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From Page to Screen: The Italian Female Detective in Literature, Film, and Television

Module titleFrom Page to Screen: The Italian Female Detective in Literature, Film, and Television
Module codeMLI2004
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Alessia Risi (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores iconic Italian female detectives across literature and screen, comparing them to international counterparts. These figures have been subverting societal and narrative norms of the traditionally male-dominated crime genre from its origin in the 19th century to the present. You will study texts featuring female detectives in relation to their cultural, historical, and sociopolitical contexts, developing critical analysis skills. Emphasis is on the evolution of female representation and its relational dynamics (e.g. how female detectives interact with other characters) in detective narratives.


While aimed at ex-beginner students of Italian, all backgrounds are welcome. Texts are explored in Italian and English translations/subtitling. Crossing disciplines such as literature, film, and cultural studies, this module is tailored for students interested in interdisciplinary study approaches, offering an exploration of Italian detective narratives.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to address crucial questions about crime narratives and their reflection of societal and cultural dynamics. By exploring the genre's traditionally male-dominated nature and its deep intertwining with cultural history, we will investigate how shifting the focus to female protagonists challenges and reshapes genre conventions, offering new insights into the sociocultural landscape of Italy and beyond.

Specifically, this module aims to:

  • Enable you to engage with and contextualise a wide cross-section of texts from Italy, Europe, and beyond, fostering exploration of the evolution of Italian female detectives and concepts of female agency.
  • Encourage your comparative skills in identifying common themes, differences, and cultural influences while examining representational modes and narrative/societal norms.
  • Develop your critical analysis skills through various methodological approaches, including literary criticism and cultural studies.
  • Foster your understanding of the intersection of gender, genre, and society in crime narratives.
  • Facilitate your understanding of crime narratives' popularity by examining factors contributing to the genre's global appeal and its cultural significance.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Recognise the main features of Italian female detective characters within their cultural contexts and critically outline the evolution of these figures across diverse texts and in relation to developments in the genre.
  • 2. Compare and critically discuss examples of representational modes and societal norms in crime narratives that feature female protagonists.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Use a range of cultural studies critical terminology, applying it to independently researched material as well as to material introduced by the course tutor(s).
  • 4. Analyse and evaluate the portrayal of female characters across various types of texts, and the ways in which they interact with societal expectations, norms, and challenges within the context of the crime genre.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Organise and explain key concepts and elements of the course materials across various modes of engagement, including in-class discussions, group presentations, and individual work.
  • 6. Question assumptions and critically assess information through guided in-class discussions, suggested readings, and independent research.

Syllabus plan

While the specific content may differ from one year to the next, the course aims to address a range of topics that may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Origins of the genre and sociohistorical contexts
  • A critical overview of the evolution of the genre
  • Impact of technology, publishing trends, and the case of 'il giallo Mondadori'
  • Italian female detectives in golden age crime fiction and comparisons with international counterparts
  • Subverting gender norms: Italian female detectives and sociopolitical contexts
  • Investigating identities and decolonizing the genre
  • Intersections of gender, class, age, race, power, and agency in Italian detective narratives
  • Contemporary Italian female detectives in literature and comparisons with international counterparts
  • Screen adaptation of Italian female detectives and comparisons with international counterparts


You will be taught through weekly learning and teaching sessions, and you will be encouraged to watch suggested films and selected TV series episodes. These resources will be available as DVDs in the library or through online streaming links where possible. You will be expected to engage with reading materials, participate in discussion activities, and will be given the opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns about assessments with the tutor(s).

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 Teaching1Module conclusions
Guided Independent Study134Active private and peer study to prepare for in-class discussions and assessments. This involves engaging in reading, watching audiovisual content, independent research, and completing assigned learning tasks.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Annotated bibliography500 words1-6Written individual feedback and group discussion

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
Portfolio100Various tasks totalling 2500 words to be submitted at the end of term.1-6Written or recorded

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio (Various tasks totalling 2500)Portfolio (Various tasks totalling 2500)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

  • Invernizio, Carolina. Nina la poliziotta dilettante (Salani, 1909)
  • Lucarelli, Carlo. Almost Blue
  • Maraini, Dacia. Voci (Rizzoli, 1994)
  • Scerbanenco, Giorgio.Venere Privata (Garzanti, 1966)
  • Verasani, Grazia Quo Vadis, Baby?

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • Almost Blue (2000). Dir. Alex Infascelli. [Film]. Italy.
  • Broadchurch (2013). [TV Series] ITV. UK.
  • Bron, Broen (2011). [TV Series] SVT1, DR1. Denmark/Sweden.
  • Forbrydelsen (2007). [TV Series] DR1. Denmark.
  • Petra (2020-). [TV Series]. SKY Atlantic. Italy.
  • Quo Vadis, Baby? (2005). Dir. Gabriele Salvatores. [Film]. Italy.
  • Quo Vadis, Baby? (2008). [TV Series] SKY Cinema 1. Italy.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Bartlett, Alicia Giménez. Petra Delicado book series(1996-2020).
  • Christie, Agatha. The Murder at the Vicarage (Collins Crime Club, 1930).
  • Cornwell, Patricia. Postmortem (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990).
  • James, Phyllis Dorothy, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (Faber and Faber, 1972).
  • Johnsen, Rosemary Erickson. Contemporary Feminist Historical Crime Fiction (Palgrave, 2006).
  • Klein, Kathleen Gregory. Diversity and Detective Fiction (Bowling Green UP, 1999).
  • Lazzaro-Weis, Carol. From Margins to Mainstream: Feminism and Fictional Modes in Italian Women's Writing, 1968-1990 (Pennsylvania UP, 1993).
  • Makinen, Merja. Agatha Christie: Investigating Femininity (Palgrave, 2006).
  • Mizejewski, Linda. Hardboiled & High Heeled: The Woman Detective in Popular Culture (Routledge, 2004).
  • Munt, Sally Rowe. Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel (Routledge, 1994).
  • Pezzotti, Barbara. Investigating Italy's Past through Historical Crime Fiction, Films, and TV Series (Palgrave, 2016).
  • Pezzotti, Barbara. Mediterranean Crime Fiction: Transcultural Narratives in and around the ‘Great Sea' (Cambridge UP, 2016).
  • Pieri, Giuliana. Italian Crime Fiction (Wales UP, 2011).

Key words search

(Italian) Crime Narratives, Gender, Feminism, Cultural Studies, Screen Adaptation, Comparative Studies, Publishing

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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