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For your TWO papers, you can choose any TWO of the following topics (one topic per paper, obviously). Make sure that there isn't any significant overlap among your two choices (in case of doubt, consult the instructor). If you wish to write your papers on a different topic, you must submit an abstract or a detailed proposal, and obtain permission.

At any time during the semester, before the deadlines for submission, you can have the drafts of your papers reviewed by the instructor. Their quality will be assessed, in general terms, by placing them in one of five categories: excellent, very good, good, adequate, poor. Such reviews will only be done in person, during office hours. Drafts submitted electronically will not be reviewed. The draft submitted for review must adhere to the same rules, pertaining academic integrity, as the final papers.

Check here to verify whether your paper was received and properly filed.

Topics for the papers

See the syllabus for format and rules

1. The relevance of local identities and cultures in contemporary Italian society. Their current or future interactions with European and global frameworks. The impact of regulations and policies implemented by the European Union.

2. Pre-Roman civilizations in Italy, with particular focus on the Greeks or the Etruscans. Cultural vestiges of the ancient world and surviving traditions. Modern characterizations of those civilizations and of their relevance for the creation of regional cultures in Italy.

3. The portrayal of Roman civilization in the novel Pompeii, by Robert Harris (2003). The juxtaposition of modern and classical elements.

4. The portrayal of Roman civilization in the novel Imperium, by Robert Harris (2006). The juxtaposition of modern and classical elements.

5. The themes of decadence and moral/political corruption in the works of Tacitus on the Roman empire. The popularity of the idea of a decadent Roman Empire in modern culture.

6. Claudio Monteverdi's opera L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642). The portrayal of Nero and its court. Monteverdi's sources. The popularity of this opera in modern times.

7. The cinematic representation of Roman civilization, with reference to one of these movies: Scipio Africanus, Spartacus, Gladiator, and The Last Legion. The juxtaposition of modern and classical elements. References to Italy and Italian civilization.

8. Italian Fascism and the exploitation of Roman history and culture in its propaganda. References to Roman civilization in fascist culture and the arts.

9. The representation of Roman civilization and the fall of the Roman empire in Valerio Massimo Manfredi's historical novel, The Last Legion (2003).

10. Classicism and neoclassicism inspired by Italian works of art in American culture, with reference to architecture, sculpture or painting, and/or to the political discourse of the Founding Fathers.

11. The portrayal of St. Francis of Assisi in one of these movies: Roberto Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis [in Italian, Francesco, giullare di Dio]; Liliani Cavani's Francesco (1989). Their treatment of the Franciscan sources.

12. Matthew Pearl's novel, The Dante Club. References to Dante's Inferno, and to the reception of the Divine Comedy in the US.

13. Paolo and Francesca in Dante's Inferno 5. References to medieval culture, to the chivarlic genre and to the medieval philosophy of love. Modern reinterpretations of the story by artists and musicians.

14. Dante and the Divine Comedy in popular culture, with reference to literature, music, sculpture, visual and performing arts, or the digital world.

15. Mercantile values and modern role models for the Italian bourgeoisie in Boccaccio's Decameron.

16. The Middle Ages in Italy, and how medieval culture and history influenced the construction of an Italian identity (national or regional). The survival and the recreation/reinterpretation of medieval traditions in modern Italy.

17. Chivalric literature in modern Italian culture, with reference to Italo Calvino's Castle of crossed destinies, or to the Sicilian pupi (marionettes).

18. Leonardo's image in modern culture, with reference to one of these books: Sigmund Freud, Leonardo and a memory of his childhood (1910); Michael Gelb, How to think like Leonardo da Vinci (1998).

19. The representation of Leonardo, and of Italian civilization and society in Dan Brown, The Da Vinci code (2003), or in Lewis Perdue, The Da Vinci legacy (1983, 2004).

20. Modern reinterpretations of Machiavelli's ideology in one of these books: Stanley Bing, What would Machiavelli do? The ends justify the meanness (2000); Allan Folsom, The Machiavelli covenant (2007); Michael Ledeen, Machiavelli on modern leadership. Why Machiavelli's iron rules are as timely and important today has five centuries ago (1999); Harriet Rubin, The Princessa. Machiavelli for women (1998); Salman Rushdie, The enchantress of Florence (2008).

21. The representation of the Italian Renaissance (culture and society), in one of these novels: Sarah Dunant, The Birth of Venus (2003); Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, The rule of four (2004); Salman Rushdie, The enchantress of Florence (2008).

22. References to Italy and to the Italians in the archives of American newspapers: this is a special topic, and you need to contact the instructor for details, and also to obtain permission.

23. References to Dante Alighieri and to the Divine Comedy in Matilde Asensi's The last Cato (2006).


Just a list of books: online sources are included with each lecture

This bibliography is organized by topic, for general reference. Many of the books listed in each section can be used for different papers.


Fantham, Elaine. Roman literary culture: from Cicero to Apuleius. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Scarre, Christopher. Chronicle of the Roman emperors: the reign-by-reign record of the rulers of Imperial Rome. London; New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Braund, David C. Augustus to Nero: a sourcebook on Roman history, 31 BC-AD 68. Totowa: Barnes and Noble, 1985.

Barrett, Anthony. Agrippina: sex, power, and politics in the early Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Sinclair, Patrick. Tacitus the sententious historian: a sociology of rhetoric in Annales 1-6. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.

Reflections of Nero: culture, history, and representation. Edited by Jas Elsner and Jamie Masters. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Luce, T. James and A.J. Woodman, eds. Tacitus and the Tacitean tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis. The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans. W.R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Women and family in the classical world

Rawson, Beryl, ed. The Family in ancient Rome: new perspectives. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986.

Bradley, K. R. Discovering the Roman family: studies in Roman social history. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Dixon, Suzanne. The Roman family. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

Hallett, Judith P. Fathers and daughters in Roman society: women and the elite family. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Cantarella, Eva. Pandora's daughters: the role and status of women in Greek and Roman antiquity. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Lekowitz, Mary R. Women's life in Greece and Rome. Compiled by Mary R. Lefkowitz and Maureen B. Fant. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

Dixon, Suzanne. The Roman mother. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1987.

Fantham, Elaine et al. Women in the classical world: image and text. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Religion and state during antiquity

Wardman, Alan. Religion and statecraft among the Romans. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

MacMullen, Ramsay. Paganism in the Roman Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.

Lee, A. D. Pagans and Christians in late antiquity: a sourcebook. London; New York: Routledge, 2000.

Segal, Alan F. Rebecca's children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman world. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Sordi, Marta. The Christians and the Roman Empire. Transl. by Annabel Bedini. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.

Lane Fox, Robin. Pagans and Christians. New York: Knopf, 1987.

Benko, Stephen. Pagan Rome and the early Christians. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Helleman, Wendy E., ed. Christianity and the classics: the acceptance of a heritage. Lanham: University Press of America, 1990.

The influence of Roman civilization on Western culture and society

Richard, Carl J. The founders and the classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Knox, Bernard. Backing into the future: the Classical tradition and its renewal. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.

Acta Congressus Madvigiani: Hafniae MDMLIV (Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Classical Studies). Copenhagen: E. Munksgaard, 1957-1958.

Cantor, Norman. The Medieval Reader. HarperCollins, 1995.

Helleman, Wendy E., ed. Christianity and the classics: the acceptance of a heritage. Lanham: University Press of America, 1990.

Taylor, Henry O. The classical heritage of the Middle Ages. New York: F. Ungar, 1957.

Wyke, Maria. Projecting the past: ancient Rome, cinema, and history. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Roman civilization and Italian fascism

Bosworth, R.J.B. and Patrizia Dogli. Italian fascism: history, memory, and representation. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Berezin, Mabel. Making the fascist self: the political culture of interwar Italy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Falasca-Zamponi, Simonetta. Fascist spectacle: the aesthetics of power in Mussolini's Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Hay, James. Popular film culture in Fascist Italy: the passing of the Rex. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

The Italian Renaissance

Brand, Peter and Lino Pertile. The Cambridge history of Italian literature. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Conaway Bondanella, Julia and Mark Musa, eds. The Italian Renaissance reader. New York: New American Library, 1987.

Hay, Denys. The Italian Renaissance in its historical background. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Migiel, Marilyn and Juliana Schiesari, eds. Refiguring woman: perspectives on gender and the Italian Renaissance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Toscano, Antonio, ed. Interpreting the Italian Renaissance: literary perspectives. New York: Forum Italicum, 1991.

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