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Unit information: Reading Medieval and Renaissance Culture in 2016/17

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Unit name Reading Medieval and Renaissance Culture
Unit code ITAL10031
Credit points 10
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Rhiannon Daniels
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit will introduce students to some of the key authors and texts of the Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance, whilst also developing skills training in literary analysis (including close-reading, comparative analysis, intertextuality, translation, intermediality), the handling and studying of manuscripts and rare books, and online digital resources.

The unit is divided into two parts. Part I (weeks 14-18) will focus on a close-reading of Dante’s Vita nuova. Through seminar discussion students will consider topics such as the form and nature of medieval love poetry, the tensions between sexual desire and religion, and the relationship between lyric poetry and prose commentary. Part II (weeks 19-23) will introduce a comparative dimension to literary analysis with three case studies emphasizing different types of transmission and reception trajectory through the Middle Ages and Renaissance and focusing on the relevance of mobility and exchange to pre-modern culture: Boccaccio’s use of Dante, Petrarch’s translation into Latin of Boccaccio’s Griselda story, and Botticelli’s use of Boccaccio’s Nastagio story. Two classes will be dedicated to reflecting on the ways in which the production, transmission and reception of pre-modern texts influences literary study, through a workshop on a selection of manuscripts and printed books held in Special Collections, and a class using online digital resources.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. analyse medieval and Renaissance texts and images in their historical and cultural contexts
  2. demonstrate an understanding of different approaches to literary study
  3. understand the benefits and challenges associated with the use of digitized resources appropriate to Level C
  4. communicate effectively, both orally and in writing
  5. develop broader skills of cultural inquiry, analysis, and criticism appropriate to level C.

Teaching details

One seminar hour per week

Assessment Details

One 2000 word essay (100%) testing ILOs 1-5

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:

Teodolinda Barolini, ‘Dante and the Lyric Past’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante, ed. by Rachel Jacoff, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 14-33

Robert Pogue Harrison, ‘Approaching the Vita nuova’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante, ed. by Rachel Jacoff, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 34-44

Christina Olsen, ‘Gross Expenditure: Botticelli’s Nastagio degli Onesti Panels’, Art History, 15 (1992), 146-70

Jill M. Ricketts, ‘Boccaccio, Botticelli and the Tale of Nastagio: The Subversion of Visuality by Painting’, in Visualizing Boccaccio: Studies on Illustrations of the ‘Decameron’ from Giotto to Pasolini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 59-89

Guyda Armstrong, ‘Boccaccio and Dante’, in The Cambridge Companion to Boccaccio, ed. by Guyda Armstrong, Rhiannon Daniels and Stephen J. Milner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 121-38

McLaughlin, Martin, ‘Petrarch’s Rewriting of the Decameron, X. 10’, in Renaissance and Other Studies: Essays Presented to Peter M. Brown, ed. by Eileen A. Millar (Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 1988), pp. 42-59

Olson, Glending, ‘Petrarch’s View of the Decameron’, Modern Language Notes, 91 (1976), 69-79

Raymond Clemens and Terry Graham, An Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007)