Course Description:

This course investigates the Italian literary canon of the early 19th century (the latter half of the century is the topic of Italian 01:560:342). A historical, cultural, and philosophical background will preface a study of the commonest literary modes and genres of the early 19th century, which is a particularly prolific period of Italian literary history. The turbulent and tumultuous historical events caused by the Napoleonic wars brought about great changes in the literary panorama. No author escaped, directly or indirectly, some form of political (if not downright military) involvement. The majority of the course will be devoted to the three main authors of the period: Ugo Foscolo, Giacomo Leopardi, and Alessandro Manzoni. After reading Foscolo's Iacopo Ortis, a novel that reveals the personal as well as political anguish of young people at the dawn of the century, we will delve into a discussion of Romanticism by reading several documents that shaped the literary and philosophical aura of the period. The course will also feature the study of selected poems by Giacomo Leopardi, the most prominent Romantic poet of the Italian tradition. We will conclude the semester by reading Manzoni's I promessi sposi, the most well-known novel in Italian, which has forged contemporary language. The choice of reading Manzoni after Leopardi, which is chronologically objectionable, derives from purely didactic purposes: Reading Leopardi's rather hard poetic style at the end of the semester does not seem very productive, while Manzoni's novel typically inspires more enthusiastic responses from students.

Learning Goals:

At the end of the course students will be able to account for the development of ideas from the late 18th century to the Romantic period and understand the intricate dynamics of history, philosophy, and literature. As part of the investigation of the moral issues connected to the material (war, fatherland, love) they will learn to locate human actions in a historical and philosophical context. They will, moreover, become familiar with the theoretical infrastructure originating cultural production and human experience. This will allow them to view literature in the context of Romantic culture and values, and it will also inspire them to place Italy in a European context. Students will be able to understand the complex interactions of critical interpretation and the creative process.

At the end of the course, students will be able to express complex ideas in standard written Italian and to communicate effectively in modes that are appropriate to the discipline. The course will also teach them to evaluate primary texts, to use the conventions of attribution and citation correctly, and to process information from multiple sources in order to generate new insights.

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

Required Texts:

Ugo Foscolo, Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis.

Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi.


Grade distribution:

Student participation will be strongly encouraged, in fact, required. Students will be required to give two oral presentations in the course of the semester. One will be a long twenty-minute presentation on a topic chosen by the student at the beginning of the semester. One will be a short five-minute presentation on a topic assigned by the instructor.

Participation and oral presentation will account for 20% of the final grade.

Written activities include: four papers (15% each), one midterm (10%), one final examination (10%).