Why study Italian?
Over the centuries, Italy has produced some of the most remarkable cultural
works in the western canon, from the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri to
Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, from The Prince of Niccolò
Machiavelli to the neo-realist films of Vittorio De Sica, and from Baldassarre
Castiglione's The Courtier to the post-modernist novels of Italo Calvino.
Historically, too, Italy has always been of great importance. In the Middle
Ages cities such as Florence and Venice were among the richest and most powerful
of Europe; it was Italy that produced the Renaissance, the culture and values of
which have provided the foundations of much of western life in the last five
hundred years; in the nineteenth century it provided one of the most exciting
and inspiring examples of movement of national unification, while in the
twentieth century it gave rise to the political system known as fascism.
Today Italy is one of the world's leading industrial democracies. It is the
seventh largest global market for British exports, and the UK is the third
largest supplier to Italy after Germany and France. In the UK today Italy has,
arguably, a higher cultural profile than any other European country: from
football to fashion, food and film.
The aim of 'Italian Studies' as an academic subject is to provide an
introduction to the very rich and varied culture and history of Italy since the
Middle Ages, and to explore this history and culture using a variety of
disciplines and methodologies across a broad range of subjects. These subjects
include literature, cinema, linguistics, political thought, dialectology, and
political, economic and social history. Knowledge of the Italian language, both
written and spoken, is seen as an indispensable tool for access to, and an
understanding of, Italian culture, and the teaching of Italian is accordingly a
core element in 'Italian Studies'.
"Italy is the seventh largest
global market for British exports, and the UK is the third largest supplier to
Italy after Germany and France."