Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian)


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Italian Language 1B (ITAL1102) OR Italian Language 1A (ITAL1071) or an equivalent to the satisfaction of the Chairman/woman of the Board of Studies of MLAC or his/her representative.


  • Modern Languages, Combined Honours and Joint and 'with' programmes: Italian Language 2B (ITAL2031) OR Italian Language 2A (ITAL2111). Others: see Chairman/woman of the Board of Studies or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • N/A


  • To introduce students to the multifaceted dimension of Italian cultural history and to the various strategies for studying it from different interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • To enhance students' knowledge of the Italian language and of Italian culture, to increase their cultural competence, and to reflect on the meaning of cultural competence as a component of individual subjectivity.
  • To show students that the ultimate goal of the Italian programme at Durham is to make them competent and independent users of Italian culture in all its various manifestations and its consistency over time.


  • Conceived as a road map of Italian culture, this course addresses major historical, anthropological, and ideological forces that shaped the culture of Italy through its history. The culture presented in this module is a culture of praxis, a culture embedded in stories, anecdotes, conversations, uses and habits, and drawn on a variety of documents of textual and visual, but also of material and ethnographic nature. the ultimate goal of the course is to enable students to develop an understanding of what scholars have called 'italianness' or 'italian difference' on the basis of empirical investigation.
  • The thematic spectrum of this module is organised around six major cultural categories:
  • 1. places;
  • 2. action and contemplation;
  • 3. sleep and watch;
  • 4. food and drink;
  • 5. beauty and disgust; and 6. the passions of the mind.
  • This set of categories, inherited from the classical world and the ancient medical tradition, will be used in this module as a suitable framework for encouraging students to acquire a deeper knowledge of Italian culture. Moving from the most external environmental category of 'places' to the most internal category of 'human emotions', students will learn how to stage discourses in the target language about the ways Italians understand and feel their territory and their working and leisure practices, their sleeping and waking behaviours, their eating and drinking habits, their passionate and emotional responses to life.
  • Course material may include excerpts from Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, Bracciolini, Castiglione, Michelangelo, Colonna Arcimboldo, Caravaggio, Basile, Verdi, Calvino, Ginzburg, Moretti, ARgento, Valduga. Themes 1-5: 3 weeks each. Theme 6: 4 weeks.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of a wide range of cultural artefacts and practices.
  • Sound knowledge of Italian cultual history and the Italian language.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Demonstrate the ability to interpret rituals as forms of social interaction, to compare similar themes conveyed through different media, and to understand the value of identifying structural developments in culture over time.
  • Demonstrate the ability to bring these interpretative skills to bear on their understanding of Italy and its culture.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify, express, and evaluate the quality of their own responses to various cultural manufestations.
Key Skills:
  • Identify, analyse, and explain various manifestations of culture.
  • Targeted use of a range of print, visual, and electronic resources.
  • Carry out work independently to complete, to a deadline, written exercises.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • In this module, the study of Italian culture is stated as a form of inquiry-based learning, where the definition of problems is presented as equally important as the discovery of their solutions.
  • While lectures will introduce students to both the central subject-matter and relevant analytic methodologies, the specific problems and solutions are not given in advance but emerge as the result of a collaborative enterprise from the material discussed in the classroom and examined at home. In order to facilitate this, carefully selected material will be made available to students in print and on duo.
  • Students will be expected to work with these materials at home, and to implement the analytic techniques developed in the lectures and discussed in seminars as part of their weekly class preparation.
  • Short presentations will enhance students' skills in oral communication, and their written and spoken linguistic competence will be deepened by exploring the historical dimension of Italian vocabulary.
  • The module will run as 'short-fat' in either Michaelmas or Epiphany Term.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 10 Weekly 2 hour 20
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Student preparation and reading time 170
Total SLAT hours 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay 1 Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 1 2000 words 100% Yes
Component: Summative Essay 2 Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 2 2500 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Formative work might take the form of peer/question-driven discussions during the seminars and self-assessment tests provided on DUO.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University