Course Description

This is an introductory course to Italian literature from Dante (1265-1321) to Machiavelli (1469-1527). We will read cantos from Dante’s Divine Comedy, short stories from Boccaccio’s Decameron, a selection of Petrarch’s poetry, and Machiavelli’s The Prince, considering these authors’ moral systems vis-à-vis religion and love. We will also read texts by the first Italian female writers, Catherine of Siena and Angela da Foligno, mystic writers whose voice constitutes the earliest instance of female subjectivity in the western tradition. Part of our discussions will concern the afterlife of these texts in contemporary culture.

Students will learn contemporary techniques for reading the texts and will develop their skills in literary and critical analysis, writing, and research.

The course is taught in English and can be followed without knowledge of Italian, though familiarity with the language will be helpful.

 Learning Outcomes

  • Students will familiarize with major literary works in Italian within a chronological and cultural framework, while considering their influence on later cultural production.
  • They will reflect on the moral systems underpinning the texts and on the relationship between early texts and spirituality, religion, politics, and love.
  • While learning about the major characters, scenes, and literary strategies of the texts under consideration, students will engage in discussions, research, writing, and peer reviewing.
  • Students will explore digital projects concerning the authors studied in the course, thus learning about the possibilities of digital humanities.
  • Students will practice and deepen their skills in academic writing and increase their digital literacy by engaging in writing posts and online annotations, becoming familiar with proper netiquette in an online academic setting and aware of academic integrity. See also: Netiquette in an Online Academic Setting.


Important Dates

Th., August 26: first class  (please complete the ice-breaking activity by August 25)

T., September 7: no class (Rosh Hashanah)

Th, September 16: no class (Yom Kippur)

Th., November 25: no class (Thanksgiving)

Th., December 9: last class meeting

T., December 14: reading day

T., December 21, 8-10.15am: final exam


  1. Attendance: Our department has a long-standing attendance policy (3 or more absences for classes that meet twice a week can result in an F). I highly recommend that you not miss class unless absolutely necessary. If you have to miss class, you are encouraged to come to office hours. If you are going to miss more that 3 classes, please contact the me as soon as you can.
  2. 2. Careful reading of the assigned texts and active participation in class discussions: Participation is essential to your success in this class. Participating means interacting with the instructor and with your classmates, not just being online. I appreciate if you can keep your camera on, but if you decide not to do so there are ways to show that you are paying attention (chat, reactions, and oral comments). (25% of final grade)
  3. A series of writing assignments, including routine blog posts (5 post, 10% of final grade).
  4. A group presentation on a secondary source or digital project (10% of final grade).
  5. A mid-term, in-class examination: the exam will consist of questions on the content of the texts read so far. It is scheduled on October 14. Students are required to join the class meeting on Zoom and keep their cameras on while taking the test. (15% of final grade).
  6. A final, in-class examination. Our two-hour final exam, with questions on the content of the texts studied during the entire semester and essay questions, is scheduled on December 21 at 8.00 am. (20% of final grade).
  7. A final paper/blog post of 5-7 polished pages (20% of final grade).


You can expect

Feedback. I will give you detailed feedback on your writing using Word Track Changes or We will hold a brief in-class workshop on track changes prior to the first graded assignment.

Contacting me is easy. I usually reply within 24 hours. Please contact me at

Office Hours. I will be available to talk after class. Please email me if you need to talk with me at a different time.

Grading Method:

Participation in class (including attendance): 25%

Blog posts : 10%

Midterm exam: 15%

Group presentation: 10%

Final exam: 20%

Final paper: 20%

Grade Scale:

The test scale will follow the official one at City College and will be as follows:

A +      97 -100

A         95 – 96

A –       90 – 94

B +      87 – 89

B          84 – 86

B –       80 – 83

C +      77 – 79

C         74 – 76

C –       70 – 73

D         60 – 69

F          0 – 59.9

Diversity and Inclusion Statement

In this course we will attempt to create an environment as inclusive as possible, where students feel both free and safe to speak, but always respecting the others in their individuality and diversity of race, gender, religion, ability and age. We will also respect any sexual orientation and gender identity. Please let me know what pronouns you prefer to use or if you have alternative names (in the ice-breaking activity on Padlet or via email).  If you feel your life outside the class has impacted your ability to perform in class, please talk to me. City College has resources for students that you might not be aware of, but I can help you find them.

Syllabus Change Policy

Except for changes that substantially affect implementation of the evaluation (grading) statement, this syllabus is a guide for the course and is subject to change with advance notice. Students can find out about changes to the syllabus via the announcements on Blackboard and on the website.

Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable academic accommodations if determined eligible by the Access Ability Center (AAC). Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student’s eligibility from the AAC, which is located in NAC 1/218. It is the student’s responsibility to initiate contact with the AAC and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor. See


CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

As stated in the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity: “Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own”. The following are some examples of plagiarism:

– “Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source.”

– “Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source.”

– “Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.”

– “Internet plagiarism includes submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, and ‘cutting & pasting’ from various sources without proper attribution.”

– “A student who plagiarizes may incur academic and disciplinary penalties, including failing grades, suspensions, and expulsion”.

Source: E-mail message sent by The Faculty Senate of The City College of New York on April 21, 2005. A complete copy of CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity can be downloaded from the College’s home page.