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Smith Center Courses

Contemporary Italian History

This course will focus on retracing the main events and issues in Italian history from Italian Unification to the Second Republic. In addition to covering important political events, the course will examine the more significant long-term transformations in Italian society between the 19th and 20th centuries.

The first part of the course focuses on the events, limitations and contradictions that led to the formation of a Unitarian state. Particular attention will be given to political evolution between World Wars I and II and to the events leading to the rise and fall of Fascism. The second part of the course will analyse important institutions and figures of the Italian Republic, with a particular focus on the great socio-economic changes that characterized the period following World War II.

Art History: Introduction to the Late Renaissance and Mannerism

This course will begin in the period of Lorenzo Il Magnifico and will focus extensively on the major figures of the 16th century: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. Tracing the lives and works of the aforementioned artists, students will focus on the gradual shift of the artistic and cultural epicentre from Florence to Rome during the first decades of the 16th century. The analysis of Florence's artistic culture will include Fra' Bartolomeo and Andrea del Sarto's classicism, as well as Jacopo Pontormo and del Rosso's "anti-classical experimentalism." Moreover, there will be a particular focus on the works of Michelangelo's Florentine period between 1515 and 1534, and those of his final Roman period.

The course will end with a series of comments on the concept of Mannerism and with a short overview of the art of the courts in Florence up to the deaths of Giorgio Vasari and his famous patron, Cosimo I de' Medici, in 1574.

Art History: Late Renaissance to Contemporary

No description available.

History of Italian Cinema

This course will provide students with a general overview of Italian cinema's main genres and themes, while also providing a socio-cultural analysis of Italy through its films. The course will start with the period of the "Telefoni bianchi" (1930s and early 1940s), followed by an introduction to cinematographic Neorealism (De Santis, De Sica, Rossellini and Visconti). The "realist" period of the 1950s and 60s, also known as the economic miracle, will be explored through Visconti's melodrama (Senso), Rossellini's "metaphysical" cinema (Viaggio in Italia), Federico Fellini's masterpiece (La Dolce Vita), and Pasolini's poetic cinema.

The second part of the course will be dedicated to films of the "metaphoric" period, from Antonioni's Blow-Up and films by Bertolucci, Scola and the Taviani brothers, to the mixture of genres and styles found in Giuseppe Tornatore's Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988) and Roberto Benigni's La Vita è Bella (1998).

The course will conclude with an example of the new Commedia all'italiana (L'ultimo bacio, 2000).

Italian Poetry: Sounds and Themes

This course proposes the reading and analysis of Italian poetry to provide students with some essential aspects of Italian poetry and help them understand how poetic texts have changed over time, from their origins until today. To this end, the course will begin with the most important poems of antiquity and end with some examples of 20th century Italian poetry, which students will be able to examine more extensively by making comparisons with the poetic tradition.

The main objective of the course is to become familiar with, appreciate, and enjoy poetry first by reading and listening, and then by developing a greater awareness of phonological, metrical, rhetorical and semantic conventions. Obviously, aspects of the poets' biographical and historical-cultural background will be included in the course. The lessons will sometimes be in lecture format, but more often, especially during text analysis, the focus will be on student response and reflection. Active participation (especially during the poetry "lab," an integral part of the course) will be necessary in order to achieve the objectives of the course. The syllabus will include written texts and also, where possible, audio-visual materials.

History of Florence: From the Municipality to the Principality of Florence (14th to 16th century)

This course seeks to provide a general overview of Florence's "golden era" in terms of its relationship to Italy's wider historical scene. There will be a particular focus on the period between the mid-14th century and the late 16th century, the period in which the largest city of Tuscany, aside from its major economic role in Italy and Europe, became the birthplace and heart of Renaissance culture.

The course will not take a textual approach to the topics, but rather will be based on the most recent historiography and on a teaching methodology that includes documental and visual resources. Along with providing the political-institutional context necessary to familiarize students with the language and concepts related to the city-state governments of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, other aspects of historical development will be addressed which will help students to gain a more profound understanding of Florentine society.

The main topics will include the economic ventures that led to Florence's prosperity and made possible the city's supremacy in Western Europe and its extraordinary artistic achievements; the city's urban layout, the evolution of which represented the interaction between the availability of material resources, the political interests of the upper classes, and notions of cultural; the most relevant aspects of life in the Florentine community, from the organization of the family, the basis of social organization, to literacy levels and religious practices in courtly life.

History of Fashion and Costume

The class begins with an introduction to the origins of dress and the different ways in which primitive western people protected their bodies from heat and cold, and goes on to explore both the development of clothing through the centuries as an expression of social conditions and culture, as well as the birth of the concept of fashion.

In studying costume and its changes through the ages, we will examine different perspectives on people, social classes, and political and social changes. In the past, when social divisions were more strictly defined, social rules were clearly reflected through dress, which revealed artistic and political changes, especially in reference to women.

The course will focus on Italian fashion and a series of characteristics that could be considered part of the Italian style, followed by an introduction to the language and system of fashion, and an analysis of contemporary Italian fashion from its birth in 1951 until now. We will study designers such as Pucci, Valentino, Armani, Versace, Ferré, Dolce and Gabbana, as well as labels such as Gucci, Prada and Capucci.

The next part of the syllabus aims at illustrating the importance of Italian fashion in history, in particular during antiquity, the Renaissance and the modernist period. On-site visits to Via Tornabuoni, the fashion hub of Florence, the costume gallery at Pitti Palace, the Ferragamo museum, the textile museum of Prato, and to the Capucci collection at Bardini Villa will illustrate Florence's dominant role in fashion from its origins until today. Additional visits may be added to the syllabus depending on local schedules of fashion events and exhibits.

Survey of Italian Literature II (251F)

This course offers an overview of 17th- to 20th-century Italian literature, with a focus on the major works that contributed to the formation of an Italian cultural identity over the past four centuries. The first lesson will be dedicated to reviewing the concepts already studied in regard to the general features of Italian literature up to the 17th century, while the second lesson will briefly synthesize the centuries which followed, providing a sense of chronology for the texts which we will read.

From the third lesson on, we will study century by century, beginning with the images of masks in the Commedia dell'Arte and the concept of science and the supernatural as two poles of attraction betweeen which the proposed readings move; on the one hand, the famous trial of Galileo Galilei, and on the other one of the most famous fairy tales in the world, Cinderella, in the version by Giambattista Basile.

The 18th century will be presented as a century of autobiography, and we will read the openings of three of the most important Italian autobiographies (Goldoni, Casanova, Alfieri), and then focus on the shift from the Commedia dell'Arte to Goldoni's theatrical reform. As an exemplary work of the Italian Enlightenment, we will read a book that has become famous across Europe, Cesare Beccaria's Dei delitti e delle pene. To understand the estreme modernity and relevance of this work, in the following lesson we will study a widely recognized contemporary Italian writer, Sandro Veronesi, author of Occhio per Occhio, La pena di morte in quattro storie.

The study of the 19th century will begin with a discussion of the terms "classical" and "romantic," and will be followed by an examination of four important examples of 19th-century literature among different literary genres. For the early 19th century, we will study two works: one of the most famous Italian poems ("L'infinito") and the most famous Italian novel (I promessi sposi); for the late 19th century, two popular works of great success: Collodi's Pinocchio and Pellegrino Artusi's L'arte di mangiar bene.

Drawing upon Artusi's famous manual, we will note the move towards the 20th century avant-garde through a very different brand of recipes, those of Marinetti's Cucina Futurista. The poetic characteristics of the new century will be introduced through a comparison of two texts by Pascoli and D'Annunzio, while the features of prose writing will be introduced through a comparison of excerpts from Svevo and Pirandello. Finally, four lessons will be devoted to the oral presentations that each student will present on an 20th-century story, assigned at the beginning of the course. At the end of the course, a trip with the ATAF bus (public transportation of Florence) has been planned to visit the city's most important literary locations: "Literary Movements: 'Literary Florence' and the Writers Who Lived There."