Italian Studies

Undergraduate

Learning Italian leads to unique educational and professional opportunities. The Italian major seeks to foster linguistic fluency and appreciation of Italian culture.

Program Overview

At Mount Holyoke College, our Italian faculty are a small group of dedicated professors and scholars. Rather than simply teaching a language, we teach you a whole culture and support your professional growth through language programs and internships in Italy. We keep our courses small and create a warm, supportive community that welcomes all students interested in Italian language and culture. Italian is renowned as the language of the arts, music, and opera. In the third millennium, at the crossroads of Mediterranean culture, Italy is quickly becoming a multicultural nation, with one of the top ten economies in the world. It is a leader in design, fashion, food and wine as well as in engineering, aerospace and medicine. The ability to speak, read and understand Italian and to have first-hand experience in Italian culture is vital and relevant in today’s interconnected global economies.

A major in Italian can lead to a variety of national and international careers in foreign service, international banking and trade, fashion marketing, film, journalism, and teaching. Valuable experience can be gained through the many study abroad options available to Italian majors in Florence, Bologna, Padova, and Ferrara, among others.

Alum Connections

Stories from Italian Alums

Sophia Spector ’15, First-Grade Teacher

Kathryn Higgins '12:

Courses and Requirements

In addition to acquiring advanced oral and written proficiency in the Italian language, majors will have the opportunity to access Italy's rich literary and cultural heritage through a variety of venues, including short stories, novels, poetry, film, music, art, and contemporary newspapers.

Learning Goals

In connection with the College’s learning goals, the major in Italian at Mount Holyoke prepares students to develop a comprehensive knowledge of Italian language and culture. It is the department’s mission to inspire and motivate students to learn about Italian culture in all of its multifaceted aspects through:

  • in-depth study of the Italian language in all of its components (speaking, writing, reading and listening), in order to achieve near-native proficiency. Through a communicative approach, students learn to express feelings, engage in discussion about any topic, develop complex ideas, and read and critically analyze original texts and films in Italian.
  • in-depth study of Italian culture and literature to develop a rich, diverse and layered knowledge of Italian thought, history, cultural habits, geography, culinary tradition, gender issues and politics.
  • in-depth study of the role of Italy and Italian culture in Mediterranean and world history through millennia of people’s shifts, diasporas and migrations.

The department aims for students to become global citizens, through study abroad programs in Italy and internships in Venice, Florence and Rome. Dedicated faculty members believe in creating a relaxed and positive atmosphere that is conducive to learning, beyond the traditional classroom experience. Classes take frequent advantage of campus resources (museums, libraries, residence halls, and the Italian Living-Learning Community) to organize events to continue teaching beyond the classroom in a consistent and constructive effort at community building.

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 32 credits:

ITAL-209Conversation and Composition4
ITAL-221Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature I4
or ITAL-222 Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature II
Four 300-level courses in Italian literature and culture to be approved by the department 116
8 additional credits in Italian8
Total Credits32
1

At least one 300-level course must be taken in the senior year.

Additional Specifications

  • Courses lower than ITAL-209 cannot be counted toward the major.
  • Independent Study (ITAL-395) may not be used as part of the minimum major requirements.
  • One 200- or 300-level course may be in English translation but must be approved by the department.
  • Students thinking about a major in Italian or studying abroad should contact Professor Frau or Language Instructor Svaldi.

Requirements for the Minor

A minimum of 16 credits

ITAL-209Conversation and Composition4
ITAL-221Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature I4
or ITAL-222 Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature II
At least one course at the 300 level4
One additional course at the 200 or 300 level4
Total Credits16

Additional Specifications

  • Courses lower than ITAL-209 cannot be counted toward the minor.
  • Independent Study (ITAL-395) may not be used as part of the minimum minor requirements.
  • One 200- or 300-level course may be in English translation but must be approved by the department.

Course Advice

Guidelines for New Students

All courses satisfy distribution requirements unless otherwise indicated.

Courses are normally conducted in Italian. Courses offered in translation are listed at the end of the Italian course descriptions.

Students with no previous training in Italian should elect ITAL-101ITAL-102.

Students with two years of high school study should elect ITAL-201. Students whose proficiency in the Italian language is superior and who wish to study literature should elect ITAL-221 or ITAL-222, in the fall semester. Students who are unsure about their level should contact Professor Frau for a proficiency test.

Students contemplating a junior year in Italy should elect an Italian course in the first semester of their first year.

Course Offerings

ITAL-101 Elementary Italian I

Fall and Spring. Credits: 4

This course emphasizes understanding, speaking, and writing in a contemporary context. It also promotes creativity with presentations and original group projects. It includes Web activities, films, short stories, and frequent conversation sessions with language assistants.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
O. Frau, M. Svaldi
Notes: Successful completion of both ITAL-101 and ITAL-102 will give students a full grammatical knowledge of basic Italian and it is highly recommended.

ITAL-102 Elementary Italian II

Spring. Credits: 4

This course emphasizes understanding, speaking, and writing in a contemporary context. It also promotes creativity with presentations and original group projects. It includes Web activities, films, short stories, and frequent conversation sessions with language assistants.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
M. Svaldi
Prereq: ITAL-101.

ITAL-112 Bridge to Italian 201 Part 1

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 2

This course is particularly designed to create a new path for students who are taking (or have taken) Italian 101 and wish to have the necessary preparation to take Intermediate Italian (Italian 201) the following fall semester. They will be provided with the skills necessary to: understand, speak, and write Italian at the advanced beginner level, learn about contemporary Italian society, and develop the competence, interest and enthusiasm for the language that will inspire them to proceed to more advanced levels.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
M. Svaldi
Advisory: For students who are taking, or have taken, ITAL-101.
Notes: Second half of semester.

ITAL-113 Bridge to Italian 201 Part 2

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 2

This course is particularly designed to create a new path for students who have taken Italian 112 only. They will be provided with the skills necessary to: understand, speak, and write Italian at the advanced beginner level, learn about contemporary Italian society, and develop the competence, interest and enthusiasm for the language that will inspire them to proceed to more advanced levels.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
M. Svaldi
Prereq: ITAL-112.
Notes: Half-semester course.

ITAL-201 Intermediate Italian

Fall. Credits: 4

After reviewing essential grammar and vocabulary, Intermediate Italian will expose students to new and more complex lexicon and communicative grammatical structures. Through authentic materials (videoclips, music, newspaper articles, websites etc.), the course emphasizes reading, writing, listening, and speaking. A realistic picture of modern Italy replaces stereotypical images of Italy with contemporary representation. Class time emphasizes group conversations and builds accurate use of the language in an interactive and dynamic way. Projects will give a solid foundation that provide opportunities for cultivating interests and help prepare students for more advanced study of Italian.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
M. Svaldi
Prereq: ITAL-102.

ITAL-209 Conversation and Composition

Spring. Credits: 4

Offers practice of colloquial and idiomatic speech patterns in Italian to emphasize correct pronunciation and intonation. Includes oral presentations as well as frequent compositions, from short reports to full-length essays. Uses newspapers, magazines, and literary texts to discuss issues and lifestyles concerning Italian society.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
O. Frau
Prereq: ITAL-201.

ITAL-213 Italian Excellence: Science, Arts, Design

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 1

This course focuses on Italian excellence in the sciences, arts, and culture, with particular attention to fashion, design, the food industry, sustainability, the visual arts, and architecture. This course is multidisciplinary; students will be able to practice Italian while exploring connections between Italian culture and other disciplines. The course is student-centered, includes a digital project, and is taught using a wide variety of materials: articles, short stories, videos, documentaries, and social media. Designed primarily for the students who live on the Italian floor, the course aims to foster a sense of community and to expand students' perspectives and intellectual curiosity, whether they plan to study abroad or not.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
M. Svaldi
Prereq: ITAL-101 or ITAL-102.
Notes: Second half of semester.

ITAL-221 Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature I

ITAL-221LC Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature I: 'children Stories: 'Italian Children Culture: Italian Literature for Children 1800-Today'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course explores the development of Italian identity through books and stories aimed at children in the 1800s, 1900s, and today. From Collodi's Pinocchio, to Rodari's theory of story-telling, we will examine gender roles and narratives, racism, colonialism, and the influence of television, cinema, and social media.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
O. Frau
Notes: Taught in English. May be taken for 300-level credit in Italian with permission of instructor. Students who wish to take this course at the 300-level in Italian should expect an additional weekly meeting and different assignments.

ITAL-221LT Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature I: 'Intro to Literary Culture' 1800-Today'

Fall. Credits: 4

This course surveys the evolution of Italian literary culture from its origins to modern times. Short readings, class discussions, written work, and movie screenings are aimed at developing skills in oral expression and expository writing in Italian.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
O. Frau
Prereq: ITAL-201 or ITAL-209.
Notes: Taught in Italian. Students who are interested in taking this course at the 300-level will complete extra assignments and a final project.

ITAL-222 Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature II

ITAL-222MB Introduction to Italian Culture and Literature II: "Mystery Boutique: The Modern Short Story in Italy'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Writing short stories is a challenging art. Starting with Boccaccio, Italian authors are considered masters of the novella. This course will explore the universe of the short story in modern Italy, from realism to mystery, from love to rebellion, from the hardships of child labour to the fantastic. Readings will include DeAmicis, Capuana, Verga, Neera, Marchesa Colombi, Serao, Pirandello, Ginzburg, Buzzati, Pavese, Landolfi, Calvino, and Scego.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
O. Frau
Notes: Taught in Italian.

ITAL-242 Sicily: Crossroads of the Mediterranean

Spring. Credits: 4

Its long history as the locus of collisions among cultures -- Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, Spanish, and (northern) Italian -- has earned Sicily a special place in Mediterranean studies. One product of these clashes is that for millennia Sicilians have confronted questions of identity. More recently, because of immigration waves from North Africa, Sicily is once again at the center of the Mediterranean cultural debate. This course will cover almost three thousand years of Sicilian life, as we explore the role of material culture and literature in shaping Sicilian identities. Readings (with related films) may include selections from such authors as Virgil, and Ovid; Ibn Hawkal and Al-Idrisi; Lampedusa, Pirandello, Giordana, and Maraini.

Crosslisted as: CLASS-242
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Debnar, O. Frau
Notes: Taught in English.

ITAL-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

ITAL-306 All in the Family: Italian Families

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

What is a family? Starting with Ancient Rome, familial ties have always played a strong role in Italian society. This course examines the concept of family through the centuries and through cultural, literary and historical changes. We will explore this idea from the ancient Roman family, to the Fascist family, to the modern and post-modern family, together with representations of Italian families in art, television, cinema, and advertisement.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
O. Frau
Advisory: Intended for Italian and Romance Languages majors and minors and all students interested in Mediterranean studies.
Notes: Taught in English. Students who want to take this course for credit towards the Italian major or minor, please contact Professor Frau. This course will be linked with Professor Khory's International Migration and Professor Gadjigo's Paris and France in the African Imagination.

ITAL-311 Advanced Topics in Italian

ITAL-361 Seminar in Romance Languages and Cultures

This interdisciplinary seminar will focus on a comparative study of Romance languages or literatures. Topics will vary from semester to semester. Seminar discussions will be conducted in English, but students wishing to obtain language credit are expected to read works in at least one original language. Papers will be written in either English or the Romance language of the student's choice.

ITAL-361AV Seminar in Romance Languages and Cultures: 'About Vanguards and Revolutionary Ideas'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course addresses cultural relations between Latin America and Romance languages and cultures through the concept of vanguard: the Latin American poetic vanguardias of the early twentieth century and controversies with the Italian and Spanish vanguardias; the influence of the Négritude anti-colonial movement in Latin American decolonial thinking and the political avant-garde movements and guerrillas of the '60s and '70s; the intersections between French surrealism and Latin American magic realism; and the emergence of the Cinema Novo and New/Third Cinema (the vanguard of political cinema in Latin America) in the context of Italian neo-realism and the French nouvelle vague.

Crosslisted as: ROMLG-375AV, FREN-321AV, SPAN-360AV
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language; Multicultural Perspectives
A. Pitetta
Prereq: 8 credits at the 200 level in language or literature.
Notes: Taught in English. Students wishing to obtain 300-level credit in French, Italian, or Spanish must read texts and write papers in the Romance language for which they wish to receive credit.

ITAL-361LT Seminar in Romance Languages and Cultures: 'Romance Languages Translate'

Spring. Credits: 4

This seminar explores Romance languages, literatures and cultures through the prism of translation. By comparing translations from Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian between each other and into English, we will map out the boundaries, intersections and middle grounds of this language family. Students will engage with the different traditions of translation studies in these languages and critically analyze translators' paratexts. Selecting an individual translation project in a Romance language of their choice, through a process of revision and collaboration, each student will produce both a polished translation and a commentary explaining challenges and choices.

Crosslisted as: ROMLG-375LT, FREN-321LT, SPAN-360LT
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
C. Shread
Restrictions: This course is open to juniors and seniors
Advisory: Two courses in culture and literature at the 200 level.
Notes: Students wishing to obtain 300-level credit in French, Italian, or Spanish must read texts and write papers in the Romance language for which they wish to receive credit.

ITAL-361MT Seminar in Romance Languages and Cultures: 'The Mind of the Traveler: Journeys, Expeditions, Tours'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Travel literature has always been a precious source for the study of culture, politics, arts, and last but not least, people. From Tacitus to Marco Polo, from Stendhal to Camilo Jose Cela, we will read and discuss authors who traveled for political, personal, and recreational reasons. We will also pay special attention to tales of emigration and immigration in the third millennium.

Crosslisted as: SPAN-360MT, FREN-321MT, ROMLG-375MT
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
O. Frau
Advisory: For language majors; two courses in culture and literature at the 200-level.
Notes: Note: Students wishing to obtain 300-level credit in French, Italian, or Spanish must read texts and write papers in the Romance language for which they wish to receive credit.

ITAL-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

Contact Us

The Department of Classics and Italian oversees programs in ancient studies, classics, Italian, Greek and Latin.

Denise Falk
  • Academic Department Coordinator

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