Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module ITAL2121: The Making of Modern Italy

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian)

ITAL2121: The Making of Modern Italy

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • Italian Language 1B (ITAL1102) AND 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 literary and artistic history of Italy in the long nineteenth century (1796-1918)
  • To make students aware of the political role played by the textual, visual and performative arts (opera) in forging the modern nation
  • Enable students to evaluate the cultural image of Italy in relation to other European nations and beyond
  • To offer students a geographical overview of the cultural transformations underpinning the modernisation of Italy


  • This module takes students to the inspiring and lively backstage of a nation in the making by exploring the dynamic contribution of the literary, visual and performative arts in shaping the cultural identity of Italy.
  • Topics to be studied will typically include:
  • Italy and the Grand Tour;
  • cultural gains and cultural losses subtending the process of nation-building in Italy (Risorgimento);
  • the emergence of new cultural, social, political, scientific and economic factors, intimately related to the global process of nation-building;
  • competing cultural ingredients building the imaginary myth of Italy (heroes and saints, family and communities, city and countryside, traditions and innovations, war and peace, etc.);
  • various social groupings involved in the making of modern Italy (men and women, children and adults, secular and religious people, peasants and workers, etc.);
  • an introduction to cultural movements such as classicism, romanticism, purism, realism, naturalism, symbolism, decadentism and futurism;
  • material to be studied may include literary texts in poetry and prose; art objects (painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts); and performative works (drama, opera, cinema).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Capture the image of Italy by foreign visitors;
  • Compare different ideological and regional allegiances to the Italian nation-building process;
  • Arrange various cultural manifestations under given historiographical labels;
  • Acknowledge the specific Italian inflection of modern aesthetic trends and movements;
  • Appraise the mutual interplay between different forms of textual, visual and performative arts in the period in question.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Employ subject-specific terminology to describe cultural artefacts.
  • Constructing compelling arguments to defend or disprove cultural assumptions.
  • Select different kinds of sources (textual, visual, aural) to support the evidence of a scholarly exposition.
  • Acquire familiarity with Italian terms used in common and specialised English usage.
Key Skills:
  • Adhere to standard guidelines in producing a scholarly essay.
  • Carry out critical reading of set texts to specific requirements.
  • Demonstrate evidence of independent research.
  • Evaluate the pertinence of secondary sources in constructing an argument.
  • Work in groups and independently to complete, to a deadline, scholarly texts.

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

  • Lectures provide students with an historical introduction to the main events of the period in question, followed by a critical consideration of selected historical and cultural sources of the period in question.
  • Interactive seminars will allow students to develop their synthetic and analytical skills by means of discussion, peer feedback, questions, and ideas-testing in order to produce a summatively-assessed detailed essay plan.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 Hour 20
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Plan Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay Plan 1,500 words 100% No
Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 3,000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Formative work will include peer/question-driven discussions during the seminars and self-assessment tests provided on Blackboard Ultra.

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