Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian)


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • Grade B or above at A level in a foreign European language, or equivalent


  • Modern Languages, Combined Honours and all Joint and 'with' programmes: Italian Language 1B (ITAL1102) OR Italian Language 1A (ITAL1071). Others: See Chairman/woman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To offer students the opportunity to examine essential aspects and themes of Italian cultural legacy.
  • To introduce students to selected materials pertaining to different areas of cultural activity - the visual arts, the performative arts etc.
  • To help student recognise different communication codes in the domain of the arts.
  • To have students engage with their topics through a variety of critical approaches.
  • To let students experience initial contacts with the topics and disciplines they shall be dealing with in the following years.


  • This module, which is taught and assessed in English, is open to students taking Italian Language 1A or 1B. The module introduces students to the multifarious dimension of Italian artistic heritage as it is managed, discussed, and experienced in today’s Italy. In large parts of the Italian territory, monuments and museums famous all over the world are inextricably linked to people’s everyday life and are constitutive of the Italian urban and rural landscape. Students will become familiar with well-known and less-known cities and regions of Italy in their specific relation to the history and development of the visual arts. The module also offers an introduction to research topics and methodologies while specific instructions on how to write an essay in the visual arts will also be provided. During the first term, students will be introduced to the art of the Italian Middle Ages, from the end of the Classical era to the dawn of the Renaissance period, exploring its relationship with literature, politics as well as its influence on European culture. During the second term, students will learn how to approach key Italian masters from the Baroque to the contemporary periods, with particular focus on the genres, styles and contexts of their most iconic artworks. The adopted methods of enquiry entail a comparative approach to works of art from different periods and formats, with the intention of developing a critical ability to read complex visual images in their historical, social and political dimensions. Throughout, the module will include discussion on the considerable transnational aspect of Italian visual arts and culture. We will also take a look at artworks available on the global art market or displayed in landmark exhibitions to gain some familiarity with the role and value of Italian art in contemporary culture. This module has been designed to reflect a commitment to diversity in its resources and delivery, and will create opportunities for students to engage in critical analysis of different perspectives relevant to the study area.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To gain familiarity with artifacts and manifestations of various nature in the following areas of Italian artistic production: literature, the visual arts, the performative arts, the mechanical arts.
  • To become familiar with the notions of cultural history, cultural identity, and their relations to the development of the arts in Italy.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To allow students to orient themselves in the artistic panorama of contemporary Italy.
  • To allow students to discern between different inflections of common labels and styles attached to cultural artifacts (e.g. Renaissance, Baroque, Classic, Rococo, Romantic, Verism, Avant-Gard, Neo-reralism, Arte Povera, etc).
  • To allow students to get acquainted with Italian places that host artistic productions (from poetry/book public readings to art exhibitions and festivals, museums, concert halls, opera, ballet, drama and move theatres, etc).
  • To allow students to get preliminary insights on current Italian political programmes in the domain of artistic expression.
  • To understand the intimate economic relations between artistic production and tourism industry.
  • To show students different ways for of obtaining information about current Italian artistic productions on the media and on the web.
Key Skills:
  • To identify, define and carry out a critical appreciation of materials in relation to the themes introduced.
  • To be able to select and evaluate primary and secondary sources.
  • To gather, handle and evaluate validity of information orally and in writing.
  • To work independently to complete to a deadline a project providing an interpretation or a solution of questions and problems posed by the module topics and in-class discussions.
  • To become aware of the importance of codes and conventions in artistic production.

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

  • In introducing students to the four selected areas (the visual, textual, performative and mechanical arts), lecturers will focus on the different critial approaches required by each area by highlighting the existence, as well as the peculiarity, of different artistic codes.
  • The analysis of different codes will be focused on a single theme per code, so as to link them theoretically the exploration of materials and allow the students to develop adequate critical tools to deal with the codes.
  • Weekly lectures and fortnightly seminars will be delivered in English, while some of the materials may also include Italian (especially in seminars).
  • The module will provide the general background for subsequent concentration on more specific themes.
  • Seminars will be used to read, examine, and analyse materials chosen for their relevance to the theme discussions during the lectures.
  • Seminars will also be used to introduce students to the use of tools for accurate bibliographical research.
  • Seminars will facilitate students to become independent learners, by working autonomously on well defined topics, under tutor's guidance, by giving seminar presentations in class reporting on the results of their research work. This approach will prepare them for both the project-based 2,000 word essay and the final examination.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Seminar 10 Fortnightly 1 hour 10
Preparation, Reading and Assessment 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

Formative work might take the form of peer/question-driven discussions during the seminars, artwork identification quizzes, 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