Module Provider: Modern Languages
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: Part 2 Italian, or by agreement
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2014/5

Module Convenor: Dr Paola Nasti


Summary module description:
This course focuses on Dante’s 'Commedia' (c. 1307-21), one of the most fascinating, innovative and influential works of Western culture. The 'Commedia' will be studied against the context of medieval culture, in terms of general themes and with an in-depth focus on a selection from the 100 canti which make up the poem as a whole.

The aim of the course is to introduce students to the complexities of the medieval world portrayed by Dante Alighieri. To this end, students will discuss abstract concepts such as the relationship between innovation and tradition, history and autobiography, literature and the Bible, philosophy and theology, poetic and narrative writing, societal and individual values.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module it is expected that students will be able to:

  • show a broad understanding of Dante’s 'Commedia', in particular in relation to (i) the poem’s literary experimentation; (ii) its relationship to contemporary culture; (iii) its place in Dante’s intellectual development; and (iv) its concern with politics, literary and moral issues;

  • give a close analysis of selected passages or cantos taken from the poem;

  • demonstrate an appreciation of the continuing impact of past cultural production on our understanding of the world, and explore the interrelationship between primary texts and secondary critical sources.

Additional outcomes:
The module also aims to encourage students to: *develop research and writing skills; *develop their oral presentation and discussion skills and their effectiveness in group situations; *improve their grasp of the Italian language and its historical development; *develop their IT skills by conducting Web searches for material relevant to the module, and by being required to submit word-processed work as well as Power-Point presentations; * develop their problem-solving abilities; * make good use of appropriate reference materials; * gain work related knowledge; * reflect on the relevance of acquired skills to their career aspirations.

Outline content:
Refashioning the conventions of epic poetry, Dante (1265-1321) used the account of his presumed journey through the three realms of the Christian afterlife – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise – to explore the world at the close of the Middle Ages. The poem is both an adventure story and an exhaustive, if highly personal, assessment of the state of politics, society, religion, literature, philosophy, and theology at the beginning of the fourteenth century. It is an artistic 'tour de force' which ranges from the most mundane to the most sophisticated manifestations of medieval life, and is written with a vigour and an originality which have rarely been matched.

The first term begins by looking at some general issues relating to the literary character of the 'Commedia', such as its genre, title, and structure. The module then focuses on the first canticle, Inferno, examining broad problems such as the moral and political impact of evil-doing, before proceeding to an in-depth analysis of some key episodes (for instance, the doomed lovers Paolo and Francesca, the corrupt Popes and clergymen, and the great Greek hero Ulysses). In the latter part of the first term the module moves to consider the second canticle, Purgatorio, examining moral, political and literary issues. In the second term students will focus on the study of the third canticle, Paradiso. This fascinating vision of Paradise offers the chance to discuss Dante’s take on the philosophical, theological and mystical traditions of his age as well as to appreciate the poet’s struggle to utter the unspeakable. As with the other two canticles, certain important episodes will be examined in detail (for instance, Dante’s encounter with the great intellectual figures of Western Christendom, his meeting with his great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida, and his movement towards union with God).

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminar discussions for which students will carry out preparatory reading. Each student will be expected to prepare and present at least one seminar, which will be used as the basis for group discussion.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 15 15 4
Seminars 4 4
Project Supervision 3 4
Practicals classes and workshops 4 6
Guided independent study 72 69
Total hours by term 98.00 98.00 4.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 45
Oral assessment and presentation 5

Other information on summative assessment:
Students can choose between two types of coursework:


a) One 4000-word project and one oral presentation. The project is worth 45% and the oral presentation is worth 5% of the student’s assessment mark, subject to scrutiny by a second internal examiner and by the external examiner where relevant. The presentation and the project together are worth 50% of the overall mark for the module.


b) A practical Project which can involve an element of work related learning. For this type of coursework students can choose to 1) deliver an A-level class (a transcript of your lecture will be required, as well as a copy of any material used for the delivery of your class) and produce a short reflective report on the pedagogical methodologies applied; 2) arrange and set up an art exhibition and a guide for visitors. Students might be required to gain some work related experience in the fields of Education and Art or to find mini academic placements (for a maximum of 2 weeks) in the same fields. Other types of practical projects are possible provided the module convenor considers them valuable and viable.
In this case the table of summative assessment methods would read 50% exam, 50% project output.

In addition all students must take a two-hour examination paper, requiring two answers.

Formative assessment methods:
Submission of a draft of each project is required three times across the two teaching terms.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    Two hours.

    Requirements for a pass:
    40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Reassessment in August, in the event of failure in this module and of failure in the degree as a whole. Coursework for reassessment must be resubmitted by 1PM on the third Friday of August or, if the University is closed on the third Friday of August, at 1PM on the next working day thereafter.

    Last updated: 8 October 2014

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