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These are the Special Subject options available in 2022-23. These are indicative of the course offerings for the sub-faculty, so applicants should note that not all options will run in all years, and some course content might change. 

Medieval and Early Modern

Problems in Dante Interpretation (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Professor Elena Lombardi

All of Dante’s works pose challenges to the reader and have led to diverse, often conflicting critical and scholarly interpretations. This course offers the student the opportunity to concentrate on central issues in the Divina commedia, but also to look at other works if desired. Problems that will be given particular attention include allegory, imagery, dating, and Dante’s sources.

Tradition and Innovation in Medieval Lyric Poetry (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Francesca Southerden

Italian lyric poetry of the 13th and 14th century displays a remarkable talent for innovation which is carried out through constantly assimilating and reassessing ideas and techniques of preceding generations. Students will have the opportunity to examine the work of major figures from the Sicilians to Petrarch, including Dante and the stilnovisti, and also, if they wish, to explore lesser known names, such as the 13th-century Guittoniani or contemporaries of Petrarch such as Antonio da Ferrara.

Biography and Autobiography in the Italian Renaissance (Michaelmas Term or Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Simon Gilson

Whether or not one agrees with Burckhardt’s thesis that the Renaissance was characterised by ‘The Rise of the Individual’, the fact remains that the period 1300-1600 witnessed an enormous interest in the writing of the individual life, both in Latin and the vernacular. In this course students can study some of the first modern autobiographies ever written (Petrarch, Alberti, Cellini) or examine some of the most important biographies of writers and artists from the earliest lives of Dante to Vasari’s lives of the artists.



Literature and Cinema in Italian Culture (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Guido Bonsaver

This option intends to explore the issue of the interrelation between literature and cinema from two viewpoints. First there will be a historical and chronological overview of the development of cinema as a narrative form in constant dialogue with literary texts and with the involvement of literary figures. Secondly, students will be introduced to the main concepts of film adaptation and will be asked to close-study a selection of examples related to contemporary Italian literature and cinema.


Literature and Politics in 20th Century Italy (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Guido Bonsaver

Fascism had a major impact on Italian culture during the 1920s and 30s and has continued to be a central issue in political and cultural debate since the end of World War II. This course will offer students the opportunity to look at the work of significant authors who in different degrees made a commitment to Fascism (such as Bontempelli, Ungaretti and Vittorini), at others who attempted to stand back from it (such as Montale), and at different tendencies within Fascism (in particular traditionalism versus modernism), bearing in mind throughout how views of Fascism and Fascist literature have evolved over the last fifty years.