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IT9: Text and Image

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

Visual and textual art in Italy have always fed one another in productive and challenging ways, and this course offers an opportunity to study visual culture as embedded in textual traditions across a broad range of periods and mediums in Italy. Topics taught each year will vary but each topic will emphasise theoretical approaches to the study of visual culture and the interaction between word and image. You will be encouraged to develop your own particular research interests for your written work in consultation with your supervisor.

Four to five main topics will be taught in any one year, and may change from year to year in order to ensure variety.


For information only, the topics for 2021-22 will be as follows:

1. Duccio’s Maestà and Popular Piety

This topic examines Duccio’s Maestà, painted for the cathedral in Siena and a landmark of European art, and the Meditations on the Life of Christ, the most popular devotional text of the later Middle Ages. New research suggests that the original version of this text may have been written by a woman, a possibility that raises important questions concerning European cultural and literary history. We will investigate the types of engagement that image and text invite of their audiences; depictions of space, narrative, and human emotion; and ask how image and text can productively be brought into dialogue.

2. Text and image for devotion, medicine and magic in the Renaissance [N.B. This topic is cross-listed with paper IT8]

This topic examines the ways in which simple texts and images, both printed and manuscript, were deployed for a range of ‘talismanic’ purposes by Renaissance readers and viewers. Texts and images were worn, eaten, applied to the body, buried, recited, gifted and stolen. We will seek to recapture the potency attached by ordinary people to these kinds of works, the reasons for it, as well as looking at individual examples of talismanic text and image and seeking to ‘read’ these works as scholars of word and image.

3. Bruno Munari

4. Pasolini Between Text, Image and Film

Exact topics with reading lists will be confirmed in due course.


Topics previously covered:


Illustrating Dante

Bruno Munari

Representing the Author in the Renaissance: Verbal and Visual Portraits and Self-Portraits

Pasolini Between Text, Image and Film


Preparatory reading: 

Further details for IT9 and a Reading List can be found on the Moodle site here

Teaching and learning: 

The course will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and supervisions. Students will be strongly encouraged to attend all lectures in order to gain a broad insight into the broad range of the paper.

For the It.9 Moodle site, please see here


The paper will be assessed by three-hour examination or by Optional Dissertation. In the examination, there will be a choice of essay questions relating to each topic in that year's list. Candidates will be required to answer three questions, one on each of three topics. There will be no sections on the paper, and no obligation to answer any particular combination of questions, as long as the same material is not used in more than one question.

Past papers and the specimen paper are available on Moodle.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Pierpaolo Antonello
Prof Abigail Brundin