Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

LITR 202 European Novel

Spring 2016






Dr. Barbara Castaldo, Ph.D.                                                                            


Course Description

This course focuses on the Italian novel in the 20th century. We will look at important social changes and key moments in European/Italian history, to examine how they were represented in contemporary Italian literature and culture. Through the reading of five major Italian novels by Sibilla Aleramo, Primo Levi, Vasco Pratolini, Carlo Levi and Leonardo Sciascia, students will get involved in a variety of cultural and historical issues: women’s condition and early feminism, World War II and the holocaust, the Italian Neo-realism in literature and cinema, the “southern question” and the problem of Sicilian mafia. By identifying different narrative strategies (such as autobiography, fiction and non-fiction writing, direct and indirect narration), students will also learn to identify different literary techniques and genres.


Learning Outcomes

a. Knowledge of key authors and major literary works of Italian contemporary literature.

b. Knowledge of core themes and ideas in European and Italian history and culture.

c. Understanding of the cultural relation of literature to society and practice of reading literary texts within their historical, social and cultural context.

c. Development of textual analysis skills through use of concepts of literary criticism.

d. Practice of critical thinking through class discussions and by establishing comparisons among different issues, periods, authors and works of art.

e. Ability to research and organize information for a documented presentation on a text or a theme assigned.

f. Development of advanced writing skills through the composition of written assignments.

Required Textbooks

Aleramo, Sibilla. A Woman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. Print.

Levi, Primo. If This Is a Man. London: Abacus, 2003. Print.

Pratolini, Vasco. The Naked Streets. New York: A.A. Wyn, 1952. Print.

Levi, Carlo, Christ Stopped at Eboli. London: Penguin Books, 2000. Print.

Sciascia, Leonardo. The Day of the Owl. New York: New York Review Books, 2003. Print.


The additional readings (short articles and excerpts from the following texts) will be provided by the instructor:

Clark, Martin. Modern Italy 1871-1995. London-New York: Longman, 1984.

Ginsborg, Paul. A history of contemporary Italy: society and politics, 1943-1988. London: Penguin

History, 1990.

Mack Smith, Denis. Modern Italy. A Political History. New Haven-London: Yale University Press,


Schneider, Jane (ed.). Italy’s Southern Question. Oxford-New York: Berg, 1998.

Women’s Realities,Women’s Choices. An Introduction to Women’s Studies by Hunter College

Women’s Studies Collective. New York-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.


In-class Screenings

A Journey Called Love (Un viaggio chiamato amore). Dir. Michele Placido. 2003.

Bycicle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette). Dir. Vittorio De Sica. 1948.

Clips from films The Day of the Owl (Il giorno della civetta, dir. Damiano Damiani, 1968) and Christ Stopped at Eboli (Cristo si è fermato a Eboli, dir. Francesco Rosi, 1979).

Required work

Students must comply with the following requirements:

            Attendance: More than 2 unexcused absences will affect the final grade. Tardiness to class

will also affect the final grade.

Participation: Students are expected to come to class prepared on the assigned readings, to take notes, to learn new vocabulary and collect it in their notebook, to be ready to ask and answer questions, and to participate actively in class discussions and activities. Students are also required to bring their textbooks to each class. Use of cell phones or computers is not allowed in class.

Reader Responses: Each week I will post on Sakai a handout with a list of topics/questions that we will discuss in class. In order to enhance both your reading and class discussion, you should weekly write down your responses to these questions: choose at least one issue or question that particularly interests you and write down a few notes about it. I also encourage you to underline a quotation or two from the readings in support of your reader’s response. These informal meditations are a chance for you to consider the readings before coming to class. As the semester progresses, your responses should become more analytical and should offer connections between the novels, the authors, and the literary theories/social issues.

Textbooks: Electronic copies of books are not accepted. The kind of reading we will practice requires marking up a material text.

Sakai: This course will be using Sakai. Students are required to check the course site on a regular basis and are responsible for assignments posted there.

Quizzes: There will be 5 in-class quizzes on the material covered. The 5 quizzes will be taken as scheduled: there will be no make-ups. Quizzes may be made up only in the event of serious illness, and provided a doctor’s letter is presented.

Final paper (10 pages): The topic for this paper you must develop on your own but in conjunction with professor. You may either discuss your topic directly with me or write a short paragraph that outlines your discussion and send me the topic. See Handout on Written Papers posted on Sakai for guidance and suggestions on choosing a good topic.


Required Work and Grading Assessment

Quizzes (5)                                                                               50% (or each quiz 10%)

Final paper                                                                               30%

Attendance, Participation and Reader Responses                      20%



Schedule of Meetings and Readings

Week 1            Introduction. The passage from19th century to 20th century narrative.


Week 2            Women in Italian society. The suffragette movement and the birth of feminism.

Sibilla Aleramo: A Woman.

Readings: chapters 1-11 and Women’s Realities,Women’s Choices:pp. 15-17; 24-30; 32-33; 121-124; 176-181.

Week 3            Aleramo: A Woman. Quiz #1.

Readings: chapters 12-22 and Dino Campana’s poems to Aleramo.


Week 4            In-class screening of A Journey Called Love.


Week 5            Novel and World War II. Primo Levi: If This Is a Man.

Readings: chapters 1-8.


Week 6            Primo Levi: If This Is a Man. Quiz #2.

Readings: chapters 9-17 and selected readings from Dante’s Inferno.


Week 7            Novel and Neo-Realism. Vasco Pratolini: The Naked Streets.

Readings: chapters 1-15 and Italo Calvino’s Preface to The Path to the Nest of Spiders.


FALL BREAK (March 4 – 13)


Week 9            Pratolini: The Naked Streets. Quiz #3.

(Mon - Wed)   Readings: chapters 16-33 and Eugenio Montale’s poem.


(Friday)            The Southern question. Carlo Levi: Christ Stopped at Eboli.

Readings: pp. 1-115 (or first half of book); Mack Smith, pp. 206-216; Martin Clark, pp. 69-70.


Week 10          In-class screening of Bycicle Thieves.


Week 11          Carlo Levi: Christ Stopped at Eboli.

(Easter -           Readings: pp. 116-235 (or second half of book) and Schneider, pp. 180-196.

 Wed only)


Week 12          Carlo Levi: Christ Stopped at Eboli. Quiz #4.

Readings: pp. 116-235 (or second half of book).


Week 13          Leonardo Sciascia: The Day of the Owl.

Readings: pp. 1-64 (first half of book) and Ginsborg, pp. 34-46.


Week 14          Sciascia: The Day of the Owl. Quiz #5.

Readings: pp. 64-137 (second half of book).


Week 15          Presentations. Conclusions.

                        Final paper due.