Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

RoSt 300 / Ints 302 - Italy: Culture and Context

Spring 2012



Italy - Culture and Contexts - Rost 300

Prof. Grazia Sotis

Course Content

To talk about Italian Culture and Civilization starting from the differences between the North and South, or from the various regions, one might fall into triteness.  Long ago Prezzolini in his book, The Legacy of Italy, has shown how the aspects of the highest Italian Civilization were universal and not only national, so that they were able to fulfill the yearnings of other peoples, not specifically only of the Italians.

The book by Enzo Biagi, L’Italia dei Peccatori, witnesses the change that occurred in our country, which do not seem to find an equivalent in the official culture brought abroad.  Luigi Barzini in his The Italians had already mentioned a discrepancy between the truthfulness and the image of the country.  Sergio Travaglia in Maledetti Italiani moves from this position with details as to reach statements of an economic type: culture is treated like an item for sale and everything depends on how well it can be sold, production and national artistic patrimony are the strongholds of our mission. If Giuliano Procacci, Storia degli Italiani, talks of Italy and the history of Italians in relation to the European Culture, Travaglia broadens the view by going beyond Europe and relating Italy to non-western cultures, so placing the Italian “product” on a world scale and using not only the cultural past but also the present.  In doing so he is able to establish the importance of the Italian culture so as to analyze all the aspects which are part of it, from the people to painting, architecture and literature; from philosophy to mathematics, religion, gastronomy, up to the point of taking into consideration the country’s physical features, such as the city, for example.

These preliminary remarks do not mean that, during the course, the differences that exist within Italy, as in any other country, are not taken into consideration.  The division into regions and their histories witness the cultural and folk variety.

Culture is also today’s living. So, besides an outline of a culture historically meant, it will also consider present days. For this reason we can deal with usage and costumes of the life of modern Italians, whether by modern we mean either a break or continuity with the past. To all this we must add that the Italian Culture does not express itself at home or abroad, as it did in the past, only through literary texts, but also through other channels such as gastronomy, cinema, music, etc.

Course Outcomes

The study of the country will be presented through a selection of topics viewed within their historical context. A dynamic propulsion between past and present will help shape and define a picture of modern Italy.

The course will provide a unified picture of Italy but also its regional differences and varieties.

Students’ active participation in the making and development of the course with their living experiences in the country will allow them to witness first hand and consequently to critique the many facets of Italian life.

Class material will also focus on the current semester activities. Students’ travel and also study trips organized by the Rome Center are taken into consideration in the development of the course content for each semester. The course material is a one-year program divided in two independent semesters for the fall and spring.


The course considers on site classes the study trips organized by the center and students’ travels in Italy.

Students are asked to write two papers on a topic related to the country and people, the topic is to be agreed with the teacher.

Class attendance is strongly recommended: students are allowed only for three unexcused absences. Failure to take an exam or quiz, unless justified by real necessity (e.g. illness; travel will never be accepted as a reason) brings an F in it. There will be no make-up exams.

Academic Integrity Statement:

“Pursuit of truth is the prime activity in a university community. As a member of this community each student pledges to maintain standards of honesty and integrity in all academic work. Exams: Students must rely exclusively upon their own knowledge. Papers: students must document sources of secondary information. Failure to comply with these standards will result in a failing grade.”

Schedule of classes

1st, 2nd & 3rd week


·    The universal aspect of Italian culture and its folk and regional components

·    The way the Italian culture is perceived abroad

·    Showing of the film:  Pane e Cioccolata

·    Italy in the Seventies, Emigration and Immigration, Catholic Culture

4th week

Carnival and its celebration


·    Showing of a documentary on the Venetian Carnival 

·    On site: a carnival festival is left open to students’ interest and travel opportunity

Feb …

Quiz 1


5th week

The Southern Question

Film: Christ Stopped at Eboli

6th & 7th week

Gastronomy: food and festivities (Winter & Spring)

On site Sagra: is left open to students’ interest and opportunity

Mar …

Mid-term Exam (1st paper due)


Mar …- …

Spring Break


8th week

Commedia dell’Arte


Goldoni and Venice

Dario Fo (Nobel Prize for Literature 1997) and showing of one of his plays

9th week

Regions and Cities of Italy

Oral presentation related to students’ travel experience in Italy

10th,11th &12th week

Italian Tales

·    Italo Calvino and Italian Folk-Tales

·    Reading of Pinocchio

Apr …

Quiz 2

Showing of the Film: “La Vita è bella”

13th  week

Italian Tales


Apr … 

2nd paper due


May …

Final Exam



Artusi, Pellegrino                                L’Arte del Mangiar Bene

Calvino, Italo*                                     Fiabe Italiane. Selections

Collodi, Carlo*                                    Pinocchio

Duchartre, Pierre Louis                      The Italian Comedy

Field, Carol.                                        Celebrating Italy; Hill Towns of Italy; In Nonna’s Kitchen

Forgacs, David & Lumley, Robert *  Italian Cultural Studies: an Introduction (required material only selected chapters)

Prezzolini, Giuseppe.                         The Legacy of Italy (on reserve in xerox-copy, only selected chapters)

Rowen, Shirley and David                 Carnival in Venice


Journals to be consulted:

Journal of Modern Italian Studies

Modern Italy

A Journal of Historical Studies

Students' work and performance are evaluated as follows:

15 %

Class participation; class attendance is strongly recommended (absences will be taken only for serious reasons, such as illness)


Oral presentation

15 %

2 Quizzes

10 %

Midterm Paper (4 pages)

15 %

Final Paper ( 6 pages)

15 %

Mid-term exam

20 %

Final exam

Grading scale:


A (excellent)


B (good)


C (satisfactory)


D (poor)


















Office Hours:  Tuesdays and Thursdays 2,00 pm – 2,30 pm and by appointment. 
E-mail: gsotis @luc.edu

From Celebrating Italy study:

                        Introduction pp.3-13

From part III:   Darkness  p.219
Epifania p. 298
Sant’Antonio Abate p. 310

From part IV:  Rebirth p. 329
Carnevale p.343
Venerdì Gnoccolar p.369
Pranzo del Purgatorio p.377 (Ash Wednesday Purgatoriol Lunch)
Quaresima p.384 (Lent)
San Giuseppe p. 392 (Saint Joseph’s Day)
Pasqua p. 408 (Easter in Sicily)

From Italian Cultural Studies study:

Cap. I              Imagined Italies

Cap. III            Anthropological Perspectives on Culture in Italy

Cap. IV            Images of the South

Cap. VII           Catholic Culture

Cap. IX            Immigration and Social Identities

Selected folktales from Calvino’s Italian Folktales:


Money can do everything  n.7



The Moor’s Bones n.121

The Chicken Laundress n.122

First Sword and Last Broom n.124



The Little Girl Sold with the Pears  n.11

The Snake  n. 12



The Five Scapegraces n.126

The Siren Wife n.132



The Crab Prince  n.30

The King of Denmark’s Son  n.36



The Thirteeen Bandits n. 137



Petie Pete versus Witch Bea-Witch n.37

Quack Quack! Stick to my Back n.38

Jesus and S.Peter in Friuli n.41



The Widow and the Brigand n.145




The  Apple Girl n.85 

Prezzemolina n.86

The Fine Greenbird n.87


The Son of the Merchant from Milan n.62

Buffalo Head n.67

Olive n.71



Pippina the Serpent n.150

The Ismalian Merchant n.152

Giufà n.190

Fra Ignazio n.191



The Haughty Prince n. 102

Wooden Maria n.103

Nero and Berta n. 106



Saint Anthony’s Gift n.1