IT 099 Italian Studies

Credits: 3

Prerequisites: None

Site visits fees: € 35,00

Course Description

The course is a study of the characteristics of Italian contemporary culture, through the Italian Cinema, the contemporary narrative, the language and the food.

It will begin with the viewing of emblematic films, once a week out of class times, through the whole course.

The first four weeks the course will introduce the students to the basic structures of the Italian language necessary to operate in practical daily life situations, but also to understand how a language is related to a culture. The students will learn how to ask and answer simple questions, describe their daily routine (past and present), their likes and dislikes, people and places, begin to use the grammatical structures and vocabulary that they will be acquiring in class.

Then for three weeks the course will concentrate on the history of Italian cinema, and will touch several topics pertaining to historical, social and economic developments of contemporary Italy, such as fascism, the power and influence of the Catholic Church, attitudes towards women, political instability, rural poverty, the uneasy relationship between north and south, organized crime and the mafia, mass media and communication.

The course also explores popular culture in Italy, starting from the Italian historical awareness of popular culture, which emerged in the 19th century foundation of the nation, up to the present day. So the next three weeks a path through Italian contemporary narrative arts will be followed, starting from the most popular of the Italian tales, Pinocchio (1883) by Collodi, to arrive at Calvino, who distils from the vocal transmission a powerful basis of his poetics as rewriter and theorist of fables, collected in the Fiabe Italiane (1956). Passing through the folktales, he also leads us into the combining strategy of Le città invisibili (1972), a book where the listening attitude becomes a game of finite but potentially infinite number of stories. Le città invisibili can also be a specific study for architecture students to understand that cities are not only a collection of buildings and streets but also the product of how people use the buildings and move through the streets, or sit in the piazzas. Rather than focusing on the shape of the city, the book through poetry looks at the relationship between a city’s shape and the way people live in it. Students can learn how cities are both shaped by and products of a range of social processes by exploring everyday life. This book challenges students to compare what they consider an average city in the United States with other cities in the world, to see how social and political choices shape the urban culture.

The course carries up to contemporary times with an exploration of the impact global trends have had on popular culture making particular reference to contemporary texts (including newspaper articles and television programs). Through a series of readings and exercises, the course also examines how transportation, housing, education and food systems (things normally taken for granted) affect how we live. The last weeks topics on gastronomy and culinary tradition that reflect various aspects of modern Italy will provide the basis for class discussions also highlighting the importance of food in every culture.

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