Italian MSt/MPhil Programmes

These are the Special Subject options available in 2020-21. 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 Francesca Southerden

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 Elena Lombardi

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 (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.



The Italian Novel in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Giuseppe Stellardi

This course is deliberately outlined in very broad terms, so that students will have the opportunity to select, in consultation with the Convenor, their own itinerary through the work of some of the major Italian novelists of the last two centuries. In practice, one or more authors will be chosen and analysed in the light of a specific topic or question.

The Convenor will contact enrolled students before the start of the term in which the course is run, to agree a personalized reading list and discuss timing and modalities, but students are welcome to get in touch at any time. 

Literature in Trieste and Trieste In Literature (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Emanuela Tandello

From the second half of the nineteenth-century, Trieste was a place where ‘that most pointless thing, literature’ (Svevo) would thrive: a cosmopolitan catalyst for new philosophies and discourses (Darwin, Nietsche, Freud), a home to some of the major figures of modernist literature, including Italo Svevo and James Joyce; and an ‘outpost’ – ever critical and unsettling – for the Italian literary canon. But Trieste has also herself inhabited the literary imaginary, as a character and a protagonist. The course, which will privilege a European perspective, will enable students to explore Trieste’s ‘double’ nature in the fiction and poetry of major writers active in the city over a span of one hundred years: native, adoptive, or ‘transient’, writing in Italian or German, or English: from Svevo and Saba, Schnitzler and Joyce, to Magris, Morandini, Pressburger and Jan Morris.

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.

Modernism, Anti Modernism and Postmodernism in the 20th Century Italian Lyric Poetry (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Emanuela Tandello

20th-century Italian poetry is remarkably diverse. Whilst some of the most famous names are modernist, it no longer seems appropriate to think of modernism as the sole or most important trend. Students will have the opportunity to focus, in consultation with their tutor, on those aspects they find particularly interesting – selecting, for instance, among developments such as crepuscularism (Gozzano), hermeticism (Ungaretti, Luzi, Quasimodo), dialect poetry (Noventa, Loi), post-modernism (Zanzotto), political poetry (Fortini), experimentalism (Rosselli), and important figures who elude such classifications such as Montale, Saba, Pasolini, Caproni and Bertolucci.

The Canzionere in Modern Italian Literature from Leopardi to Rosselli (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Emanuela Tandello

Since Leopardi’s Canti, the ‘forma-canzoniere’, cornerstone of Italian lyric poetry, has witnessed important developments. Its fundamental features – a closed structure, whose internal elements are internally cohesive, self-referential and textually consistent in language, style and content; an ‘illustrious’ form, inextricably bound to previous versions of itself – have provided modern poets with an impressively flexible tool both for the representation and construction of the self in poetry, and for a critique of poetic discourse as a whole. Texts studied in the course will include Giotti and Saba’s canzonieri, Montale’s Mottetti and Xenia, Amelia Rosselli’s Variazioni belliche, and Zanzotto’s La Beltà and Ecloghe.


The following courses are not on offer in 2020-21:

Carlo Emilio Gadda (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Professor Stellardi

Gadda is best known for his two major novels, but his writings (albeit unified by his unique and unmistakable style) cover an impressive variety of genres. This course, depending on the specific interests of students, may address, in addition or in alternative to the novels (La cognizione del dolore, Quer pasticciaccio brutto de Via Merulana), also different aspects of Gadda’s work: private diaries (Giornale di guerra e di prigionia); collections of shorter literary pieces (Il castello di Udine, La Madonna dei filosofi, L’Adalgisa); essays (I viaggi la morte); philosophical reflections (Meditazione milanese); other writings (Eros e Priapo, “technical” articles); letters.

Literature and Cinema in Italian Culture (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Bonsaver

This option intends to explore the issue of the interlation 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.

Subscribe to Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages