BA Politics and Italian / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Italian Cultural Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code ITAL10300
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit is designed to provide an introduction to the culture and society of contemporary Italy in the post-war period, with the particular aim of identifying and challenging traditional stereotypes. In Semester 1 the course identifies the major political, economic, and social changes which have affected Italy since the Second World War. In Semester 2 we begin to consider how we make sense of the process of Italian cultural production in multiple media and across multiple centuries, from the medieval and Renaissance period to the modern era, directing our attention towards the study and interpretation of different kinds texts (poetic, narrative, and filmic) created in this cultural context.


Available on which programme(s)? 

Italian Studies Single Hons; Italian Joint Hons (both MFL and Joints); Post A- Level Flexible Hons 


The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:

  • To develop knowledge and understanding of post-war Italian culture and society, along with modern and premodern cultural production.
  • To develop critical thinking and higher order conceptual reasoning and analytical skills
  • To equip students with working definition for key concepts in the Italian context: ‘nation’, ‘ideology’, ‘multiculturalism’, ‘canon’, etc.
  • To enable to students to analyse and interrogate a variety of forms of cultural production.



Semester 1 

Lecture Seminar
‘Imagined Italies’: What is Italy?  Each student should bring to class one or two examples of ‘imagined Italies’, i.e. any kind of representation of the nation (e.g.: newspapers articles, touristic advertisement, material taken from television, films, series etc.) the student find significant to discuss the particular narrative(s) surrounding the country. Proposed case studies will be examined and compared during the seminar. 
The Post-war settlement: Italy and the Cold War   
Terrorism and the ‘anni di piombo’  John Foot, “The Strategy of Tension and Terrorism”, in Italy’s Divided Memory, pp. 183-203 
Mani Pulite and the Difficult Birth of the Second Republic   
Silvio Berlusconi: the Italian 1990s  Screening: Bill Emmott’s Girlfriend in a Coma (2012) and seminar discussion 
The Mafia and Organised Crime   
Gender Relations in Italy  Derek Duncan “‘Is It Because I’m a Wop?’: Queer Diaspora and Postcolonial Italy”, in New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies 
The Catholic Church and Liberal State   
Migration and subcultures  Alessandro Dal Lago (Translated by Marie Orton) “Italy’s Unmentionable Racism: Reflections on the Image of Foreigners in Italian Culture”, in New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies 
Popular Culture, Cinema and National Identity   

Semester 2 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Apply their analytical skills to render Italian texts, films, and other forms of cultural representation meaningful
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of some of the major aspects of national and cultural identity in Italy in the modern period.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Engage in independent reflection and enquiry.
  • Engage in the discussion and critical evaluation of Italian cultural production
  • Use empirical evidence to support synthetic conclusions and interpretations
  • Analyse a body of data and provide a synthesis of the most relevant findings.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Use library, electronic, and on-line research resources
  • Follow correct citation procedure for the professional presentation of academic writing
  • Build argumentative frameworks for the analysis of cultural artefacts
  • Carry out individual research and select material judiciously

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Engage in independent reflection and enquiry.
  • Write a report on a piece of original research.
  • Engage in group discussion (both in the class and online).
  • Work as part of a team.


Employability skills

The course will have particular benefits for any student interested in pursuing a career in teaching and learning, diversity and identity management. The course enhances skills of analysis, synthesis, oral presentation, and written reporting. The course content also encourages students to reflect upon the world outside the University, thereby providing confidence in the use of academic research in a variety of non-academic environments.

Assessment methods

Lecture Seminar
Mimesis, imitation and meaning making + Essay feedback    Medieval Lab (in computer cluster): Textual forms 

Medieval 1: 

Beginnings. Dante + Boccaccio 


Medieval 2: 

Dante’s Divina Commedia 

Medieval seminar 

Textual structures 

Medieval 3: 

Boccaccio’s Decameron 


Renaissance 1 

What is a/the Renaissance?

Renaissance seminar 1 

The fiction of history: reading critically

Renaissance 2 

Representing ‘Renaissance Man’ (and Renaissance woman?) 

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 

Weighting within unit (if summative) 

Semester 1 Literature review and referencing exercise  

To be submitted Thursday Week 5 



Semester 1 Commentary 

To be submitted by Thursday Week 11 



Semester 2 Fictional Forms essay  

To be submitted Thursday Week 12 (semester 2) 




Resit Assessment

Assessment task  


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Collective feedback in class for both formative and summative work

Formative and Summative

Individual written feedback in Bb9

Formative and Summative

Additional one-to-one feedback available (during consultation hours or by appointment).

Formative and Summative


Recommended reading

- New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies, ed. by Graziella Parati (Madison – Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2012) 

- John Foot, Italy’s Divided Memory (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Online access via Library ebook portal.  

- Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics 1943-1988 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1990).  

Further reading is recommended in CU Booklet (in Bb9) and in Reading Lists Online in which digital content is embedded and seminar readings available. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Francesca Billiani Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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