The paper

Palazzo Medici-Riccardi (Florence)

For your paper, you can choose any of the following topics. If you wish to write on a different topic, you must consult me ahead of time, with an abstract or a detailed proposal, and obtain permission. You also need permission (and further details) for topic n. 22.

Topics for the paper

  1. The relevance of local identities and cultures in contemporary Italian society. Their current or future interactions with European and global frameworks. The impact on them 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 at least two 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 Liliani Cavani's movie Francesco (1989). Its 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 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 or more 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's The enchantress of Florence (2008).
  21. The representation of the Italian Renaissance (culture and society), in one or more of these novels: Sarah Dunant, The Birth of Venus (2003); Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, The rule of four (2004).
  22. References to Italy and to the Italians in the archives of American newspapers: this is a special new topic, whose choice is rewarded with 2 points of extra-credit (added to the grade of the paper). You need to contact the instructor for details about this paper, and to obtain permission.
  23. The representation of Italian civilization and of Renaissance Florence in Salman Rushdie's The enchantress of Florence (2008).
  24. References to Dante Alighieri and to The Divine comedy in Matilde Asensi's The last Cato (2006).


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