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IT6: Topics in Modern Italian Culture

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.

This paper allows you to study a wide range of different texts and topics from within Italian culture of the modern era, broadly stretching from the unification of Italy to the present day. It focuses on texts of different kinds (novels, poetry, drama, short stories), works in different media (written texts, film, visual arts), and different modes of cultural enquiry (literary criticism and theory, intellectual and cultural history, cultural sociology and philosophy), to give you a rich sense of the variety and complexity of modern Italian culture and history. There are no compulsory texts or topics: you will select four or five of the topics on offer in any one year and study each in a combination of lectures / seminars and supervision.



Topics for 2023-24 are as follows:

  •  Topic 1: Italian Science Fiction and the Post-human
  •  Topic 2: Rome in Italian Cinema
  • [Topic 3: Words-in-freedom (cross-listed with IT9)]
  •  Topic 4: The Secular and the Sacred
  •  Topic 5: Fascism and Culture
  • [Topic 6: Pasolini Between Text, Image and Art  (cross-listed with IT9)]


Topic 1:  Italian Science Fiction and the Post-human

In spite of the critical hostility and marginalization that SF has suffered for years, a number of important Italian authors have experimented with the genre in original and unconventional ways. This topic aims at discussing some of these texts through a broad historical, theoretical and critical lens.

See Moodle for reading and viewing list.


Topic 2: Rome in Italian Cinema

This topic will examine some of the most important films in Italian cinema from the perspective of the representation of the city of Rome, as the site of cinema, of modernity and migration, of socio-political protest, of Italian national identity or simply as autobiography. Films studied will include: R. Rossellini, Roma città aperta (1945); V. De Sica, Ladri di biciclette (1948); Steno, Un americano a Roma (1954); F. Fellini, La dolce vita (1960), Roma (1970); P. P. Pasolini, Accattone (1961), Mamma Roma (1962); M. Antonioni, L’eclisse (1963); N. Moretti, Caro diario (1993); G. Rosi, Sacro GRA (2013)

See Moodle for reading and viewing list.


Topic 3: Words-in-freedom (cross-listed with IT9)

For further details, see IT9 webpage and Moodle


Topic 4: The Secular and the Sacred

This topic explores the representative modalities through which some prominent post WWII Italian directors explored the symbolism and the deep seated cultural and political roots of Italian Catholicism in a period of rapid modernization and wide-spread secularization, as well the lure of religion and the sacred in the so-called post-secular society.

See Moodle for reading list.


Topic 5: Fascism and Culture

This topic will examine the web of relations between the Fascist regime in Italy, through its two decades and more of rule in Italy (1922-1943/5), and the fields of culture, from literature, cinema, theatre and art to the ‘public’ culture of architecture and the institutions of cultural promotion and control. Study will include Fascist culture in mainland Italy and Italian colonial and occupied territories. Emphasis will be on the two-way traffic between state and culture (and individual artists), rather than on simplistic models of state control. We will work through a combination of study of historical material and of cultural texts and artefacts.

See Moodle for reading list.


Topic 6: Pasolini Between Text, Image and Art  (cross-listed with IT9)

For further details, see IT9 webpage and Moodle 


Preparatory reading: 

In addition to familiarising yourself with the primary texts for each topic you are interested in, you should consult the following for general background:

  • P. Bondanella, ed., The Italian Cinema Book (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
  • C. Burdett and L. Polezzi, eds, Transnational Italian Studies (Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2020)
  • C. Duggan, A Concise History of Italy, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014)
  • D. Forgacs and R. Lumley, eds, Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996)
  • P. Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943–1988 (London: Penguin, 1990)
  • R. Gordon, Introduction to 20th-Century Italian Literature. A Difficult Modernity (London: Duckworth, 2005)
  • P. Hainsworth and D. Robey, eds, Oxford Companion to Italian Literature (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002)
  • C. Lombardi-Diop and C. Romeo, eds, Postcolonial Italy: Challenging National Homogeneity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
  • S. Patriarca, Italian Vices: Nation and Character from the Risorgimento to the Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010)
Teaching and learning: 

Each topic will be taught in a series of 4 lectures / seminars and 2 supervisions during MT and LT. You are expected to study at least four topics. There will be revision teaching in ET.

For the It.6 Moodle site, please see here



The paper will be assessed either by Examination or by Optional Dissertation.


For the first  time in 2023/24, the examination for Part II scheduled papers such as IT6 will be a combination of two elements: 

-   a coursework essay, to be written between the end of Lent Term and the start of Easter term;

- a 3-hour timed online examination during which students have access to resources, during which you be required either to write two essays on two different topics or (for certain specified questions only) to write one longer essay.

Past exam papers will give a good indication of the kind of essay questions asked, but note that the format and rubric described here is different from previous years.


  Optional Dissertation

You will be required to submit a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic within the scope of IT6 based on your own research and reading. Candidates who are considering taking the exam by Optional Dissertation are invited to contact the Course Convenor at the start of MT to discuss your topic and supervisions arrangements. Please note that topics of ODs are not restricted to the topics taught on IT6.


Course Contacts: 
Professor Robert Gordon
Professor Pierpaolo Antonello