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Study information

Ideal Cities? Urban Cultures of Renaissance Italy

Module titleIdeal Cities? Urban Cultures of Renaissance Italy
Module codeAHV2208
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Jamie Edwards (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The Italian city is the crucible for creativity that forged the Renaissance. To this day, Italy is defined by sharp contrasts and distinctions between cities and regions. Local pride and identity are wrapped up in these distinctions and even have a name, campanilismo– pride in your bell-tower, your place. This course looks at the period (c. 1400-1520) in which the cultural variety of Italian cities took shape, and came to be expressed in visual and verbal terms. We will work using examples from cities such as Florence, Siena, Rome and Urbino, read texts produced in those cities and focus, above all, on the buildings, paintings and ritual events that shaped identities of place. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to

  • Introduce you to the multifaceted cultural expression of the Italian Renaissance city
  • Discuss key moments and artistic achievements (e.g. Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, or Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican apartments) in a wide context informed by urban design, collective patronage practices, and ritual life
  • Read a variety of contemporary texts (in translation), ranging from technical treatises to comic novellas in conjunction with visual evidence, to show how urban spaces were lived and experienced
  • The module ends by looking at how urban images of the Renaissance past have been adopted and adapted in recent times through politics, entertainment and tourism

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the history and culture of Renaissance Italian cities
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of urban/cultural identity and choices
  • 3. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the key recent debates and issues that underlie the study of Italian Renaissance urban culture
  • 4. Demonstrate familiarity with the history of various forms of cultural expression in the context of Renaissance Italian cities: literature, political theory, art and architecture, urban design

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Recognise and understand basic art-historical terminology and concepts
  • 6. With initial guidance, find his/her way around the relevant subject areas of the University Library and access and use learning resources specified by the course tutor
  • 7. Use a reading list to identify material relevant to a given aspect of the subject, and report findings orally and in writing

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Assimilate, select and organise material in order to produce a written or oral argument
  • 9. Undertake structured learning activities with guidance from course tutor and with the help of written guidelines
  • 10. Explain and discuss personal conclusions with other members of the group

Syllabus plan

Lecture series structured around examples from a number of key Italian Renaissance cities (e.g. Florence, Siena, Rome, Ferrara, Urbino), addressing urban identity and its expression in written and visual media. Themes covered:

  • The city state as a work of art
  • Patronage and identity(ies)
  • Theory and practice of the ideal city
  • Civic, seigniorial and private expressions of culture

Seminars explore case studies, drawn from cities outlined in the lectures. You will be offered options to work on literary, artistic or architectural forms of expression.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1010 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching105 x 2 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching22 hour field trip
Guided independent study128Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar worksheets and readingApproximately 3 hours weekly1-10Collective, oral
Mini essay750 words and assessed presentation1-10Individual, written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002500 words final assessment1-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2,500 words)Essay (2,500 words)1-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • L. B. Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books , ed. and trans. J. Rykwert, N. Leach and R. Tavernor, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991
  • Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-century Italy. A primer in the social history of pictorial style , Oxford: Oxford University Press 1972
  • Stephen J. Campbell and Michael Wayne Cole, A new history of Italian Renaissance art , London : Thames & Hudson, 2012
  • D. Medina. Lasansky, The Renaissance perfected : architecture, spectacle, and tourism in Fascist Italy , University Park, Penn. : Pennsylvania State University Press 2004
  • Lauro Martines, An Italian Renaissance Sextet. Six Tales in Historical Context , trans. Murtha Baca (New York: Marsilio, 1994 (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2004)
  • Evelyn Welch, Art and Society in Italy , 1350-1500 , Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Italian, Art History, Modern Languages, Culture

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date