BA Latin and Italian

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Political and Cultural History of Italy

Course unit fact file
Unit code ITAL30342
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit examines the cultural and political history of Italy throughout the 20th Century, drawing on relevant historiography and on selected works by artists and filmmakers, such as Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Paolo Sorrentino, Gianfranco Rosi, Banksy, Blu, Broken Fingaz Crew. Specifically, the course will offer a comprehensive overview of key moments of Italian history from the fascist period to the present day, while also establishing connections with the global dimension of phenomena such as populism, migration and the crisis of democracy. The analytical focus of the course will be on key moments in the development of Italian history and on how different forms of storytelling (namely, cinema and public art) respond to a social, political and cultural transformation. At the end of the course, students will have gained substantial knowledge of the 20th-century Italian history as well as of that of its visual and political representatives.


This course aims to provide students with:

  • a detailed knowledge of major work by key Italian artists of the twentieth century;
  • an insight into the latest developments of filmmaking and visual culture;
  • an awareness of some of the recent political, critical, artistic and cultural debates in relation to the selected texts;
  • an ability to analyse texts belonging to different media in great detail;
  • an awareness of the political, social and cultural landscape of 20th century Italy
  • an insight into 20th century Italian history;
  • a broad knowledge about Italian cultures in the 20th century;
  • an overview of 20th-century European cultural trends.

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • discuss various moments of Italian history of the 20th century
  • discuss the relationship between arts and politics across different moments of Italian history of the 20th century;
  • show a mature understanding of the relationship between ideology, politics, history and the arts in Italy;
  • acquire a sound knowledge of Italian history and historiography;
  • acquire a sound knowledge of Italian cinematic and artistic production of the 20th century;
  • analyse critically and originally primary sources, engage in an active dialogue with secondary sources, employ theory and historiography to read texts;
  • defend their ideas and an original argument in written tasks and digital presentations.


Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • analyse the selected texts in detail;
  • use different analytical and digital languages;
  • move across diverse analytical frameworks;
  • understand 20th-century Italian history;
  • demonstrate a critical awareness of historiography, visual and film theory.

Intellectual skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • an ability to carry out independent research;
  • recognise the importance of social and historical contexts in the study of literature, cinema, and the visual/plastic arts.
  • an ability to deal with abstract ideas;
  • an ability to engage with different type of texts;
  • an ability to use different analytical languages;
  • a solid historical knowledge of 20th-century Italy;
  • a critical awareness of the relationship between the arts and society.

Practical skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • the ability to communicate ideas and sustain an argument, using relevant critical material, in discussion, essays, and seminars;
  • an ability to present complex ideas in clear form;
  • an ability to sustain public debate;
  • an ability to work in a team.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • An ability to work towards deadlines
  • An ability to communicate and discuss ideas in public fora
  • An ability to write complex arguments
  • An ability to critically assess conceptual problems.

Employability skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to: - Initiate and carry out projects; - Manage a project independently and work in a team; - Manage time and meet deadlines; - Deal with personal responsibility and autonomous planning; - Demonstrate good presentation, writing, and language skills; - Demonstrate power of analysis dealing with a variety of media.

Assessment methods

Essay 60%


Group online exhibition 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on group online exhibtion



Written feedback on essays 


Written feedback on essays will be available within two weeks of the submission date.

Global feedback on commentary and essay will be posted on Blackboard.



Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Formative or Summative


Recommended reading

Primary Texts

  1. Roberto Rossellini, Roma città aperta (1945)
  2. Luchino Visconti, Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960)
  3. Gianfranco Rosi, Fuocoammare (2016)
  4. Paolo Sorrentino, Loro (2018)
  5. Pietro Marcello, Martin Eden (2019)
  6. A selection of images of Public art (2000-present)

Basic Bibliography

  1. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Stephanie Malia Hom, Italian Mobilities. Routledge, 2016.
  2. Peter Bondanella, A History of Italian Cinema. London: Continuum, 2009.
  3. Alessandro, D’Arma, Media and Politics in Contemporary Italy: From Berlusconi to Grillo. Lexington Books, 2015
  4. Christopher Duggan, A Concise History of Italy. Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  5. Roger Eatwell, Matthew Goodwin, National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. Pelican, 2018.
  6. Donna Gabaccia, Italy’s Many Diasporas. Routledge, 2003.
  7. Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics: 1943-1980. Penguin History, 1990.
  8. Paul Ginsborg, Silvio Berlusconi: Television,Power and Patrimony. Verso, 2005.
  9. Stephen Gundle, Between Moscow and Hollywood: The Italian Communists and the Challenge of Mass Culture, 1943–1991. Duke University Press, 2000.
  10. Cher Krause Knight, Harriet F. Senie (eds), A Companion to Public Art (Blackwell, 2016)
  11. Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo (eds), Oxford Handbook of Populism. Oxford University Press, 2017.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Francesca Billiani Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Following successful completion of the first part of this course, it is strongly recommended that students continue working on their independent essay writing and gather information for the final group presentation.

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