This course aims at exposing the students to the rich history and culture of the Italian peninsula, in order to better understand its language and idiosyncratic characteristics. During the course of three weeks, the students will be introduced to essential topics of Italian history which contributed to shape Italian cultural identity.
While the lectures and readings will follow a mostly chronological order, the historical facts will always be brought into the modern world and discussed in context. The course will feature both asynchronous work and synchronous meetings (twice a week). During the synchronous meetings, the instructor will set up a discussion topic, which will be explored by the students in breakout room, before joining the class again and sharing their insights and opinions. Depending on the class’ enrollment, it will be possible to have two available times for the synchronous meetings.
The course will explore several topics connected with Italian history and culture, however, they will always be used as thinking tools to analyze current socio-political realities and discussions in modern culture and media (such as the effects of slavery, “cancel culture”, feminism etc.). The students will be required to watch the pre-recorded video lectures, do the assigned readings, come prepared to the synchronous discussion sections, actively participate in the discussion and write three short, one-page essays.
- Introduction. Asynchronous work (recorded video lectures and assigned readings): Where do Italians come from? A brief history of the Roman Empire.
- Synchronous meeting: discussion session. The Roman and American Empires: why are they similar? How are they different?
- Asynchronous work (recorded video lectures and assigned readings): The Peak and Fall of the Roman Empire
- Synchronous meeting: discussion session. Barbaric invasions or German migrations?
- Asynchronous work (opinion essay): Write a one-page essay describing your position regarding one of the two topics discussed in class this week: 1) expose the similarities and difference between American and Roman empires and if it changed during the discussion session; 2) how does prospective change how we tell history? Can history be told without taking sides?
- Asynchronous work (recorded video lectures and assigned readings): Slavery in the ancient world and feudal serfdom.
- Synchronous meeting: discussion session. Slavery in the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe and the American South? Is it possible to compare them? Why yes or why not? Slavery systems and their impact on the modern world.
- Asynchronous work (recorded video lectures and assigned readings): The Renaissance, its classical models and modern influence.
- Synchronous meeting: discussion session. What is the American Renaissance and why is it named after the Italian Renaissance? What key features did they share? Discuss other “Renaissances” around the world.
- Asynchronous work (opinion essay). Write a one-page essay responding to the controversial modern statue “Medusa with the Head of Perseus” by Italian artist Luciano Garbati (a flipped remake of the Renaissance statue “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Benvenuto Cellini) and how it has been appropriated, with or without reason, by the feminist movement.
- Asynchronous work (recorded video lectures and assigned readings): L’Unità d’Italia: Italy becomes a State (1861) and the invention of the Italian language.
- Synchronous meeting: discussion session. What is the role of language in developing national unity?
- Asynchronous work: Italy and World War I, the Ventennio Fascista (the 20 years of fascism) and World War II.
- Synchronous meeting: discussion session. What should happen to fascist monuments in Italy? Analyzing the case study of the so-called Square Colosseum.
- Asynchronous work (opinion essay). Write a one-page essay on a topic of your choice among those discussed, introduced or read about during the duration of the course.
The students will learn about Italian culture and history, but they will also learn how to analyze a different society from their own and to use it as an access key to look at their own society in a different way. They will also learn to present their arguments in a cogent and concise way, to confront themselves on difficult themes with their classmates and learn valuable communication skills for college and beyond.