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364 - VILLAINS, HEROINES, REBELS, AND SCAPEGOATS

Course Description:

The course explores representations of subjugation, violence, and cruelty – seen against their positive counterforces, resistance and heroism – in Italian culture of the late 19th and 20th centuries. We will discuss short stories, novels, and films about the rise of evil powers (including supernatural phenomena) and burdens of socio-economic pressures, as well as new models of behavior provoked by these repressive forces. While exploring these conflicts, we will examine issues related to pivotal historical moments and political changes, such as the Risorgimento, the Southern question, Fascism, women’s struggle for self-affirmation, and the Resistance. Across a wide range of cultural artifacts and their visual counterpoints, we will address literary movements and modes, such as Scapigliatura, Verismo, Neorealism, and the Fantastic. We will also investigate various forms of media and narrative agency. Some of the literary and cinematic texts we will examine foreground gender conflicts and original models of political engagement. Scholarly articles and theoretical essays by Freud, Ricoeur, Todorov, and Brook, among others, will guide our critical readings.

Learning Outcome Goals:

The course intends to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of key cultural, social, and gender issues, seen through the lens of violence, cruelty, and resistance, in relation to the Italian cultural context from the late 19th to the 21st century. Through readings, class discussions, and written assignments, the course is designed to foster the development of essential analytical and critical skills that students can apply to diverse historical periods and cultural frameworks.

Departmental Goals II and III: Cultural Proficiency and Professional Preparation.

Required Texts:

Sibilla Aleramo. A Woman. Translated from the Italian, and with an Afterword by Rosalind Delmar. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980 (ISBN: 9780520049499; pbk).

Calvino, Italo. The Path to the Spiders’ Nests. Random House, 1998 (ISBN: 9780060956585; pbk)

Grazia Deledda. Cosima. Translated from the Italian by Martha King. New York: Italica Press, 1988 (ISBN: 9780934977067; pbk).

Additional readings (such as short stories and critical essays) will be made available on SAKAI.

Course Requirements and Grade distribution:

The abilities defined in the learning goals will be assessed through oral and written activities.

Active class participation (10%); Students are expected to actively participate in class discussions.

One oral presentation (10%); Students are required to give a 10-minute presentation on a topic discussed with the instructor. Their performance will be evaluated according to their effectiveness in communicating as well as the thoroughness of their critical analysis of the subject.

Two 3-page papers (25%); Students are required to analyze a literary or visual text, discussing at least three sources linked to their topic. They are expected to demonstrate the ability to address and communicate complex ideas in standard written Italian.

Midterm Exam (25%); The exam comprises two essay questions on the topics discussed in the first part of the course. It assesses each student’s ability to engage critically with the issues tackled in the course in relation to their historical, social, and cultural background as well as with the theoretical concepts expounded in the course.

Final Exam (30%); The exam comprises two essay questions on the topics discussed after the Midterm exam. It assesses each student’s progress in the ability to engage critically with the issues tackled in the course in relation to their historical, social, and cultural background as well as with the theoretical concepts expounded in the course.

Contact Us

Department of Italian
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
15 Seminary Place, #5105
New Brunswick, NJ 08901


Voice (848) 932-7031
Fax (732) 932-1686

Sheri La Macchia, Administrator

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