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Unit information: Italian Memories of the 2nd World War in 2020/21

Unit name Italian Memories of the 2nd World War
Unit code ITAL20016
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kay
Open unit status Not open

Students must have an appropriate level of linguistic competence in Italian



School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will be taught by Dr Paul Howard

This unit uses literary texts and film to explore the way in which various memories of the War have been formed in Italy, addressing issues such as testimony, the relation of memory to ethics and identity, and the relationship between memory and historiography.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to second year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students’ engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level C.
  • Some options may prepare students for the experience of the Year Abroad.

This unit carries a formative group presentation.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate a detailed understanding of a significant aspect of Italian cultural history;

2. identify and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source material in both English and Italian;

3. select and synthesise relevant critical thinking to enhance this analysis;

4. formulate sophisticated written arguments while exercising independent judgement;

Teaching details

Normally one lecture hour and one seminar hour per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours), often with student presentations. In units with a smaller number of students the lecture hour may be replaced by a second seminar or a workshop. Units involving film may require students to view films outside the timetabled contact hours.

Assessment Details

1 x short written task [e.g. book review] 1500 words (25%) (ILOs 1-4)

1 x 2500 word essay (75%) (ILOs 1-4)

Reading and References

Set texts

(to be studied in the following order):

Italo Calvino, Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno (Einaudi, 2002)

Bernardo Bertolucci, Strategia del ragno, 1970 (film)

Primo Levi, Se questo e' un uomo, 1947 (Einaudi, 2014)

Laudomia Bonanni, La rappresaglia (Textus, 2003)

Roberto Benigni, La vita è bella, 1998 (film)

Recommended reading:

Peitsch, H., Burdett, C. and C. Gorrara (eds), 'European Memories of the Second World War' (pbk), Berghahn Books, 1999.

Preparatory reading:

Paul Ginsborg, ‘Italy at War’ and ‘Resistance and Liberation’ in A History of Contemporary Italy (Penguin, 1990).

Christopher Duggan, ‘Italy in the Cold War Years and the Legacy of Fascism’ in Italy and the Cold War, eds. C. Duggan and C. Wagstaff (Berg, 1995).

Graham Bartram (ed.), Reconstructing the Past (Keele University Press, 1996).