HUI 216 - Unit 0
"General Introduction"

Andrea Fedi

0.0 Do you have time?

Spatial representations of time

[Notes] — Spatial representations of time, e —ly the traditional linear models (e.g., time as an arrow), permeate our culture and dominate our imagination, creating the illusion that the past is a well-defined physical entity, a reality that we can reconstruct or revisit, almost like time-travelers.

What are you talking about?

When we talk about the past, we may refer to

[Notes] — There are several kinds of assumptions and references that we can make when we talk about the past (about the American Civil War, the Roman Empire, the Renaissance etc.):

  • We may be referring to the past as it was (inaccessible to us in its totality, it can only be approximated by extension, after consideration of a subset of events/situations/conditions): for example, one can study the journals of a few merchant families in Florence between the 14th and the 15th century, and assume that most of the bourgeoisie in that city, during that period, had a similar mindset, similar values and behaviors, etc.
    • This is the past as it materializes in archaeological sites, surviving monuments and extant documents: it is the concept that applies to examples such as the 1881 recipe for chestnut flat cakes, or the 1881 committee documents proving that that particular kind of food was an essential element in the annual diet of the peasant population in areas of northern Tuscany; it also applies to the Colosseum, and what remains of it.

When we talk about the past

[Notes] — When we talk about the past, we may also refer to:

  • The past as it presented or represented itself (those images and stereotypes that a particular period transmitted to the future)
    • This is the model of the past found in museums (those agencies whose fundamental mission is to decide what goes in storage and what enters an exhibit), and in all related fields of study (from archaeology to history, to art history, to literature): it is the concept that applies to the idea of the Renaissance as the new successful culture of modern times (an idea introduced and widely publicized by 15th century humanists).

"The Past" may also refer to

[Notes] — When we talk about the past, we may also refer to:

  • The past as it is represented and interpreted by us (often a constructive or functional model, used for planning the future)
    • This is the idea of the past found in the political discourse and in the consideration generally given by society to the humanities (an essential part of Western education, used for the making of mature citizens): it is the concept that applies to the example of the chestnut flat cakes, now offered to the customers as a vehicle to go back to a past assumed to be mostly good (a misplaced nostalgia, considering the dietary and economic issues connected to the large consumption of this dish in the past); a product, the necci, considered important again, possibly, because it distinguished that same territory in the past, and the customers supposedly are still physically related to it (by blood, with the passing of the generations of local residents, or by physical proximity, since they inhabit the same environment, they live in the same places, on the same land, etc.).

"The Past" may also refer to

[Notes] — Finally, when we talk about the past, we may refer to:

  • The past as it is dreamed, imagined or desired (a practice we commonly rely upon to support our present living conditions, as a means to reassure and comfort ourselves)
    • This is the past as it is introduced sometimes in political propaganda, religion, and also in many products of fiction, in personal and family diaries, in the works of art and in the photographs that we collect, in all those kinds of content and instruments that we use to construct narratives of our lives (by extrapolation and extension); it is also the model of the past also found in conversations, thoughts and visions (when we dream with our eyes open): it is the concept that applies to the example of the chestnut flat cakes sold as an exotic product, listed next to other exotic kinds of food, offered as something out of the ordinary, not necessarily available in household kitchens (the same way that industrial food such as hamburgers and hot dogs never taste the same at home), in other words a gastronomic fossil, the fascinating, surviving fragment of a past which has become somewhat foreign and mysterious to us.

0.1 Giornata della memoria

On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp

[Notes] — On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army arrived at Auschwitz and the gates of the German concentration camp were opened.

  • Since 2006, every year, on Jan. 27, Italy and other European countries remember that event and the victims of the Holocaust, with public ceremonies organized within the context of the recently instituted Day of Remembrance" (Giornata della memoria)
  • Italy is one of the countries, besides Israel, with the longest history of Jewish presence

Jews in ancient Rome

The Jewish community in Rome, the oldest in Europe

[Notes] — The Jewish community in Rome is probably the oldest in Europe, dating back to the 2nd century BC.

  • Cicero, in his oration Pro Flacco (59 BC), makes reference to the fact that the Jews residing in Italy were sending regular contributions in gold to the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, in 70 AD, thousands of Jewish prisoners and slaves were sent to Sardinia to work in the mines; another 100,000, according to Roman sources, were sent to the city of Rome.

During the Middle Ages

[Notes] — After the conquest of Sicily by the Arabs, Jewish communities flourished in that region.

  • During the Middle Ages approximately 40,000 Jews were living in Sicily, the most important community being the one in Palermo (3,000).
  • In 1492 all Jews were expelled from Sicily and Sardinia, following the example of what had happened in Spain. After the conquest of the kingdom of Naples by the Spaniards, most Jewish communities disappeared from the south of Italy (from Naples, Nola, Bari, Otranto, etc.).
  • In 1516 the Republic of Venice instituted the first ghetto.

The Risorgimento, Fascism

[Notes] — Many Italian Jews participated actively in the process of Italy's unification (Risorgimento)

  • This 1848 poster illustrates a decree of the temporary government of Modena and Reggio Emilia, which proclaims that all citizens are equal before the law, and, in the name of the new "times of freedom, of justice, of love," announces the elimination of the — taxes and "oppressive laws" that had been imposed on the "Israelites" during the "barbaric centuries" of the past.
  • In 1920, 19 of the 350 representatives of the House, in the Italian Parliament, were Jewish, a percentage higher than expected based on demographic distribution.
  • A number of Italian Jews supported Fascism initially (during the 1920s), and sometimes until 1938 (the year of the anti-Semitic Racial laws).
  • The idea of race: this Sunday magazine cover, from a 1936 issue of the Domenica del Corriere, illustrates a concept popular in Italian culture and propaganda during the 1930s, the idea of the physical superiority of the 'pure' Italian race. The imposing figures of a few Italian military officers, on the left of the cover, tower over the African kids parading under the Italian flag, and their physical prowess is also made evident by contrast, through the physical characteristics and the attitudes of the African adults who are lining against the walls of the elementary school in the background.
  • Racist propaganda: this 1938 vignette, from the front page of the satirical journal Bertoldo, is entitled "The Jewish American League." The text of the two lines under the vignette is the following: "'And when the world will belong to the Jews, what would we do?' 'We sell it to the Martians, and we put the money in the bank.'"
  • Discrimination: this 1938 document was issued by a section of the health department in the province of Trieste, and contains the official confirmation that none of the employees are of "non-Italian race," pending verification of the race of three more members of the staff, who were on leave at the time of the investigation.

During WWII, in the 1960s

8,000 Italian Jews died during World War II

In the 1960s and 1970s the number of Jews in Italy was down to 30-35,000

[Notes] — Approximately 8,000 Italian Jews died during World War II, most of them after deportation to German concentration camps.

  • Discrimination: this 1942 memo from the weekly administrative bulletin issued by police authorities in Florence specifies that "recent dispositions from the Ministry" forbid Jews from selling or buying rugs, including those that are not made of wool.
  • Hate: this writing on the wall, from 1942, warns passersby in the city of Verona, calling "Every Jew / a spy."
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, after the casualties of the war and postwar immigration to North America or Israel, the number of Jews in Italy was down to approximately 30-35,000.
  • Their visibility in Italian society dimished due to various forms of assimilation (secularization, interfaith marriage with Catholics). The traumatic experience of the past often limit the public display of religious symbols by the Jews living in Italy, outside the traditional Jewish communities that still exist in those neighborhoods that in the past were classified as ghettos.

0.2 The papers: tips, etc.

[Notes] — A good paper is all about connections!

  • Explain the relevance of your topic within the pertinent period of Italian civilization.
  • Relate contents and ideas to the main issues: Italian identity, and the representation of Italy/the Italians.

Key questions

[Notes] — Besides discussing some of the specific issues related to the topic you've chosen, try to answer the following questions

  • what is the particular relevance of my topic for Italian civilization as a whole?
  • how is my topic connected to modern Italian culture (or to Western civilization and culture in general)?

The structure of the paper

[Notes] — Rather than providing a broad overview of your topic, keep your focus on a small number of specific examples, well described and adequately analyzed.

Avoid the serial or 'catalog' format, associated with the following shortcomings:

  • the quick treatment of too many subtopics
  • the lack of structural transitions, linking paragraphs and sections to one another
  • the absence of any logical development of themes and ideas from the beginning to the end of the paper: this happens when relevant content is placed almost randomly within the paper; in fact, moving one paragraph up or down would not have any impact on the readability or the understanding of the text
  • the absence of overarching themes: the reader comes to the conclusion of the paper without the support of a narrative journey, without being shown where he/she is being taken.

The contents of the paper

Too generic? Too technical? Too narrowly defined?

[Notes] — Avoid writing a paper that is either too generic, too technical or too narrowly defined. What might be great when judged by the standards of a class on history, art history or literature, is not necessarily appropriate for this class

  • Consider for example topics 2, 7 and 8:
    • For topic 2, a failing paper would be limited to a summary of the sources, and would only include a selection of generic references to the ancient Greeks or the Etruscans, and their civilizations in Italy. A good paper would not even try to offer a comprehensive overview of one of those civilizations, and would focus instead on specific examples (similar to those offered in class), showing what remains of those civilizations in Italian culture and society, or how their contents have been spinned to fit the discourse on regional and national identity.
    • For topic 7, a failing paper would simply list some of the factual historical inaccuracies, big and small, that one is bound to find in any movie about ancient Rome, all of which have already being catalogued on a variety of Internet sites. A good paper would try to show, through references to actual scenes, dialogs and visual cues, how characters taken from Roman history were reinterpreted and presented as role models to modern viewers. Why do Spartacus or Maximus appeal so much to modern audiences? What on-screen values, attitudes and behaviors reinforce the connection between past and present? Etc.
    • For topic 8, a failing paper would just rehash basic information on the history of Italian fascism, or would emphasize superficial similarities between fascist institutions and the Roman Empire. A good paper would be based on specific examples, showing how visual, architectural and cultural elements found in Roman civilization were revisited and reshaped to satisfy the needs of political propaganda during the 1930s and 40s.

The study of Civilization

Basic issues in the study of Italian civilization

[Notes] — Maintain your focus on those issues that are fundamental in the study of Italian civilization:

  • the image of Italy and the Italians: how they have been represented in literary or artistic creations, in the media, etc.
  • the national or regional identity of the Italians, and and how they are connected to their behavior, customs, traditions, values, etc.
  • how the image or identity of Italy and of the Italians has been influenced by specific historical events, by the active preservation of traditions and customs, by literary and artistic creations

Italian Civilization

[Notes] —In other words, you should try to explain

  • How others see Italy and the Italians: for example, what would one learn about the Italians of today from the movie Spartacus?
  • How Italians see themselves, or their country and their civilization: for example, what relevance do contemporary Italians assign to their Etruscan ancestors?
  • The impact of that self-styled image on Italian life: for example, why do the people of Monteleone now insist on getting their Etruscan bronze chariot back from the Metropolitan Museum?
  • The impact on Italian society of those images created or perpetuated by outsiders: for example, what has been the effect, inside Italy, of the stereotypical representation of Italians as crafty, Machiavellian people?

Style, format

[Notes] — Regarding the format of footnotes, quotes, references and the bibliography, use common sense and be consistent throughout the paper.

  • You can follow the MLA style, or you can adopt a different format (Chicagostyle, APA, etc.).
  • The important thing is that you identify and acknowledge all sources clearly and completely, including any Internet source.
  • Refer to the syllabus for further details about the formatting of the paper: margins, font, headers and footers, the space between the lines, etc.

Special topics, drafts

[Notes] — The topics for the papers are posted inside a specific section of the class web site.

  • Special topic 22 is slightly more complex, and requires direct contact with the instructor, in order to receive suggestions and support. Topics 19-21 include multiple options.
  • If you wish to write on a different topic, you must obtain written permission
  • Refer to the syllabus for further details about the submission of the paper: the name of the file, the electronic submission, etc.
  • At any time during the semester you can present an outline or a draft for an informal assessment, and to receive suggestions for improvement: however, drafts will only be reviewed during office hours (please do not use email).

Review of drafts

[Notes] — For complete or almost complete drafts, the assessment you may receive from the is based on the following scale:

  • excellent (final grade for the paper might be A-, or A)
  • very good (final grade for the paper might be B, B+, or A-)
  • good (final grade for the paper might be C+, B-, or B)
  • adequate (final grade for the paper might be D+, C-, or C)
  • poor (final grade for the paper might be F, D, or D+)

Extra-credit assignments, associated with the papers, can be allowed under special circumstances, but must be requested in a timely fashion.


[Notes] — Do not plagiarize, or you will be reported (see the syllabus).

  • Even when you submit a simple draft of your paper, you must follow the rules and properly identify and acknowledge all of your sources.
  • Plagiarizing, according to the definition of our university, is copying someone else's writing or paraphrasing it too closely, even if it constitutes only a portion of the written assignment.
  • Doubledipping, i.e. submitting for grade a paper that was written for another class, is a form of plagiarism.
  • Please refer to the website of the Academic Judiciary Committee for further details, and read Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It (Indiana University), or Avoiding plagiarism (UC Davis).

Avoiding plagiarism (UC Davis)

[Notes] — Use your own words and ideas, whenever possible.

  • Always give credit for copied, adapted or paraphrased material.
  • If you repeat another's exact words, you MUST use quotation marks and cite the source.
  • If you paraphrase a sentence or a paragraph, or even report somebody else's idea in your own words, you must still cite the source.
  • You don't have to cite "common knowledge," BUT the fact must really be commonly known. That Abraham Lincoln was the U.S. President during the Civil War is common knowledge. That 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Battle of Gettysburg is not.

Minor changes

Minor cosmetic changes

Example 1: "In research writing, sources are cited for two reasons: to alert readers to the sources of your information and to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words and ideas" (Diana Hacker, A Writer's Reference, St. Martin's Press, 1995, p. 260)

[Notes] — Avoid using anothers' work with only minor cosmetic changes, such as the use of synonyms in place of the original words (most word processors provide a thesaurus function): e.g., using "less" for "fewer." Don't just change the order of the awards within a sentence: e.g., changing the sentence from active to passive.

Example 1 will be used for comparison to establish what is or is not plagiarism: "In research writing, sources are cited for two reasons: to alert readers to the sources of your information and to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words and ideas" (Diana Hacker, A Writer's Reference, St. Martin's Press, 1995, p. 260)

This is plagiarism

[Notes] — The following are examples of plagiarism, perpetrated on the text of Example 1:

  • Example 2: "In research writing, sources are cited to alert readers to the sources of your information and to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words and ideas."
    • The student here has used the author's exact words, leaving out only a phrase, without quotation marks or a citation.
  • Example 3: "In research writing, we cite sources for a couple reasons: to notify readers of our information sources and give credit to those from whom we have borrowed (Hacker)."
    • The student here has made only slight changes, substituting words such as "a couple" for "two," "notify" for "alert," and "our"/"we" for "your"/"you," leaving out a few words, and giving an incomplete citation.
  • It is important to keep in mind that being convicted of plagiarism is not a matter of percentages (that is to say, how much of the assignment has been plagiarized): what counts is whether there is evidence of a pattern or a strategy, demonstrating intent to plagiarize or ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism.

Appropriate paraphrases

[Notes] — The following are examples of proper practices, inspired by the text of Example 1:

  • Example 4: "A researcher cites her sources to ensure her audience knows where she got her information, and to recognize and credit the original work (Hacker 260)."
    • This student has paraphrased the original text in her own words, while accurately reflecting and citing the author's ideas.
  • Example 5: In her book A Writer's Reference, Diana Hacker notes, "In research writing, sources are cited for two reasons: to alert readers to the sources of your information and to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words and ideas" (260).
    • By introducing his source, the student signals that the following material is from that source.
    • All verbatim words are in quotation marks, and the source of the quote is cited with a page number.

Preparing for the final

[Notes] — When you prepare for the exam, focus on:

  • the most relevant topics inside the lectures notes (and presentations)
  • the required readings from the class website and from the Internet; when you review the readings, focus on the following:
    • for the essays: the main themes, ideas, important references to history and culture
    • for the works of fiction: the basic plot, the main characters, the most original characteristics of the style
  • Also be prepared to
    • match significant dates in the chronology of Italian civilization with crucial events
    • match places with peoples/cultures
    • match major authors with the titles of their most important works

The End