Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ITAL3161: Science and Culture in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian)

ITAL3161: Science and Culture in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy

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/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.


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

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module aims to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the relations between science and culture (esp. philosophy, and literature) as they developed from the late Middle Ages onwards.
  • The module will introduce students to crucial historical and philosophical issues arising from the interplay of literature, science and culture in the period before/of the Scientific Revolution.
  • The module seeks to enhance the students' analytical and methodological skills which will allow them to critically interpret a variety of documents, from philosophical dialogues, to scientific poems, and illustrations.


  • The meaning and broader significance of the relations between science and culture will be explored in their 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 material but will include selections from texts of primary importance such as Giordano Bruno’s Italian dialogues (esp. La cena de le ceneri, and De l’infinito, universe et mondi) and Galileo Galilei’s Sidereus Nuncius and Dialogo sopra i due massimi del mondo).
  • The module will be both text-based and thematic, dealing with such issues as the role of humanism in the reception of classical science; the role of the printing press and of learned networks in the development of modern science; genres of scientific writing; geographical discoveries and anthropology; medicine and poetry.
  • The study of primary sources will be accompanied by a selected corpus of secondary bibliography which will provide both theoretical framework, and specific knowledge

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • Have gained an interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of the interplay between science, culture and literature in the period before and during the Scientific Revolution, and of how some of these issues are still present in our contemporary understanding of the relations between the sciences and the humanities.
  • Have gained a specific knowledge of the ideas and practices that shaped the relations between science, culture and literature in Renaissance and early modern Italy.
  • Have gained specific knowledge of a selected corpus of Renaissance and early modern texts engaging with knowledge of the natural world and of the human body.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • Have developed analytical skills in the critical reading of literary texts.
  • Have employed Italian language skills to a high level in the reading of primary and secondary sources • Have engaged critically with primary and secondary sources.
  • Have been introduced to methodological approaches to the history of literature and science.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • Have enhanced their research, writing and communication skills.
  • Have enhanced their communication skills by actively engaging in delivering a class presentation.
  • Have developed a critical and reflexive approach to their own learning.

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

  • The module will be taught intensively either in Term I or in Term II on a 'short-fat 'basis.
  • Lecture (2 hrs): module material will be presented, contextualised and examined critically, focusing on the historical and cultural developments of the major themes embodied in the different texts. Lectures are accompanied by hand-outs, PowerPoint presentations, and preparatory material included on DUO.
  • Seminar (1 h): emphasis is on student participation and group discussion.
  • Seminars will involve a range of teaching and learning practices including close textual reading/analysis, and individual presentations on the research project.
  • Students will be assessed by means of a research project. A summative research proposal will be handed in by Week 6.
  • Students will present the progress of their research during the seminars.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 2 hours 20
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Research Proposal Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Proposal 1,500 words 100% No
Component: Final Project Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Final Project 3,500 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Research Paper (oral presentation, 15 minutes).

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