Italian Studies Department: Goals and Objectives
Given Italy's central historical and geographical position, the study of its culture serves to integrate disparate fields of study. Consequently, many majors also concentrate in another field. In addition, we have a significant number of correlate students. The very diversity of our students, therefore, reinforces the inherent "cross culturality" of our field.
To evaluate students' progress in acquiring mastery of Italian, we employ an articulated structure of oral and written exams and in-class presentations during the first four semesters of study. All department members share in the teaching and organizing of language courses and in devising assessments. Oral exams, at the semester's end, for example, are conducted by faculty other than the designated instructor.
At the intermediate level, we offer Italian 270 and 280 which, in their advanced practices of oral and written expression and the study of dialects and the Italian Holocaust, serve as introductions to upper-level courses and seminars. We then offer two courses (Italian 220 and 222) which provide in-depth overviews of two key periods: the twentieth century and the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. We have designed these courses to help students acquire cultural literacy, master literary and other codes, and develop a broad sense of historical developments.
Study in Italy at the University of Bologna (or other Italian universities) constitutes a key component of our program. For one and sometimes two semesters, students enroll in courses offered within our own program by local university instructors; they may also choose from the rich offerings of the University itself. As a result, they return to Vassar with first-hand experience of different methodologies and critical assumptions.
Senior majors enroll in two or three seminars in which they analyze in depth major texts and themes. Topics of these seminars have ranged from the literature and ideology of the Italian Renaissance to modernity in Italy and gender in Italian cinema. At this point we expect students to follow complex lectures in Italian, to participate actively in such discussions, and to make both oral and written presentations in Italian. A required senior seminar in the spring explores topics such as Petrarch’s Letters and youth culture and the culture of youth in twentieth-century Italy.
The diverse interests, methodologies, and approaches of graduating majors is evident in the recent senior projects. These have examined topics ranging from the poetry of Italian immigrants to Arcangela Tarabotti's 17th-centrury "L'inferno monacale" and a translation of essays with presentation and performance of a traditional southern-Italian dance. Recently some of these projects were included in the Learning and Teaching Center annual Senior Research Symposium.