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COURSE NAME: "Italian Media and Popular Culture"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 6:00-7:15 PM
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course will introduce students to contemporary Italian media and popular cultures. The course has a thematic approach and applies the analytical theories of critical cultural studies. Students will be exposed to development of various media forms as they have been shaped by and their impact on Italian culture and society. The press, film, radio, television, popular music, comics and graphic arts, sports and digital networks will be investigated from a variety of angles with particular attention on the media’s role in the construction of collective identities, the role of power and capital in shaping national identity, media use by social movements, the question of representation, popular protest and subcultural and subaltern expressions within the national space. Italy’s role within the global media economy will also be investigated.

The course provides an interdisciplinary approach to the culture(s) of Italy. Crisscrossing the historical, the course introduces students to the most salient cultural, social and political configurations of contemporary Italy and the many identities these have produced. Students will be introduced to a variety of texts and popular cultural expressions and their mediation through media technologies and the resultant discursive construction of Italian identities. A strong emphasis will be placed on investigating the present historical moment through a critical engagement with the past. The course will be articulated through film screenings, listening sessions, reading assignments, lectures and discussions.  





By the end of the course students will be:


1        Familiar with the analytic and theoretical perspectives of cultural studies and cultural analysis

2        Able to conduct a critical analysis of a wide range of texts and cultural artefacts, identifying their principal characteristics and placing them in a social and historical context.  

3        Able to demonstrate knowledge of Italy’s post-war cultural history and contemporary expressions as they relate to the development of the media and popular culture.

4        Able to recognize various trends in the cultural and artistic production of Italy, be familiar with a number of artists and performers that have characterized specific historical moments and identify social movements and political groups active during the post-war years.

5        Able to confront expressions of Italian popular culture in a comparative way with similar ones coming from the USA and elsewhere.  


The course contributes to the following learning outcomes of the Major in Italian Studies:


  • LOS 2:  Identify, interpret and explain the major developments and forces shaping Italian social, political and cultural history.
  • LOS 3:  Distinguish, discuss and evaluate the role of key trends and works in Italian literature, cinema, music and other forms of cultural production.
  • LOS 4:  Demonstrate extensive knowledge of contemporary Italian culture and society and the ability to function effectively within it.
  • LOS 5: Engage with the principles of relevant literary, cultural and social theory, with an awareness of the particular perspectives and relative strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and apply these in their own critical analyses of the material studied  
  •  LOS 6: Apply appropriate methodological strategies and information literacy skills to identify, use and document primary and secondary materials in full respect of academic integrity and ethical standards.
  •  LOS 7: Communicate information and analytical interpretations clearly and effectively in written and spoken English.

Mid-term Exam  20%;
Final paper 25%
Presentation:  10%
Readings:  10%
Attendance and Participation 10%
Final Exam 25%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1:   

Course overview and introduction to some key concepts: culture and popular culture; media and behaviors; consumption and taste; global vs local. Italian media and popular culture studies. Case study: Umberto Eco. Basic information about Italian history from Unification to date, in order to better understand the development of the entertainment industries and the way they have been assimilated.

Week 2:   

Digital Italy: features of the digital era and their impact on traditional media. The coming of new media and their penetration in Italy. Rewriting youth culture: social networks, video and computer games. Smartphones: redefining personal and collective identities. Politics 2.0.: the rise of M5S and the ‘web democracy’.

Week 3:

Television: local and global formats. History of Italian television. The Americanization of the Italian small screen. From paleo to neo TV: the changing habits of family watching. The close relationship between TV and politics. Case studies: Gomorra (the series), and Il Boss delle cerimonie.  

Week 4:  

Cinema: the industrialization of the imaginary and the rise of a society of the spectacle. Italians’ contribution to world cinema: from silent movies to Neo Realism. Hollywood’s impact and some Italian ways to tell domestic stories. The average Italian as portrayed by Totò, Alberto Sordi and Fantozzi. Stardom and trend setters, from Sofia Loren to Ennio Morricone

Week 5: 

Radio and print: history of radio in Italy, from propaganda to mobile listening, from state monopoly to free radios. Case study: I cento passi (One Hundred Steps). The press: journalism in Italy from its heydays to DYT information. The destiny of books and the mutations of publishing industry in a world market. Written and oral culture in the digital age, from blogs to web radios.

Week 6:  

Music: who are the best-selling artists in Italy and who has made it abroad. Popular music: indigenous drives and foreign influences (rock, rap, canzone, hip hop, etc). Music and national identity. The globalization of an Italian trademark: opera, bel canto, Neapolitan song. Promoting domestic songs on the web: the case of www.canzoneitaliana.it

Week 7:   

Course review and mid-term exam

Week 8

Cultures of revolt: countercultures and subcultures, social movements and cultural resistance. The Long ’68. The alternative press and the birth of a counter-information. From no-logo to no-global movement. Classic subcultures: mods, hippies and punk vs contemporary subcultures: hip hop, ravers, skaters. Labelling the new generations. Case study: Re Nudo pop festivals.

Week 9: 

Holiday culture: travelling, trains, cars: mobility and modernity. Beach culture and its representation on big screen. Mythologies of Italy: from the Grand Tour to mass tourism. Autogrill, package tours, holiday villages and amusement parks: the rise of pseudo-places. A clash between tradition and modernity: Christmas in Italy.

Week 10:    

Italian trademarks: food and fashion: food TV shows and the rise of a cooking awareness. Food and national identity: hunger and the myth of a rural country. The invention of regional cooking. Gender in the kitchen. Fast vs slow food: ways of approaching the table. Fashion and the easy life (Dolce vita) in the Sixties. Postmodern icons: Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and the imported logos.


Week 11:   

Consumption styles: shopping and advertising : from village and neighborhood markets to round-the corner outlets, from supermarkets to shopping centers, the lure of things and the art of displaying them. Pseudo (non) places and new ways of wasting time. Objects as promoters of symbolic consumption. Carosello and the fictionalization of advertising. The myth of America in Italian TV commercials.

Week 12:  

Church and the media - Queer cultures: Pope Francis, Twitter and CTV (Centro Televisivo Vaticano). Fatal attraction: John Paul II and the Papa boys. How the church has assimilated the media, from cinema to radio, from TV to social networks. Gender studies and politics in Italy. The murder of Pasolini: the first media event to focus on gay culture. Queer cinema, queer TV, queer music. The rise of a homosexual movement in the Seventies. The spread of LGBT culture.

Week 13:        

Leisure and entertainment: soccer as a national passion vs soccer as a weapon to divide peoples. Soccer as an intercultural/interethnic laboratory, where to test the social resistance to accept the stranger. Bar and coffee culture in the Fifties. Games, spas, discotheques, quiz shows on TV: old and new forms of entertainment in contemporary Italy

In class presentations I   

Week 14:  In class presentations II - Course final review

Readings will be assigned on a weekly base. What follows is a list of books that can be useful for the final paper:


Allen, Beverly and Mary J. Russo. Revisioning Italy. National Identity and Global Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Eco, Umberto, Apocalypse Postponed, Indiana University Press, 2000.

Edensor, Tim. National identity, popular culture and everyday life, Berg, 2002.

Fabbri, Franco and Plastino, Goffredo (eds.). Made in Italy. Studies in Popular Music. Routledge: London, 2014.

Forgacs, D. and Gundle, S. Mass Culture and Italian Society From Fascism to the Cold War, Indiana University Press, 2008

Forgacs, D. and Lumley, R. Italian Cultural Studies. An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 1996.

Hebdige Dick. Hiding in the Light: on Images and Things. Comedia: London, 1988.      

Hibberd, Matthew, The Media in Italy: Press, Cinema and Broadcasting From Unification to Digital, Open University Press, 2008

Lumley, Robert, States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978, Verso, 1990                                                                      

Sassoon, Donald. The Culture of the Europeans. From 1800 to the Present. Harper Collins, London, 2006.