Italy: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

italy-the-real-sick-man-of-europeSpring 2014. Renowned for its rich cultural tradition, Italy is also one of the most problematic nations in Europe. This course explores the contradictions at the heart of Italy, focusing key phenomena, such as art, corruption, migration, and crises of all kinds, all of which contribute both positively and negatively to the complex “spirit” of Italy. Through the study of historical and literary texts, films, and news media, the course seeks to examine Italy’s present and future trajectory by looking to its past as a point of comparison. What does Italy have to offer a globalized and technologized world? How are we to understand and engage with chaotic spectacle of Italian politics? Why is Italy always in crisis?


Discussion Topics:

  • Italian Art, Style, Culture,
  • Politics; Past, Present and Future
  • Crisis

Selected Readings

  • Giovanni Boccaccio, Life of Dante
  • Giorgio Vasari, Life of Michelangelo
  • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Giacomo Leopardi, Selected Writings
  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Selected Writings
  • Leonardo Sciascia, The Moro Affair
  • Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah
  • Paolo Sorrentino, Il divo
  • David Gilmour, The Pursuit of Italy

Teaching Strategies:

In an effort to help students to create their own narrative of the course and to integrate readings, class discussion, and independent research, we ask students to keep a private diary or public blog that follows a specific issue or figure in contemporary Italy for the length of the 10 week quarter. This will require some level of engagement with material beyond the required readings for the course and will encourage independent and individual elaboration of the course themes. The course will then culminate in a performed roundtable panel about contemporary Italy, where each student will represent the issue or individual on which they wrote in their course-log.