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IT5: Italian Identities: Place, Language, and Culture

This paper is available for the academic year 2021-22.

Can we speak of an Italian culture and society (and language) if Italy de facto did not exist before 1861 as a political entity? Can we speak of a single Italian identity in Italy's history or should we rather consider several Italian identities? From the Middle Ages to the end of the nineteenth century Italy was a politically and linguistically fragmented country. To more adequately understand Italy's tradition and culture through the centuries, one must then consider the variety of political and cultural centres that developed across the peninsula: from the 'comuni' and the 'signorie', to the republics, the Renaissance courts, the papal state, the dukedoms and the kingdoms, to the creation of a unified state in 1861, following the Risorgimento process. The aim of this paper is to acknowledge the richness and variety of Italy's local traditions, which often remain undifferentiated under a general umbrella of 'Italian' culture: it will offer students the possibility to gain a more detailed understanding of the country's history, language and culture by focusing on its local identities and texts of various genres that chronologically range from the Middle Ages to the present times. 

For students interested in taking this paper in the Academic year 2021-22, a powerpoint about the course can be found here.

Topics: 

Topic 1 Florence: Boccaccio's Decameron​

Core text: Selections from Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron (students should if possible purchase or otherwise get their hands on an edition with notes by V. Branca).
Boccaccio can be difficult to read in the original Italian. If you're having trouble, try reading an English translation of the story in question first so that you know what to expect and then try reading the story in the original. The Brown University Decameron web site (see below) has a hyperlinked original text plus translation that will allow you to skip back and forth as needed. Inexpensive editions of English translations are also widely available.

  • Read as much of the Decameron as you can. Lectures and exams will focus on the following novelle:
  • Proemio e Introduzione
  • I,1 I,6
  • II,3 II,5 II,10
  • III,1 III,3 III,4 III,7 III,9
  • IV,1 IV,7 IV,8 IV,9
  • V,9
  • VI,1 VI,2 VI,3 VI, 4 VI, 5 VI, 7 VI,8 VI,9 VI, 10
  • VII,6 VII,8
  • VIII,3 VIII,5 VIII,6 VIII,7 VIII,9
  • IX,3 IX,7 IX,8
  • X,6 X,10

Other Resources:

  • http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/index.php (primary sources on the plague in Florence, maps of places referenced in the novelle, bibliography, bilingual hypertext)
  • Boccaccio and Feminist Criticism ed. by Thomas Stillinger and F. Regina Psaki, Annali d’Italianistica, 2006.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Boccaccio ed. by Guyda Armstrong, Rhiannon Daniels, and Stephen J. Milner, 2015
  • Kirkham, Victoria. The sign of reason in Boccaccio's fiction. Florence: L.S. Olschki, 1993.
  • Levenstein, Jessica. "Out of Bounds: Passion and the Plague in Boccaccio's Decameron."Italica Vol. 73, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 313-335 http://www.jstor.org/stable/479828
  • Mazzotta, Giuseppe. The World at Play in Boccaccio's Decameron. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1986.
  • Migiel, Marilyn. A Rhetoric of the Decameron. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.
  • Migiel, Marilyn. The Ethical Dimension of the Decameron. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015
  • Morosini Roberta., ed. Boccaccio Geografo, Firenze: Polistampa, 2010.
  • Ricketts, Jill M. Visualizing Boccaccio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Wallace, David. Boccaccio: Decameron (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)
  • Watson, Paul F. "The Cement of Fiction: Giovanni Boccaccio and the Painters of Florence" MLN Vol. 99, No. 1, Italian Issue (Jan., 1984), pp. 43-64 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2906126
  • The Decameron First Day in Perspective,ed. by Elissa B. Weaver, Toronto, 2004.
  • The Decameron Third Day in Perspective,ed. by Francesco Ciabattoni and Pier Massimo Forni, Toronto, 2014

Supervisors will guide students to other resources according to their interests.

 

Topic 2 Urbino and the essence of courtly life: Castiglione’s Il libro del Cortegiano (1528)

Core Text:

  • Baldassar Castiglione’s Il libro del Cortegiano (1528) any edition

Further Reading:

  • Burckhardt, Jacob, 1860 [but see any edition]. The Civilization of the Renaissance [see the chapter on ‘The greater dynasties’, in particular ‘Federigo da Montelfetro, Duke of Urbino’ and ‘Final brilliance of the court of Urbino’].
  • Burke, Peter, 1999. The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy. Cambridge: Polity Press (1st ed. 1972).
  • Burke, Peter, 1988. ‘Il cortigiano’, in L’uomo del Rinascimento, ed. E. Garin. Bari: Laterza, 133-65 (English version ‘The Courtier’, in E. Garin (ed.), Renaissance Characters. Chicago: Chicago University Press, pp. 98-122.
  • Burke, Peter, 1995. The Fortunes of the Courtier: The European Reception of Castiglione’s Cortegiano. Cambridge: Polity Press (the first chapter is particularly useful for Castiglione’s context and sources).
  • Cian, Vittorio, 1951. Un illustre nunzio pontificio del Rinascimento, Baldassar Castiglione. Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
  • Cox, Virginia, 2000. ‘Seen but not heard: the role of women speakers in Cinquecento literary dialogues’, in Panizza, Letizia, 2000 (ed.). Women in Italian Renaissance Culture and Society. Oxford: Legenda, European Humanities Research Centre, University of Oxford, 385-400.
  • Dionisotti, Carlo, 1967. ‘Chierici e laici’, in Geografia e storia della letteratura italiana. Torino: Einaudi, 47-73.
  • Finucci, Valeria, 1992. The Lady Vanishes: Subjectivity and Representation in Castiglione and Ariosto. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Hanning, Robert W. and Rosand, David, 1983 (eds). Castiglione: The Ideal and the Real in Renaissance Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Ossola, Carlo, 1987. Dal “Cortegiano” all’“Uomo di mondo”: storia di un libro e di un modello sociale. Turin : Einaudi, 1987.
  • Patrizi, Giorgio, 1984. ‘”Il libro del Cortegiano” e la trattatistica sul comportamento’, in Asor Rosa 1982- (ed.), Letteratura italiana. Turin: Einaudi, vol. 3, ‘Le forme del testo’, II ‘La prosa’, 855-90.
  • Saccone, Edoardo, 1992. Le buone e le cattive maniere: letteratura e galateo nel Cinquecento. Bologna: Il Mulino.
  • Sanson, Helena, 2010. ‘Orsù, non più signora, [...] tornate a segno’: Women, Language Games and Debates in Cinquecento Italy’, in Modern Language Review, 105(1), 103-21.
  • Woodhouse, John Robert, 1978. Baldesar Castiglione: A Reassessment of the Courtier. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

 

Topic 3 Milan and the Risorgimento:  Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi (1840)

Core Text:

  • I Promessi Sposi (1840)

Further reading:

  • Chandler, S. Bernard,  Alessandro Manzoni: The Story of a Spiritual Quest (Edinburgh: Edimburgh University Press, 1974).
  • Chandler, S. Bernard, ‘The Author, the Material, and the Reader in I Promessi Sposi’, Annali d’italianistica, 3 (1985), 123-33.
  • Girardi, Enzo Noè, and Spada, Gabriella, Manzoni e il Seicento lombardo (Milano: Vita e pensiero, 1977).
  • Girardi, Enzo Noè, Struttura e personaggi dei “Promessi Sposi” (Milano: Jaca Book, 1994).
  • Ginzburg, Natalia, La famiglia Manzoni (Torino: Dinaudi, 1983).
  • Jones, Verina R. ‘Manzoni’s Dark Ladies’, Romance Studies, 10 (1992), pp. 37-52.
  • Povolo, Claudio, The Novelist and the Archivist: Fiction and History in Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed, translated by Peter Mazur (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
  • Ragusa, Olga, ‘Alessandro Manzoni and Developments in the Historical Novel’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel, edited by Ciccarelli, Andrea, and Bondanella, Peter E. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 42-60.
  • Raimondi, Ezio, Il Romanzo senza idillio. Saggio sui “Promessi Sposi” (Torino: Einaudi, 1974).
  • Raimondi, Ezio, La dissimulazione romanzesca. Antropologia manzoniana  (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1990).
  • Santovetti, Olivia, ‘Far consentire l’animo di chi legge: Manzoni, the Novel and the Issue of Literary Identification. Analysis of the Digression on ‘romanzi d’amore’ in Fermo e Lucia’, The Italianist, 35(2015), pp. 353-368.
  • Tellini, Gino, Manzoni: la storia e il romanzo (Roma: Salerno, 1979).
  • Valisa, Silvia, in Gender, Narrative, and Dissonance in the Modern Italian Novel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), especially pp. 28-55.

 

Topic 4 Italo Svevo and Trieste

Primary Text:

  • La coscienza di Zeno (1923)

Secondary reading:

  • Elizabeth Schächter, Origin and Identity: Essays on Svevo and Trieste (Northern UP, 2000) 
  • Enrico Ghidetti, Italo Svevo. La coscienza di un borghese triestino (Editori Riuniti 1982)
  • Moloney, B. Italo Svevo: a critical introduction. Edinburgh, 1974.
  • Nanni, L., ed. Leggere Svevo: antologia della critica sveviana. Bologna, 1974.
  • Bon, A. Come leggere La coscienza di Zeno di Italo Svevo. Milano, 1977.
  • Lavagetto, Mario. L’impiegato Schmitz: e altri saggi su Svevo. Torino : Einaudi, 1986.
  • Katia Pizzi, A City in Search of an Author: The Literary Identity of Trieste
  • C.C. Russell, 'Italo Svevo's Trieste'
  • Esman, A. 'Italo Svevo and the first Psychoanalytic Novel' International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 82:1225-1233
  • M B. Moloney, 'Psychonalysis and Irony in La coscienza di Zeno'
  • G. MInghelli, 'In the Shadow of the Mammoth: Narratives of Symbiosis in La Coscienza di Zeno' .pdf
  • G.P. Biasin, 'Literary Diseases'
  • E. Saccone, 'Svevo, Zeno e la Psicanalisi'
  • A. Bonadeo, 'Ideale e reale nella Coscienza di Zeno'
Preparatory reading: 

The preparatory reading for this paper is the primary texts listed above. In addition, students may wish to consult the following preliminary readings on Italian history, identity, regionalism, polycentrism, language:

  • Asor Rosa, A., 1989. 'Centralismo e policentrismo nella letteratura italiana unitaria', in Id. (ed.), Letteratura italiana. Storia e geografia, vol. III, L'età contemporanea. Turin: Einaudi, pp.5-74.
  • Coletti, V., 1993. Storia dell'italiano letterario: dalle origini al Novecento. Turin: Einaudi.
  • Dionisotti, C., 1967. Geografia e storia della letteratura italiana. Turin: Einaudi, pp.1-54, 89-124.
  • Duggan, C., 1994. 'The geographical determinants of disunity' in Id., A Concise History of Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Levy, C. (ed.), 1996. Italian Regionalism: History, Identity and Politics. Oxford: Berg.
  • Raimondi, E., 1998. Letteratura e identità nazionale. Milan: Bruno Mondadori.
Teaching and learning: 

There will be 6 discussion seminars, to which students will be expected to contribute, interspersed between a series of 12 lectures - 3 on each of the four topics:

Michaelmas Term:

Two introductory seminars;
three lectures and one seminar on Topic 1;
three lectures and one seminar on Topic 2

Lent Term:

Three lectures and one seminar on Topic 3; three lectures and one seminar on Topic 4

These lectures/seminars will be supplemented by 8 supervisions, organised and run by members of the department.

For the It.5 Moodle site, please see here

Assessment: 

One three-hour examination will be set. You will be required to answer three questions.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Alessia Ronchetti
Professor Helena Sanson