Graduate Courses, Fall 2003

Italian 535
Petrarch: The Poetics and Politics of the Modern Lyric Self

Prof. Brownlee
W 2:00-4:00

The course will explore the development of a new authorial subject over the course of the trecento, in the works and the life of Petrarch. Our principal focus will be a reading of the Canzionere (the Rime Sparse) with special attention to "confessional" and "conversionary" first-person narrative modes, to the divided first-person subject, and to the poetics of the lyric collection. The Petrarchan self in history and politics will be studied in his "Coronation Oration" (at the occasion of his being crowned poet laureate at Rome in 1341), and in his hortatory letters to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. Issues of Petrarch's epic (and in part political) voice will feature in our reading of selections from Africa, which will also explore his use of genealogical tropes of authority. The Secretum will reveal the full religious dimension of the divided Petrarchan self, in a dialogic context in which his deeply problematic relationship to Dante as privileged precursor plays an important role. In the Trionfi we will explore the poetics of erudition in a first-person mode that attempts a new kind of vernacular poetic practice with a different relation to the Dantean model.

Taught in English and cross-listed as Comp. Lit. 524.

Italian 562
Worldviews in Collision

Prof. Kirkham
T 2:00-4:00

This course will explore the radical conflicts that developed in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries when the authority of the Roman Catholic Church was challenged by the Protestant reformers and the scientific paradigm shift from a geocentric to heliocentric universe. We shall view this intellectual history both through writings of the time and from the retrospective point of view of the 20th century, which displays significant analogies. The second half of the course will focus on art and literature of the Cinquecento and Seicento, the Mannerist and Baroque styles. We shall close by considering utopian responses to such times of social and cultural upheaval. Readings from Machiavelli (Mandragola), Galileo (selections, including Starry Messenger, Letter to the Grand Duchess), Brecht's play Galileo, Sir Thomas More (Response to Luther), John Osborne's play Luther, Marino and the Marinisti, Campanella (City of the Sun), Frank Capra's film Lost Horizon. Course conducted in English with all readings available in translation.

Italian 581
20th Century Italian Poetry: Poetry as Theory

Prof. Cracolici
R 2:00-5:00

Contemporary Italian poetry is enjoying a florid moment, but it seems to be moving in a space without theory. Critics find it increasingly difficult to cast and reduce into coherent discourses the plurality of a poetic production that presents itself as highly differentiated and idiosyncratic. Poets seem to have managed to free themselves from the theoretical framework that used to surround them. The anxiety of belonging to specific literary currents or being read with the support of precise aesthetic definitions seems to have been overcome. This theoretical freedom may partly correlate with the growing subordination of Italian criticism to the publishing market. The past fifteen years have seen critics becoming more and more involved with the interests of the most prominent Italian publishing houses, and overtly concerned with the question of promoting narrative to the detriment of poetry. Poetry has become more and more marginalized, but also less and less implicated with current editorial strategies and with the theoretical preoccupations of its intellectual supporters. Paradoxically enough, the limbo in which poetry has been confined is now providing a new space for a reassessment of the role and function of poetic discourse in contemporary society.

It is probably early to claim that poetry is becoming theory, but certainly the new generation of Italian poets, as differentiated as it may appear, is consciously shaping a new kind of criticism, whose targets and ambitions tend to be extremely variegated and interdisciplinary--from the reconsideration of intimate relations to the lures and threats of genetic manipulation, from the acknowledgment of a highly contaminated Self to the impracticability of a global political engagement, from the banalities of commercial songwriting to the rediscovery of highly sophisticated metrical forms. The course will explore the process outlined here by focusing primarily on Italian poetic production within the last thirty years. Course readings and discussion in Italian.