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Unit information: Medieval and Renaissance Italy in 2016/17

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Unit name Medieval and Renaissance Italy
Unit code ITAL10030
Credit points 10
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kay
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to provide students with a broad historical overview of thirteenth- to sixteenth-century Italy, and to introduce them to some of the important cultural trends and developments associated with this period. The course will be divided into two parts. Weeks 1-5 will focus on aspects of late-medieval culture, with particular reference to the city of Florence. The first three sessions will be lecture-based, introducing some key questions associated with the period (the medieval city-state, manuscript culture, Latin and vernacular language), while seminars in weeks 4 and 5 will focus on some important examples of one of the key forms of cultural production in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy: lyric poetry. Students will submit a short commentary on one of these texts in week 7. Weeks 7-11 will then focus on Renaissance culture. The first three sessions will again comprise lectures on core topics (humanism, courtly culture, patronage), while the remaining two will focus in detail on artistic works by Sandro Botticelli. An essay on an aspect of Botticelli’s work in its cultural context will be submitted in January.

The course will introduce students to some overarching questions associated with literary, artistic, and intellectual culture in medieval and Renaissance Italy, and will provide them with some of the linguistic and analytical tools and terminology for approaching literary and visual texts from these earlier periods. The course will thus develop broader critical skills as well as preparing students for specific medieval and Renaissance cultural units during the remainder of their degree programme.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

(a) Acquire a knowledge and understanding of some key historical turning-points and cultural trends in medieval and Renaissance Italy that will prepare them for future cultural units focused on these periods;

(b) Analyse medieval and Renaissance texts in their historical and cultural context;

(c) Reflect upon different critical approaches to the periods in question;

(d) Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing;

(e) Develop broader skills of cultural inquiry, analysis, and criticism as appropriate to level C.

Teaching details

One seminar hours per week

Assessment Details

1 x 2 hour exam (100%) testing ILO's a-e

Reading and References

An anthology of key primary and secondary texts will be provided to students in Week 1. The following critical works will be helpful points of reference:

- Barolini, Teodolinda. ‘Dante and the Lyric Past’, in Jacoff (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Dante, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 14-33 - John Larner, Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch (London: Longman, 1980) - John Najemy, A History of Florence 1200-1575 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006) - Usher, Jonathan, ‘Origins and Duecento’ and Pertile, Lino, ‘Dante’, both in The Cambridge History of Italian Literature, ed. by Brand and Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 3-38 and pp. 39-69 - Alison Brown, The Renaissance, 2nd edition (London: Longman, 1999) - Peter Burke, The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1986) - Charles Dempsey, The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992)

Ronald Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli: Life and Work (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976)