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ITA3: Introduction to Italian 3: Texts and Contexts

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


This course is shared between ab initio students of Italian (Part 1, Option A, Paper ITA3) and Post-A-level students of Italian (Part 1, Option B, Paper IT1)

The course is designed to introduce you to 'texts' of a wide variety of different kinds from the entire tradition of Italian culture and language from the 14th century to the 21st century, as preparation for later courses in the Tripos. It spreads over three broad historical periods - medieval, Renaissance, and modern - and shows you how to embed the study of a text in its many historical and cultural contexts. Genres studied include frescos, narrative poetry, political theory, modern memoir and contemporary film. Each text is of manageable length or quantity and will be supplemented by course handbooks providing detailed contextual material and suggestion for further study. The fifth element is an introduction to Italian linguistics. 



For each of the first four texts Cambridge students will be provided with a course handbook. Handbooks contain contextual material, further reading and suggestions for supervision work:

  • Giotto (early 14th century)
  • Dante Alighieri, Commedia (early 14th century; selected canti only: Inferno 5, 33, Purgatorio 11, Paradiso 33)
  • Fellini, La dolce vita
  • Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, Lontano da Mogadiscio (1994 and later editions)
  • Linguistics. *Course material will be provided in lectures
Preparatory reading: 

Before arriving in Cambridge, you can best prepare for this course by getting to know some or all of the core texts, in translation or in the original. For general background on Italian literature, culture, language and history, see:

  • The Cambridge History of Italian Literature, ed. Peter Brand and Lino Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; 2nd rev. edn 1999)
  • Oxford Short History of Italy, general editor John Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 7 vols, 2000-2004)
  • Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, ed. by David Forgacs and Robert Lumley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Course handbooks will be provided at the start of the term.

Teaching and learning: 

For each of these five topics there will be a short course of 4 lectures over Michaelmas and Lent terms. Lectures will be supplemented by up to 10 supervisions and/or seminars, for which you will be asked to submit short essays or commentaries. There will be revision sessions in Easter term.

Please see here for the ITA3 Moodle site.


This paper will be assessed through a five-hour timed online examination during with students have access to resources. There will be questions on each of the 5 texts / topics, including extracts for commentary. You will be asked to answer three questions on three different topics as follows: 

Answer three questions. For each answer write between 1,200 and 1,300 words.

Candidates may not draw substantially on the same material in more than one question on the same paper.

Course Contacts: 
Prof. Heather Webb