Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian)


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Italian Language 2B (ITAL2031) OR Italian Language 2A (ITAL2111) or an equivalent qualification to the satisfaction of the Chairman/woman of the Board of Studies of MLAC or his/her representative.


  • Modern Languages, Combined Honours and all Joint and 'with' programmes: Italian Language 4 (ITAL3021). Others: see Chairman/woman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce the meaning and significance of the Renaissance in Italy as manifest in selected literary works and artistic movements and products.
  • The course is designed for students with advance knowledge of the Italian language and advanced reading skills in Italian.


  • The meaning and broader significance of the word ‘Renaissance’ will be explored in its wide-ranging ramifications and subtle implications by approaching some of the texts that have left an indelible mark on Italian and European culture.
  • The programme will vary following a regular updating of teaching teaching material but will include selections from texts of primary importance such as (e.g.) Machiavelli’s Principe, Ariosto's Orlando furioso, Castiglione’s Cortegiano, as well as masterpieces by further Renaissance authors like Torquato Tasso, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo Galilei amongst others.
  • The significance of the artistic output will also be addressed by looking at a selection of works and writings by artists like (e.g.) Alberti, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Cellini, in the context of the Renaissance theory and practice of the arts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • • Students should:
  • gain a sense of the historical, literary and artistic context of the Italian Renaissance,
  • become familiar with some of the literary and artistic monuments of the period,
  • understand the work of writers and artists in the context of their literary and/or artistic genres and against the background of Italian Renaissance society.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should develop reading skills to enable them to read Renaissance texts, as well as critical skills that will help them view and interpret Renaissance art.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should have extended considerably their critical perception of an extremely rich and highly diversified literary and artistic culture.
  • Should have an extended ability to gather, process and critically evaluate information and evidence from a wide variety of sources.

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

  • Term one lectures will introduce students to the political structure of Renaissance Italy, to court life and to the importance of the arts and patronage of the arts in that society.
  • The courts of Ferrara and Florence will be presented via excerpts of Ludovico Ariosto's epic romance poem Orlando furioso and the sonnets of Lorenzo de' Medici respectively.
  • Term two will involve deeper study of social mores and codes of behaviour at the Italian Renaissance Court, an overview of the genre of prescriptive writing an examination of Castiglione's II libro del Cortegiano.
  • The Court of Urbino, introduced by Castiglione, will then form the focus of a review of Renaissance art.
  • Fortnightly seminars will be used to read closely, examine and analyse the core texts and art.
  • Seminars will also involve student presentations.
  • Independent learning will be encouraged by preparation for seminars and by research for the summative essays.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly 1 hour 21
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay 1 Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 1 2,000 words 100% No
Component: Summative Essay 2 Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 2 3,000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:


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