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Unit information: The Italian City: Medieval and Early Modern Cultures in 2021/22

Unit name The Italian City: Medieval and Early Modern Cultures
Unit code MODL30020
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kay
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The major urban centres of medieval and early modern Italy – Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan and Naples – were the sites of great social and economic renewal and cultural innovation, from literature to the visual arts, and from elite culture to popular entertainment. Writers like Dante and Boccaccio, artists like Giotto and Donatello, thinkers like Ficino and Machiavelli, and public figures like Lorenzo de’ Medici and Savonarola permanently transformed the cultural landscape in ways that continue to shape the present. This unit takes one of these centres, in the first instance Florence, and introduces students to the social and cultural world of its citizens. Drawing on resources from across the full Faculty of Arts, those taking the unit will be encouraged to engage with these cities in all their multifaceted complexity by moving across the usual subject interests, encompassing not only Italian literature and art history but the classical tradition, religious culture, and historical material. We will not only explore the cultural history of these urban environments but also the ways in which they have been transformed as physical sites and as virtual destinations in our collective imagination.


To introduce students to the rich and multifaceted culture of late medieval and early modern Italy within a clearly defined urban context.

To explore the ways in which an interdisciplinary approach can shed light on the various strands of Italian culture during this period, from the literary to the visual.

To engage with the relevant scholarship from more specialism and to critically compare subject specific approaches.

To develop broader skills of cultural inquiry and criticism, building on those acquired in Years 1 and 2. To equip students with the skills required to undertake postgraduate study in a relevant field.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. critique medieval and renaissance cultural artefacts in their social and intellectual context;
  2. analyse methodological as well as contextual questions raised by this material;
  3. identify and examine contemporary critical debates concerning the ongoing relevance of medieval and renaissance culture;
  4. develop effective written communication skills;
  5. formulate independent judgements through sophisticated critical approaches.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation

Assessment Information

1 x 1500-word commentary (30%). Testing ILOs 1-5.

1 x 3500-word essay (70%). Testing ILOs 1-5.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MODL30020).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.