Graduate Courses, Fall 2001

Ital 530
Duecento Poetry & Prose

K. Brownlee
W 2-4

The course will explore new departures in lyric and narrative in the duecento and early trecento, focusing on problems of authority, language, and the first-person subject. A related concern will be the self-conscious development of an authoritative Italian tradition, and the various ways in which this cultural enterprise relentlessly (and productively) problematized itself. In this context, we will explore the dynamic of "experimental" canon formation. Texts will include Brunetto Latini's Tesoretto, Durante's Il Fiore, Dante's Vita Nuova, Marco Polo's Milione, and Dante's Convivio. Selections from Il Novellino will also be considered.

Taught in English.

Ital 531
Divina Commedia

T 2-4

The Divine Comedy will be read, and class discussions will focus on selected cantos of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso with emphasis on Dante's poetic art, his medieval cultural world, and the history of the poem in the visual arts. Our discussions will address Dante's allegory, symbolism, and numerology; his stylistic range, innovative metrics, and lexicon; his classical and Christian models (Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Bible); the poetic theory that he had inherited and his own statements on that subject. Illustrations of the poem, from early manuscripts to modern examples (e.g., Botticelli, evolving diagrams of Hell, Romantic depictions of the great sinners), will be presented to trace its reception history.

Requirements: Reading knowledge of Italian desirable but not necessary (class will be conducted in English, and we shall use an edition of the text with facing translation). Each student will make one brief (10-min.) oral presentation of a canto during the semester and a final oral report at the end (20 mins.), to be developed as a term paper (15-20 pp.). Topics for the final report and essay may include other works by Dante, comparisons with another author in another literature (for example, a later writer influenced by Dante), Dante in the visual arts, etc. Students may, by request, opt for a take-home final instead of the exam. In addition, by mid-semester each student will write a book review on a title of personal choice, to be taken from the class bibliography (500-600 words). Open to undergraduates by permission.

Holocaust in Italian Literature & Film

T 4:30-7
R 4:30-6:30

Though Italy's Jewish population had the highest rate of survival of any Nazi-occupied country, the Holocaust has continued to haunt the Italian literary and cinematic imagination in ways that warrant close critical scrutiny. The aesthetic and moral problem of how to represent this event in art gains special urgency in the Italian context, where a realist tradition dating back to Dante and Giotto joins forces with a postwar neorealist impulse to create a series of compelling literary and cinematic works. In keeping with the Holocaust's invitation to interdisciplinary study, the course will examine the intersection of a number of discourses--historical, literary, cinematic--viewed from a variety of perspectives--feminist, generic, philosophical, theological, and historiographic. Since a good portion of the authors will be women, the question of the "voice femminile" and its creation of an alternative, or anti-history, will also be raised. The purpose of the course will be three-fold:

1) to examine what the specificity of Italian cultural traditions brings to bear on our understanding of Holocaust history

2) to examine what effect, in turn, the Holocaust, as privileged object of representation, has on the literary and cinematic means of expression

3) to continue, through this study, the authors' and filmmakers' own commitment to bear witness to what Primo Levi called "the central fact" of our times


Susan Zuccotti, The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, Survival

Primo Levi, Survival at Auschwitz

The Truce

The Periodic Table

Natalia Ginsburg, Family Lexicon

Elsa Morante, History, A Novel

Giorgio Bassani, Garden of the Finzi-Contini

Liana Millu, Smoke Over Birkenau


Vittorio De Sica, Garden of the Finzi-Contini

Francesco Rosi, The Truce

Lina Wertmuller, Seven Beauties

Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

Gilles Pontecorvo, Kapo

Since the course will be conducted as a seminar, a great deal of emphasis will be placed on active class participation. Attendance at the Tuesday screenings is required.