Judith P. Serafini-Sauli

on leave spring semester

BA, Sarah Lawrence College; PhD, Johns Hopkins University. Special interest in 14th- and 20th-century Italian literature. Publications include: Ameto by Giovanni Boccaccio, translation; Giovanni Boccaccio, Twayne World Authors series; Clizia a Sarah Lawrence, Studi italiani; The Pleasures of Reading: Boccaccio’s Decameron and Female Literacy, MLN. Recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, Lipkin Award for Excellence in Teaching (SLC), and Esther Raushenbush Chair in the Humanities (SLC). SLC, 1981–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018


Advanced Italian: Read the Book! See the movie!

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Open to students with advanced proficiency in Italian.

This course is intended for students with proficiency in Italian who want to read works of Italian literature in the original, as well as to continue their work in the language. The course is a study of some modern Italian narratives and the films based on them. We will read the novels as linguistic, literary, and cultural texts and examine the films they inspired as both language, cinema, and “translation.” The texts and films will be chosen to reflect a range of issues in modern Italian culture—regionalism, Sicily and the mafia, fascism and antifascism, politics and social representation. Examples of works are Il Gattopardo, Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini, Sostiene Pereira, and Io non ho paura. We will also read some film theory, particularly theories of adaptation. Class work will be supplemented by a grammar review based on “analisi logica,” using Italian scholastic texts. Conference work may explore Italian literature or Italian film and can also focus on further perfecting language skills. There will be emphasis on writing Italian through the frequent submission of short papers, and weekly conferences with the language assistant will offer additional opportunities to speak Italian.

Related Disciplines


Literature in Translation: Divine and Human Comedies: Dante and Boccaccio

Open , Seminar—Fall

Within two generations, two Tuscans produced extraordinary works of literature: Dante’s Comedia, written in the first two decades of the 14th century, and Boccaccio’s Decameron, written in the middle of the same century. Dante’s Divine Comedy is a kind of summa of medieval culture, a prism through which he filters classical and medieval civilization and melds them in one magnificent and totalizing Christian vision that embraces art, literature, philosophy, science, history, and theology. Like all concepts of Heaven and Hell, it is a repository for dreams of ecstasy, fantasies of horror, and, most importantly, moral guidance. It is the magnificent vision of a profoundly religious and sophisticated Roman Catholic of the 13th and 14th centuries in Italy. A generation later, Boccaccio—a great admirer and imitator of Dante, as well as one of the first commentators of the Comedia (He is sometimes credited with having added the adjective “Divina” to a work Dante simply called “Comedia”), writes his Decameron, a magisterial collection of short stories that represent an astonishing variety of human experience in a vast range of narrative registers. In contrast to Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” Boccaccio’s work has been characterized as a “human” comedy—earthbound, humorous, indulgent and dramatically different from the work of his admired predecessor. In this course, we will read both works, concentrating on salient cantos and stories to try to understand the genius of these two extraordinary authors, as well as some of their cultural origins, the new mercantile world of the 14th century, and the enormous changes they effected in Western literature.

Related Disciplines

Previous Courses

Intermediate Italian: Modern Prose

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This course will be taught by Ms. Serafini-Sauli in the fall and by Ms. Rorandelli in the spring.

This course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, students will be exposed to present-day Italy through the selection of modern Italian literature (e.g., short stories, poems, and passages from novels), as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Alessandro Baricco, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Italo Calvino. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will also be required as an integral part of the course. The materials selected for the class—whether a literary text, song, or grammar exercise—will be accessible at all times to the students through MySLC. Research on the Web will be central to the course and will offer the basis for the weekly “Web piece,” a short paper on a particular topic. Individual conference topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes will be held twice a week with the language assistants.

Related Disciplines

Beginning Italian

Open , Seminar—Year

This course, for students with no previous knowledge of Italian, aims at giving the student a complete foundation in the Italian language with particular attention to the oral and written communication of everyday use and all aspects of Italian culture. The course will be conducted in Italian after the first month and will involve the study of all basic structures of the language—phonological, grammatical, and syntactical—with practice in conversation, reading, composition, and translation. In addition to the basic Italian grammar and an array of supplementary computer and Internet material, the course will also include texts from prose fiction, poetry, journalistic prose, songs, films, recipe books, and the language of publicity. Conference work is largely based on reading and writing, and the use of the language is encouraged through games and creative composition. The course also has a conversation component in regular workshops with the language assistants. Supplementary activities such as opera and relevant exhibits in New York City are made available, as possible. Credit for the course is contingent upon completing the full year, by the end of which students attain a basic competence in all aspects of the language.


Dante’s Divine Comedy

Open , Seminar—Spring

Concepts of life after death are among the oldest and most constant elements of all cultures, and among the compelling stories that humans tell is that of a journey to an underworld or an afterlife. But the representation of a passage through the afterlife is, of course, a kind of journey through this life. It is usually a voyage of suffering and redemption; and it posits a life after death where “divine” justice corrects all of the injustices that we experience in our time on earth. The telling of this story does many things: It illustrates and exalts the capacity of an individual for transformation; at the same time, it distills and reflects a set of values and helps to regulate life on earth by defining good and evil. And, perhaps most vividly, concepts of heaven and hell serve traditionally as repositories for dreams of ecstasy and fantasies of horror. In the Christian West, these images have taken many forms. In literature, they are usually visions or journeys to some kind of other world. In visual art, they are often in the form of Last Judgments or illustrations of visions. In film, they have taken on aspects of science fiction. And in psychology, they are the record of out-of-body experiences. This course will focus on Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is the most complete codification of the afterlife. In conference projects, students may study antecedents and analogues that might include books of the Aeneid and of the Odyssey, Platonic myths, books from the Old Testament and New Testament, medieval mystical literature, as well as pictorial representations of the Last Judgment and contemporary films. The course will be taught in English and is open to students with some background in literature. It is also open to students at the advanced level in Italian, who can do class reading and conference work in Italian and also have weekly meetings with the language assistant.

Related Disciplines