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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ITAL3310 'Giocare al Romanzo': Italo Calvino and the Novel, from Neorealism to Postmodern

20 creditsClass Size: 22

Module manager: Olivia Santovetti

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Italo Calvino (1923-1985) is one of the most important and innovative figures of Italian literature. His work is characterized by an audacious experimentation across the narrative genres. Working at Einaudi, an influential publishing company, and being an intellectual deeply involved in his society - this is testified to by his lucid essays and articles on Italian society - Calvino played a leading role in the cultural panorama of Italy in the second half of the twentieth century. This module will analyse in detail the novels of Calvino, which embrace the most interesting movements of this period, retracing on one side Calvino's strong interest in the mechanism and structure of narration and his involvement with the critical theories of the period, and on the other reflecting on his idea of 'committed literature', on the relationship between literature and society, literature and history, and in general on the concept of engagement. In this way a single-author course will be used to open up wider debates on important issues, ranging from the theoretical reflection on the novel as a genre to the elaboration of the concept of 'cultural commitment'.


This module introduces Italo Calvino, one of the most important and innovative figures of 20th-century Italian literature.

The objectives are to familiarise students with Calvino's:
(1) literary production, which covered the most interesting movements of the second half of the 20th century from Neorealism to Postmodernism (Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno, 1947, I nostri antenati, 1952-58, Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore, 1979),
(2) theoretical meditations on the novel and mechanisms of narration (Una pietra sopra 1980, and Lezioni americane, 1988), and
(3) key role in Italian culture, particularly in the post-war years.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the course students should be able to show an informed understanding of Italo Calvino's works (both fiction and non-fiction), in particular those related to the novel as a genre. They should be able to refer to these texts freely while discussing underlying ideas, and to comment critically on extracts from the texts.

- they should acquire a knowledge of the cultural and historical background of the period from the Second World War to the 1980s
- they should be familiar with some of the twentieth century's most important critical methodologies, and with critical concepts including: narrator, reader, plot, self-reflexive text, open work, realism, Formalism, and Structuralism (in particular, they should be able to identify the metafictional and self-reflexive strand in Calvino's writing and be aware that this is a predominant and characteristic feature of postmodern texts in general)
- they should show an understanding of the role of the intellectual, of the relationship between literature and society, literature and history, and also of the concept of 'cultural commitment'.

Skills outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
- read, analyse and appreciate Calvino's works (both fiction and non-fiction)
- gather, evaluate and use information from secondary sources
- show an awareness of the historical and cultural situation of 20th-century Italy
- have acquired a background and appropriate terminology relative to critical methodologies (e.g. Formalism, Structuralism)
- communicate effectively, both orally and in writing.


Class 1. Introduction and historical background
Class 2. The neorealist novel: Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
Class 3. The neorealist novel: Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
Class 4. Fantastic worlds: the trilogy of I nostri antenati
Class 5. Fantastic worlds: Il visconte dimezzato
Class 6. Fantastic worlds: Il barone rampante
Class 7. Fantastic worlds: Il cavaliere inesistente
Class 8. The hypernovel: Postmodernism
Class 9. The hypernovel: Se una notte d?inverno un viaggiatore
Class 10. The hypernovel: Se una notte d?inverno un viaggiatore.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Private study, reading of texts, preparation for general class discussion: 130 hours
- Preparation and writing of two assessed essays: 44 hours
- Preparation for class presentation: 6 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Progress will be monitored through the focus throughout this module on class discussion, involving small groups as well as the whole group. More specifically, constructive feedback will be provided on the first essay (due mid-semester).

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words45.00
Essay2,000 words45.00
PresentationVerbal presentation; 10 mins5.00
Group DiscussionGeneral participation in module5.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 13/11/2018 09:25:39


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