AHV2208 - Ideal Cities? Urban Cultures of Renaissance Italy

2014/5 Module description

StaffProfessor Fabrizio Nevola - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

The Italian city is the crucible for creativity that forged the Renaissance. To this day, Italy is defined by sharp contrasts and distinctions between cities and regions. Local pride and identity are wrapped up in these distinctions and even have a name, campanilismo– pride in your bell-tower, your place. This course looks at the period (c. 1400-1520) in which the cultural variety of Italian cities took shape, and came to be expressed in visual and verbal terms. We will work using examples from cities such as Florence, Siena, Rome and Urbino, read texts produced in those cities and focus, above all, on the buildings, paintings and ritual events that shaped identities of place. 

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to the multifaceted cultural expression of the Italian Renaissance city. Key moments and artistic achievements (e.g. Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, or Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican apartments) will be discussed in a wide context informed by urban design, collective patronage practices, and ritual life. A variety of contemporary texts (in translation), ranging from technical treatises to comic novellas, will be read in conjunction with visual evidence, to show how urban spaces were lived and experienced. The module ends by looking at how urban images of the Renaissance past have been adopted and adapted in recent times through politics, entertainment and tourism.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the history and culture of Renaissance Italian cities.
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of urban/cultural identity and choices.
  • 3. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the key recent debates and issues that underlie the study of Italian Renaissance urban culture.
  • 4. Demonstrate familiarity with the history of various forms of cultural expression in the context of Renaissance Italian cities: literature, political theory, art and architecture, urban design.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Recognize and operate basic art-historical terminology and concepts
  • 6. With initial guidance, access the relevant subject areas of the University Library and use and evaluate learning resources specified by the course tutor.
  • 7. Use a reading list to identify material relevant to a given aspect of the subject, and present findings orally and in writing

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Select, evaluate and organise material in order to produce, to a deadline, a cogent written or oral argument.
  • 9. Perform structured learning activities with guidance from course tutor and with the help of written guidelines.
  • 10. Explain and discuss personal conclusions with other members of the group.

Syllabus plan

Lecture series structured around examples from a number of key Italian Renaissance cities (e.g. Florence, Siena, Rome, Ferrara, Urbino), addressing urban identity and its expression in written a visual media. Themes covered:

-       The city state as a work of art

-       Patronage and identity(ies)

-       Theory and practice of the ideal city

-       Civic, seigniorial and private expressions of culture

Seminars explore case studies, drawn from cities outlined in the lectures. Students will be offered options to work on literary, artistic or architectural forms of expression.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities5Seminars
Guided independent study134Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar worksheets and readingApprox. 3 hrs weekly1-10Collective, verbal
Mini essay750 words and assessed presentation1-9Individual, written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay100%2500 words final assessment1-9Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

L. B. Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books, ed. and trans. J. Rykwert, N. Leach and R. Tavernor, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991

Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-century Italy. A primer in the social history of pictorial style, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1972

Stephen J. Campbell and Michael Wayne Cole, A new history of Italian Renaissance art, London : Thames & Hudson, 2012

D. Medina. Lasansky, The Renaissanceperfected : architecture, spectacle, and tourism in Fascist Italy, University Park, Penn. : Pennsylvania State University Press 2004

Lauro Martines, An Italian Renaissance Sextet. Six Tales in Historical Context, trans. Murtha Baca (New York: Marsilio, 1994 (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2004)

Evelyn Welch, Art and Society in Italy, 1350-1500, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997

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Key words search

Italian, Art History, Modern Languages, Culture

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