in English, is conceived as a seminar and is open to both graduate and undergraduate students.
Dante’s Lyric Poetry. Editors K. Foster and P. Boyde. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
The Poetry of the Sicilian School. Translated by F. Jensen.New York:Garland,1986
The Poetry of Guido Guinizzelli.Translated by R.Edwards.New York: Garland,1987
The Poetry of Guido Cavalcanti.Translated by L.Nelson.New York:Garland,1986
Ardizzone, M.L. Guido Cavalcanti. The Other Middle Ages. London, Toronto: Toronto
University Press, 2002.
Topics in Renaissance Culture: Eros e magia nel Rinascimento
Mondays/11:00 a.m. - 1:45
Class taught in Italian
Il legame tra eros, poesia e magia è ben rappresentato nel mito di Orfeo, il poeta cantore che grazie al fascino dei suoi versi e della sua musica riesce a ammansire le belve, a spostare i monti, a penetrare nel mondo dei morti per recuperare l’amata Euridice. E’ un mito molto presente nel Rinascimento: leggeremo l’ Orfeo di Angelo Poliziano, la prima opera teatrale di argomento profano, rappresentata alla corte di Mantova e ne seguiremo la fortuna nella musica e nelle arti figurative.
Le maghe incarnano inoltre la forza pericolosa dell’eros: vedremo come, nei poemi cavallereschi, esse rappresentino il fascino dell’esotico, lo strapotere della passione che distoglie i cavalieri cristiani dal compimento della loro missione; nello stesso tempo la seduzione della maga è una tappa in qualche modo necessaria per la crescita dell’eroe, per la sua formazione. Esempi saranno tratti da Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso.
Vedremo inoltre dei testi (di Gelli, di Giordano Bruno) in cui viene messa in questione la figura di Circe: è la maga crudele che trasforma in bestie gli amanti di cui si stanca, oppure è colei che toglie la maschera, che svela la vera natura che si nasconde nel cuore degli uomini?
TESTI: Angelo POLIZIANO, L’Orfeo del Poliziano; Matteo Maria BOIARDO, Orlando innamorato; Ludovico ARIOSTO, Orlando Furioso; Torquato TASSO, Gerusalemme liberata; Giovan Battista Gelli, La Circe; Giordano BRUNO, Il canto di Circe
TESTI CRITICI sulla magia
Anita SEPPILLI, Poesia e magia, Torino, Einaudi, 1962
Marc AUGE’, Magia, voce in Enciclopedia Einaudi, Torino 1979, vol. VIII,pp.708-723
Eugenio GARIN, Magia ed astrologia nella cultura del Rinascimento e Considerazioni sulla magia, in medioevo e Rinascimento, Bari, Laterza, 1990
ITAL UA 172
Thursdays/12:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
This course examines objects with a dual nature: literary artifacts that are also visual compositions — texts that function simultaneously as pictures. While a primary focus will be on Italian 20th century experimental literary forms (parole in libertà, poesia visiva, concrete poetry), students will also explore a wider historical range of such textual-visual hybrids, from the classical world through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque period. In order to trace the transnational circulation of visual models, comparative examples and references from English and other languages will be offered. Specific readings and discussions will address theoretical issues raised by iconic texts — how do we read visual poetry? What does it mean to be a reader and a viewer at the same time?
Italian Films Italian Histories 1
ITAL UA 174
Tuesdays/12:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
Thursdays/12:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
Studies representation of Italian history through the medium of film from ancient Rome through the Risorgimento. Issues to be covered throughout include the use of filmic history as a means of forging national identity.
From the Table to the Page
ITAL UA 280
Tuesdays & Thursdays/11:00-12:15 p.m.
“What is the glory of Dante compared to spaghetti?” Italian journalist Giuseppe Prezzolini famously asks in his 1954 history of pasta. While numerous cookbooks cite Prezzolini to evoke Italy’s consummate culinary achievements, this course instead poses the question: “What is the glory of spaghetti compared to its representation in literature and film?” We will study novels, novelle, memoirs, cookbooks, and manifestos from the late nineteenth century to the present, reflecting on the narrative functions of elaborate descriptions of culinary triumphs. We will ask what ideological work is performed by such literary gastronomy, and how it contributes to the production of national, regional, and local identities, and socioeconomic differences.
Texts: Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Petrini, Slow Food: The Case for Taste, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard, Clara Sereni, Keeping House, Elio Vittorini, Conversations in Sicily, Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, Pellegrino Artusi, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and Their Food, Curzio Malaparte, The Skin
Italy out of Italy: A History of Italian Migrations
ITAL UA 861: Topics in Italian-American Culture
Tuesdays & Thursdays/3:30 - 4:45 p.m.
Italians have been familiar with mobility since antiquity.. Taking a long-term approach, this course aims to address one of the most remarkable historical phenomena of Italian history, namely the emigration abroad of millions of Italians from the 19th- to the 21st-century. Students will analyze in what ways Italy has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures and how, a few decades after the unification of 1861, migrations deeply impacted and affected the lives and identities of Italians. Finally, we will discuss how in recent decades Italy has shifted from being a nation of emigration to one of immigration in the enlarged political context of the European Union. Students will be exposed to interpretative concepts of migration studies, along with the main social, political and economic features of Italian migrations (including anti-Italian bias, or migrant communities’ relations with Italy).
Senior Honors Seminar
ITAL UA 999
This collective, interdepartmental course lends practical, methodological, and strategic support to the writing of the Senior Honors Thesis. We read theoretical works on the process of research and the craft of academic writing, as well as short scholarly texts, upon which we will exercise our own critical readings and analyses. Writing forms the primary thrust of the course: thinking about writing, strategizing about writing, talking about writing, writing in its own right. Most importantly, students engage in regular peer review and critique workshops, presenting and exchanging work with each other at various times throughout the semester. In coordination with your thesis adviser and Prof. Merjian, you will develop the theoretical and practical basis for your research project. By the course’s end, you will have produced a significant, initial portion of your thesis, and have generated momentum for the spring term and thesis completion.