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General Studies Program

Departmental Information

School of General Studies

A major in Italian offers students the opportunity to study Italian literature and culture in an intimate, seminar setting with the close supervision of the department’s faculty. The department offers the major or concentration on two tracks: Italian literature and Italian cultural studies. Both programs include a prerequisite and a corequisite sequence of language courses designed to give students a command of written and spoken Italian.

The major in Italian literature exposes students to some of the key authors and works in Italian literature from the Middle Ages to the present. The basic required sequence ( V3333 - V3334 ) provides an overview of major authors and works in the Italian literary tradition. Students select an additional five courses from the department’s offerings in Italian literature. The four related courses, to be chosen in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies, help students to connect their study of Italian literature to other fields of European literature and culture.

The major in Italian cultural studies provides students with the opportunity to explore diverse aspects of Italian culture from the Middle Ages to the present. The basic required sequence ( W4502 - W4503 ) is an interdisciplinary investigation into Italian culture since national unification in 1860. In consultation with the director of undergraduate studies, students select an additional five courses from the department’s 3000- or 4000-level offerings or from other humanities and social science departments with a focus on Italian culture The four related courses, also chosen in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies, help students to connect their study of Italian culture to other fields of European culture and history.

Highly motivated students have the opportunity to pursue a senior thesis or tutorial project under the guidance of a faculty advisor in an area of Italian literature or culture of their choosing.

Departmental courses taught entirely in English do not have linguistic prerequisites and students from other departments who have interests related to Italian culture are especially welcome.

Italian language instruction employs a communicative approach that integrates speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Courses make use of materials that help students to learn languages not just as abstract systems of grammar and vocabulary but as living cultures with specific content. Across the levels from elementary to advanced, a wide range of literary, cultural and multimedia material, including books, film, and opera, supplements the primary course text. The sequence in elementary and intermediate Italian enables students to fulfill the College’s foreign language requirement and thoroughly prepares them for advanced study of language ( V3335 - V3336) and for literature courses taught in Italian. Specialized language courses allow students to develop their conversational skills. For highly motivated students, the department offers intensive elementary and intensive intermediate Italian, both of which cover a full year of instruction in one semester. Courses in advanced Italian, although part of the requirements for a major in Italian literature or cultural studies, are open to any qualified student whose main goal is to improve and perfect their competence in the language. The stylistics course is recommended for advanced undergraduate students who are considering graduate studies in Italian or a career that requires superior command of spoken and written Italian.

A wide range of cultural programs is sponsored by the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, located in Casa Italiana. These programs, which include the Columbia Seminar on Modern Italian Studies and the Italian Academy Film Festival, enrich the learning experience of the student and offer opportunities to meet distinguished Italian and Italian-American visitors to the University. The Paterno collection is housed in Butler Library and contains valuable resources on Italian literature and culture. The department sponsors a weekly gathering, caffè e conversazione, which provides informal opportunities for conversation and language practice to students and other members of the University community.


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