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Study information

Italy Inside Out: Popular Visual Narratives about Italy

Module titleItaly Inside Out: Popular Visual Narratives about Italy
Module codeMLI1016
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Alessia Risi ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

What ideas and images do the words ‘Italy’ and ‘Italian’ conjure up for you? On this module you will explore the pleasures and problems associated with the most popular storylines that circulate within and originate from inside and outside Italy today. By comparing films, television and spatial narratives produced inside and outside Italy around a series of themes (Roman glamour; the Latin Lover; Crime and corruption; Virtual Italies) you will understand more about why certain ideas and stereotypes about Italy are so persistent and compelling, how they travel, and how they are received. No prior study of Italian language required. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the ways in which Italy and Italians have been represented in popular visual narratives in contemporary culture. It will help you to understand more about the pleasures and the constraints of national identities and fantasies. We begin with a focus on the city of Rome, with its stories of glamour and its decay, made famous by Hollywood’s Roman Holiday (Wyler, 1953) and Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960), echoed in the present by Oscar-winning La grande bellezza (Sorrentino, 2013). The transformational reputation of Italy is then explored through the romance narrative, in particular through the figure of the Latin Lover. Turning towards the so-called ‘dark heart’ of Italy, we consider the representation of the mafia and political corruption in both US and Italian television series. Finally we consider the emergence of virtual Italies around the world and within Italy, from supermarkets to hotels, understanding more about how Italy can be consumed as an imaginary product and why.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed understanding and detailed knowledge of the works studied on the module and their cultural and historical context
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of how those works are linked through popular fantasies about Italy

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Demonstrate understanding of the role of national stereotypes in popular culture
  • 4. Recognise the existence of differing critical responses to the material
  • 5. Defend an interpretation of a popular visual text with detailed reference to its form

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Through written analysis, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

Comparing texts produced inside and outside Italy, themes studied will include: Postcards from Italy: Rome; Narratives of Transformation and the Latin Lover; Italy’s Dark Heart: Crime and Corruption; Virtual Italies.

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 Teaching1510 x 1.5 hour sessions involving lecture content and seminar discussion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6Screenings
Guided Independent Study128Guided Independent Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Clip analysis500 words1-6Written and oral feedback

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
Coursework essay1002000 words1-6Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Coursework essay Coursework essay 1-6Referral/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

  • Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983)
  • Clapp, J. A., ‘The Romantic Travel Movie, Italian-Style' Visual Anthropology , 22:1, 52-63
  • Forgacs, David (ed.), Italian Cultural Studies (OUP, 2002)
  • Ginsborg, Paul, Italy and Its Discontents (London: Penguin, 2003)
  • Gordon, Robert, ‘Cartoline da Roma. Hollywood, l’Italia e la città del turismo’ , in ItaliAmerica: il mondo dei media , ed. J. Schnapp and E. Scarpellini (Il Saggiatore, 2012), pp.11-34.
  • Gundle, Stephen, Death and La dolce vita (Canongate, 2011), pp. 272-305
  • Homm, Stephanie, The Beautiful Country: Tourism and the Impossible State of Destination Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2015)
  • Jones, Tobias, The Dark Heart of Italy (Faber & Faber, 2003)
  • Levy, Shawn, Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome (W&N, 2018)
  • Liz, Mariana, ‘From Europe with love: urban space and cinematic postcards’, Studies in European Cinema , 2014, 11:1, 3-13
  • O’Rawe, Catherine, 'Comedy and masculinity Italian style' in Stars and Masculinities in Contemporary Italian Cinema (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 62-5
  • Ouditt, S. and Polezzi, L., Introduction: Italy as place and space. Studies in Travel Writing 2012, 16(2), pp. 97-105
  • Parks, Tim, Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (London: Vintage, 2014)
  • Reich, Jacqueline, Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity, and Italian Cinema (Indiana University Press, 2004)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Italy, popular culture

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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