Taught in English. Examines the role of food and fashion in the construction of Italian identity through literature. Rooted in the Renaissance when Italy began to establish norms for eating and dressing, food and fashion have become major components of Italy’s international image and creative imagination.
Through a selection of literary pieces and essays, film clips, videos, and site visits, this course is designed to introduce students to Italy and its culture through the lens of some major writers who have addressed these two topics at crucial moments in the history of Italy. It also provides a historical background (mainly focusing on the period from the post-Unification to today) to understand the appeal of Italian food and clothing in a contemporary context. Students will discover through its construction in literature that the bella figura is far from being a contemporary concept, and what Italians eat and wear today is part of a centuries-long tradition infused and invested with meaning.
Reflections on fashion and food by theorists and scholars will be introduced during the semester to provide some basic critical tools to approach these topics from the cultural, psychological, symbolic, and social perspectives. Each text in the syllabus tells a story, either fictitious or real, and each illustrates how stories can be narrated in different ways. A study of these narrative techniques will suggest how language can be used imaginatively and will help students conceive their own narratives that will be presented in the final project. Special attention will be given to the form of the “manifesto,” which was of great importance in the first half of the twentieth century. Students will practice writing different kinds of narratives through writing exercises and through workshops. When possible, these workshops will be lead by guest speakers—including writers and fashion designers.
Slow, in-depth reading, writing, creative thinking and discussions are central to this course, as are site visits. All texts will be read in English translation.
Course fee: A fee will be charged to cover Florence site visits (2021-22 fee = $75).
Semesters: Fall, Spring