Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ITAL3171: Writing the Modern Self

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Italian)

ITAL3171: Writing the Modern Self

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 30 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 and enhance students’ understanding of the historical, philosophical, cultural, linguistic and psychoanalytical influences that shape narratives of 'selfhood' and ‘identity’ throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
  • The module also seeks to enhance the students' analytical and methodological skills which will allow them to critically interpret literary texts and films.


  • The module explores the textual and cinematic construction and deconstruction of a rapidly changing and increasingly skeptical notion of identity and selfhood through analysing key texts and films spanning the twentieth and twenty-first century.
  • Students will be introduced to forms and expressions of selfhood in terms of questions and theories of history, philosophy, gender, race, ecocriticism and psychoanalysis.
  • Central to the module’s enquiry are also the various techniques writers and filmmakers employ to articulate their notion and understanding of selfhood.
  • While the main focus will be on texts originating in the Italian and Italophone literary tradition, the works discussed will be contextualized within a broader global literary and cultural landscape.
  • The texts, films and plays to be explored range from modernist theatre (e.g. Pirandello’s Enrico IV, 1921) to contemporary feminist fiction (Elena Ferrante, La figlia oscura, 2008) and film.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • Have gained a broad knowledge of the historical, philosophical, cultural, linguistic and psychoanalytical influences that shape the notion of 'selfhood' throughout the twentieth century and the contemporary age
  • Have gained a specific knowledge of twentieth and twenty-first century fiction, drama, poetry and film in the Italian and broader global literary and cultural context, ranging from the modernist to the present period.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • Have enhanced their research, writing and communication skills
  • 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 literaure, both narrative and theatre.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will:
  • Have enhanced their communication skills by actively engaging in delivering a class presentation
  • Have developed analytical skills in the critical reading of literary texts and films
  • 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 in Terms I and II.
  • Lectures - 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 Blackboard Learn Ultra.
  • Seminars with smaller groups will allow for emphasis is on student participation and group discussion. Seminars will involve a range of teaching and learning practices including close textual reading/analysis, individual and/or group presentations, but will mostly devoted to class discussion.
  • Assessment of the module is by essay or an alternative digital project in Summative Component 1. The project – either a 15 mins digital presentation of key concepts (based on a written draft of around 2000 words), or a 2000 word essay – should engage critically and apply the theoretical knowledge gained during the course to the analysis of a particular text or film. It should focus on AT LEAST ONE of the films or texts studied during the term, while there will be scope for students to include other objects of study related to the topic provided they agree this with the course convener.
  • Summative Component 2. 3,000-words essay
  • Combined, the assessments will allow students to demonstrate knowledge gained on this module as well as their ability to contextualise it within a theoretical framework and apply it to relevant words, texts and films.

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: Critical Analysis Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 OR Digital Project, which involves a 15 mins virtual presentation 2,000 words/15 mins 100% No
Component: Essay 2 Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 3,000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Formative work will include the form of peer/question-driven discussions during seminars. Oral feedback and comments from both peers and tutors are provided regularly in the course of the seminar discussion.

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