MLI1016 - Italy Inside Out: Popular Visual Narratives about Italy

2022/3 Module description

StaffProfessor Danielle Hipkins - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

What ideas and images do the words ‘Italy’ and ‘Italian’ conjure up for you? On this module you will explore the pleasures and problems associated with the most popular storylines that circulate within and originate from inside and outside Italy today. By comparing films, television and spatial narratives produced inside and outside Italy around a series of themes (Roman glamour; the Latin Lover; Crime and corruption; Virtual Italies) you will understand more about why certain ideas and stereotypes about Italy are so persistent and compelling, how they travel, and how they are received. No prior study of Italian language required. 

Module aims

This module aims to introduce you to the ways in which Italy and Italians have been represented in popular visual narratives in contemporary culture. It will help you to understand more about the pleasures and the constraints of national identities and fantasies. We begin with a focus on the city of Rome, with its stories of glamour and its decay, made famous by Hollywood’s Roman Holiday (Wyler, 1953) and Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960), echoed in the present by Oscar-winning La grande bellezza (Sorrentino, 2013). The transformational reputation of Italy is then explored through the romance narrative, in particular through the figure of the Latin Lover. Turning towards the so-called ‘dark heart’ of Italy, we consider the representation of the mafia and political corruption in both US and Italian television series. Finally we consider the emergence of virtual Italies around the world and within Italy, from supermarkets to hotels, understanding more about how Italy can be consumed as an imaginary product and why.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed understanding and detailed knowledge of the works studied on the module and their cultural and historical context
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of how those works are linked through popular fantasies about Italy

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Demonstrate understanding of the role of national stereotypes in popular culture
  • 4. Recognise the existence of differing critical responses to the material
  • 5. Defend an interpretation of a popular visual text with detailed reference to its form

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Through written analysis, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

Comparing texts produced inside and outside Italy, themes studied will include: Postcards from Italy: Rome; Narratives of Transformation and the Latin Lover; Italy’s Dark Heart: Crime and Corruption; Virtual Italies.

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 Teaching9Seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Screenings
Guided Independent Study114Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Review of a visual narrative about Italy500 words1-6Written and oral feedback
Presentation10 minutes1-6Written and oral feedback

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
Examination1001.5 hours1-6Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Examination (1.5 hour)Examination (1.5 hour)1-6Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983)
  • Clapp, J. A., ‘The Romantic Travel Movie, Italian-Style' Visual Anthropology , 22:1, 52-63
  • Forgacs, David (ed.), Italian Cultural Studies (OUP, 2002)
  • Ginsborg, Paul, Italy and Its Discontents (London: Penguin, 2003)
  • Gordon, Robert, ‘Cartoline da Roma. Hollywood, l’Italia e la città del turismo’ , in ItaliAmerica: il mondo dei media , ed. J. Schnapp and E. Scarpellini (Il Saggiatore, 2012), pp.11-34.
  • Gundle, Stephen, Death and La dolce vita (Canongate, 2011), pp. 272-305
  • Homm, Stephanie, The Beautiful Country: Tourism and the Impossible State of Destination Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2015)
  • Jones, Tobias, The Dark Heart of Italy (Faber & Faber, 2003)
  • Levy, Shawn, Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome (W&N, 2018)
  • Liz, Mariana, ‘From Europe with love: urban space and cinematic postcards’, Studies in European Cinema , 2014, 11:1, 3-13
  • O’Rawe, Catherine, 'Comedy and masculinity Italian style' in Stars and Masculinities in Contemporary Italian Cinema (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 62-5
  • Ouditt, S. and Polezzi, L., Introduction: Italy as place and space. Studies in Travel Writing 2012, 16(2), pp. 97-105
  • Parks, Tim, Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (London: Vintage, 2014)
  • Reich, Jacqueline, Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity, and Italian Cinema (Indiana University Press, 2004)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Italy, popular culture

Important please note

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the module descriptors for the Online Module Selection process, please be aware that on rare occasions it may be necessary to remove proposed modules for reasons beyond our control. In addition, there are still some new modules going through the accreditation process. These will be offered in due course by the relevant discipline.

All modules displayed below have been approved by the approval process but may require further minor amendments before the commencement of teaching.

We are committed to providing an outstanding education and high quality teaching. You can find out details of your modules and any potential changes on these pages. If you are a returning student, joining after the first year or a postgraduate student details of your module changes will be provided in August. 

Foreign Language Centre modules

Term 1 module codes listed above ending with C, i.e. FLF1115C, are only available to outbound students who are away in Term 2. Students studying all year must select the standard module across both Term 1 and 2.