Italian

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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.

2017-2018 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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