Italian

The study of Italian at Sarah Lawrence College offers the rigors of language study and the joys of immersion in one of the richest cultures of the West. The course of study consists of classroom, conference, and conversational components, all enhanced by the flexible academic structure of the College and its proximity to New York City. In the classroom, students learn Italian grammar, syntax, and phonology, using sources of everyday communication and literary texts. In conference sessions—especially helpful in customizing study to each student’s level of fluency—students pursue reading and writing related to topics that compel them. And in conversation meetings, students simply talk with native Italians about anything of common interest. Individual conference projects may be as creative and diverse as is appropriate for each student and can include interdisciplinary work in the Italian language.

As in other disciplines, the resources of New York City enhance student experience. Opera performances at the Metropolitan Opera (after preparatory readings from libretti), film series and lectures, museums, and internships related to conference work all offer ways to bring Italian to life. And for bringing students to Italy, Sarah Lawrence’s study program in Florence maintains the small scale and individual attention that is the mark of the College, providing an exceptional opportunity to combine a yearlong academic experience with the cultural immersion of a homestay living arrangement. Advanced students have the opportunity to spend the second semester of their year abroad studying at the University of Catania in Sicily.

The Italian program periodically offers literature courses in Italian or in translation as part of the literature curriculum. Among these courses are: Images of Heaven and Hell; The Three Crowns: Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio; and Fascism, World War II, and the Resistance in 20th-Century Italian Narrative and Cinema.

2018-2019 Courses

Italian

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.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Prose

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This intermediate-level 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, weekly written compositions will also be required as an integral part of the course. The materials selected for the class— whether a literary text, song, video, or grammar exercise—will be accessible at all times to the students through myslc. 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 assistant.

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“A Talent for Every Noble Thing”: Art, Architecture in Italy, 1300-1600

Open , Seminar—Year

This course involves an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1600. Equal emphasis will be given to the histories and societies of major city-states such as Pisa, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Rome; the canon of art works by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and the broader intellectual trends, social realities, and movements that provide a context for our understanding of the artists’ and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian church designs will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals, creative expression with religious orthodoxy, and popes with monks, dukes, financiers, and “humanist” intellectuals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical “humanist” pamphlets about art in early modern history—Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture—and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Michael Baxandall. The second semester will engage the development of the “High” Renaissance and the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael as philosophers, naturalists, geniuses, models, and marginalized outcasts. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history (particularly, gender studies), and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may involve selected topics in religion, history, and philosophy of the Italian Renaissance and art and architecture in Europe and the “New World” from 1300 to the present.

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First-Year Studies: Comedy and Romance in the Middle Ages

Open , FYS—Year

Knights and ladies, quests and combats, magic and love...these ingredients of medieval literary romance have been around for a thousand years and are still going strong today. But did these motifs mean something different in the medieval world? What accounts for their enduring appeal? We begin in the 12th century with an introduction to romance in both male and female perspectives from Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes, and the troubadour poets. We end in the late 15th century with selections from Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, the definitive version of King Arthur in English. The rest of our texts—including the story of Tristan and Iseult, love poetry by Dante and Petrarch, and narratives by the Gawain poet and Chaucer—enable us to explore how the stuff of romance continued to be developed, revised, and subjected to the scrutiny of laughter during the intervening centuries. In class discussion, our focus is on understanding the human experiences that these texts portray. To do this, we need to uncover the assumptions and methods that medieval writers and readers brought to literary creation and to reconstruct, as best we can, the material and imaginative worlds of the Middle Ages—captivatingly strange yet surprisingly recognizable.

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First-Year Studies: 20th-Century Italian Literature

Open , FYS—Year

No previous knowledge of Italian is required.

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important literary figures, works, and movements (e.g., futurism, neorealism) that helped shape the century. Italy had become a unified nation in 1860, and its literature addressed issues such as (national and personal) identity, tradition, innovation and modernity, the role of literature and of the writer, and the changing role of women in Italian society. We will also explore the interrelation between Italian literature and crucial historical events such as the Great War, the rise and fall of Fascism, World War II, the Resistance, the birth of the Republic, the postwar economic boom, the students’ and women’s movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo.” We will examine sources ranging from manifestos and propaganda to poetry, fiction (novels and short stories), memoirs, and diaries; the main focus, however, will be on the novel. Texts will include those authored by Gabriele D’Annunzio, Ignazio Silone, Vasco Pratolini, F. T. Marinetti, Italo Svevo, Grazia Deledda, Sibilla Aleramo, Alba de Céspedes, Alberto Moravia, Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Italo Calvino. Readings will be supplemented by secondary-source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which those authors lived and wrote, as well as provide relevant critical frameworks for the study of their works. Individual conferences will be held every other week; conference topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student. On alternate weeks, we will have group activities that may include film screenings, museum visits, and talks relevant to the week’s topics.

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Translation Studies: Poetics, Politics, Theory, and Practice

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Linguistic proficiency in a foreign language is strongly recommended.

Translation is the process by which meanings are conveyed within the same language, as well as across different languages, cultures, forms, genres, and modes. The point of departure for this course is that all interpretive acts are acts of translation, that the very medium that makes translation possible—language itself—is already a translation. Because difference, “otherness,” or foreignness is a property of language, of every language, perhaps some of the most interesting problems that we will address revolve around the notion of “the untranslatable.” What is it that escapes, resists, or gets inevitably lost in translation? And what is gained? Does linguistic equivalence exist? How do we understand the distinction between literal and figurative, formal and vernacular, expression? And what underlies our assumptions about the authenticity of the original text or utterance and its subsequent versions or adaptations? Although translation is certainly poetics, it is also the imperfect—and yet necessary—basis for all cultural exchange. As subjects in a multicultural, multilingual, and intertextual universe, all of us “live in translation”; but we occupy that space differently, depending on the status of our language(s) in changing historical, political, and geographic contexts. How has the history of translation theory and practice been inflected by colonialism and postcolonialism? How are translation and power linked in the global literary marketplace? Our readings will alternate between the work of theorists and critics who have shaped what we call translation studies and literary texts that thematize or enact the process of translation, beginning with Genesis and the Tower of Babel. In addition, a workshop component to this course, involving visiting members of the foreign-language faculty and other practitioners of translation, will engage students directly in the challenges of translating.

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