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Unit information: Medieval and Renaissance Italy in 2021/22

Unit name Medieval and Renaissance Italy
Unit code ITAL10034
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kay
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to provide students with a broad historical overview of thirteenth- to sixteenth-century Italy, and to introduce them to some of the important cultural trends and developments associated with this period. The unit will be divided into two parts. Weeks 1-5 will focus on aspects of late-medieval culture, with particular reference to the city of Florence. Each week will introduce a key question associated with the period (the medieval city-state, manuscript culture, Latin and vernacular language, love and desire, gender) in a lecture. These questions will then be discussed in relation to selected chapters from Dante’s first major work, the Vita nova. Students will submit a short written piece on the Vita nova in Week 7. Week 7’s class will concern definitions of the Renaissance and the question of humanism, while weeks 8-11 will introduce a comparative dimension to literary analysis through three case studies emphasizing different types of transmission and reception trajectory through the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Boccaccio’s use of Dante, Petrarch’s translation into Latin of Boccaccio’s Griselda story, and Botticelli’s use of Boccaccio’s Nastagio story. Using these case studies we will resist an artificial historical distinction between the Middle Ages and Renaissance and focus instead on the relevance of mobility and exchange. Two classes will also be dedicated to reflecting on the ways in which the production, transmission and reception of pre-modern texts influences literary study, through a workshop on a selection of manuscripts and printed books held in Special Collections, and a class using online digital resources. Students will write a longer comparative essay at the end of the unit.

The unit will thus introduce students to some overarching questions associated with literary, artistic, and intellectual culture in medieval and Renaissance Italy, and will provide them with some of the linguistic and analytical tools and terminology for approaching literary and visual texts from these earlier periods. The unit will thus develop broader critical skills as well as preparing students for specific medieval and Renaissance cultural units during the remainder of their degree programme.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. a knowledge and understanding of some key historical turning-points and cultural trends in medieval and Renaissance Italy that will prepare them for future cultural units focused on these periods
  2. skills in the analysis of medieval and Renaissance texts in their historical and cultural context;
  3. ability to reflect upon different critical approaches to the periods in question;
  4. academic writing skills appropriate to level C;
  5. essential skills of cultural inquiry, analysis, and criticism.

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 short writing task of 1000 words (30%) (ILOs 2, 4, 5)

1 x essay of 2000 words (70%) (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. ITAL10034).

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.