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ITAL 356 A: Italian Society In Film And Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
CMS 320 B
Claudio Mazzola

Syllabus Description:

Italian 356-CMS 320


Autumn 2020


Instructor: Claudio Mazzola


Office Hours:by appointment


Zoom Meeting ID: 980-5708-2100  



 Italian Cinema – Cinema as entertainment or cinema as art? (Genre vs authorship)

Objective of the course – This course aims at providing students with an overview of Italian Cinema from the end of WWII to the present days.  At the core of the early development of post WWII Italian Cinema are the innovations (narrative and cinematic) brought by what is commonly known as Neorealism.  Directors like Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Giuseppe De Santis developed a particular style based on slow editing, rejection of fancy camera movements and above all the idea that cinema should reproduce life with limited interference by the director.  This meant abandoning the typical cause-effect development of the film in favour of a looser narration.  During the 1950’s many director that grew up in this cultural environment started to develop the notion, very common in most of European countries, that cinema is an art form and that being a film director is equal to be a painter or a writer. Directors like De Sica, Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, became famous for their peculiar style and for their total control of every detail of film production (shooting, editing, casting, etc.). French critics labeled these directors “auteurs”.  To most of them, cinema was not very different from any other art forms such as painting, poetry, or music. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s their movies were as popular as American movies.  The notion of commercial success was very foreign to many of these directors.  From this period became very clear the juxtaposition between the more entertaining style of mainstream Hollywood movies against the more cerebral and engaged dramas that developed especially in Italy and France.  The presence of the auteurs reached its peak in the early 1970’s with directors like Bertolucci, Pasolini and Bellocchio. With the advent of commercial television first (from the mid 1970’s on), and other form of media later, Italian Cinema entered a critical phase in which the commercial success at the box office became a priority.  More and more younger film-makers turned to genre movies, often imitating some of the famous genres developed by Hollywood cinema (horror, mystery, etc.) while the concept of auteurs slowly faded away.  Where is Italian Cinema now?  Does the concept of “auteurs” still exist? Has the audience completely abandoned traditional Italian Cinema in favor of more entertaining American blockbusters?  We will address all of these questions and by the end of this course students will have a strong historical background of Italian Cinema from the post WWII production to the present days and understand what made Italian cinema so famous in the past and in which direction is Italian cinema going now. 

Method:  During the first part of the course we will discuss the notion of auteurship and the major technical and narrative characteristics associated with this label through the close analysis of the film of Neorealism (1945-1954).  Each movie will be presented for its historical relevance along with the cinematic qualities (editing, camera angles, etc.) that characterized it. We will progress from the mature works by De Sica to the young Fellini to the most glorious period of the auteurs with films like Antonioni’s The passenger.  Then we move to the present days and discuss how the concept of auteur has a changed in a period when TV has become a major competitor for cinema and when the director lost control over production of the movies.  We will analyze different works from the contemporary production and we will verify how Hollywood’s idea of genre has influenced the films of young directors. At  the same time we will discuss whether the notion of auteur is completely dead or not.


Textbook and Instructional Materials:


Required:       A course reader will be available at EZ copy N' Print  at 4336 University way Tel. 206-632-2523. email:  If you are not in Seattle, contact them and they will mail the reader to you.  Other articles will be provided in the form of handouts.



The move to remote instruction is a way to protect the health of our community while mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 public health crisis on students’ academic progress. As a result, this course will be conducted entirely online through UW Zoom Pro. .

Course requirements and course grade:


Requirements:  Visual quiz (2), Movie reactions, Group report and a Final Exam.


Grade Breakdown:  


  1. Class Preparation and participation 20%
  2. Visual Quiz 15%
  3. Movie Reactions 15%
  4. Group Report 25%
  5. Final Exam 25%



  1. Class Preparation and participation


It is vital for the success of the course that all students have completed the screening of a movie bythe time it is indicated on the syllabus.  Since these movies are strongly based on the culture of a period that is rather distant from us, it is very important that all the students acquire the proper knowledge of the historical period through the readings and the lectures.  It is also important that all the students share their view with the other studnets and the professor.


  1. Visual quizzes:

There will be two visual quizzes during the whole quarter.  During classtime  the students will be exposed to a meaningful clip or  frame of a movie.  The students are requested to provide a satisfactory explanation of what is shown in 200 words.

  1. Movie reactions:

At the end of the screening of a movie students are asked to write a brief reaction (one or two paragraphs).  This document should include the most immediate response to what you just saw.  It does not to have a specific format but rather a very spontaneous  reaction that provides important feedback to the professor

  1. Group report:

Details about this activity will be provided during the quarter.

  1. Final exam:

It will be in the format of essays questions that will include all the movies screend during the quarter. 

  1. Participation (15%):

Whether in person or online, learning a language is a highly involved and interactive process. Regular attendance and active participation are essential for performing well and making steady progress.  If for any reason you are unable to attend, notify your instructor beforehand and make arrangements with him/her about how to access or make up the missed content.

Depending on the day’s activities, active participation may include – but is not limited to – any and all of the following:

  • Being on time and ready to start;
  • Completing the screening on time;
  • Fully engaging in any group or individual work as directed by instructor;
  • Following proper “netiquette” (see below);
  • Showing and maintaining a positive, respectful attitude toward your classmates, instructor and yourself.



Any use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated


Anyone who wishes to contest a grade on a particular assignment or exam must

consult his/her instructor within 7 days after the assignment was returned to them


Academic Standards:

Students are expected to maintain a high standard of academic ethics, honesty and integrity.  Academic misconduct includes but is not limited to: plagiarism, cheating, harassment, and disruptive or offensive behavior (see statement above), and will not be tolerated.  Please refer to the University’s Student Conduct Code. Any student or situation found to be in violation of proper academic conduct will be addressed and potentially reported according to University policy.


“Netiquette” Standards:

Even though this course is conducted online, please remember you are still interacting with people, not a computer. As such, it is important to adhere to the same standards of behavior that you would follow in a real classroom environment. You and your instructor will work together to establish further class norms for teaching and learning remotely, but here are some preliminary guidelines for engaging in proper “netiquette”:

  • Log in to your class meeting a few minutes early and make sure your video and microphone are working properly;
  • Sit at a desk or table in a quiet, undisturbed place. Work on a computer (ideally) and avoid moving your device;
  • Turn on your computer camera, check the lighting, and make sure the background you are projecting to your instructor and classmates is work-appropriate;
  • Be dressed as if you were attending class in person;
  • Do not engage in distracting or disruptive behavior (listening to music, eating, answering the phone, carrying on a side conversation, coming and going, etc.)
  • Do not interrupt other speakers and use the “raise hand” function when you wish to speak;
  • Look and maintain eye contact with the camera when speaking;
  • Mute your microphone when not speaking;
  • Refrain from using slang and emoticons when using public chat functions.

Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important to us, and it is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. Disability Resources for Students (DRS) offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students experiencing a wide range of temporary and permanent disabilities and/or health conditions that may impact their ability to perform well in the classroom. These include but are not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts. If you are experiencing any such difficulties, please contact DRS as soon as possible. Once you have established accommodations, please submit them to your instructor at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs and success in this course.

Religious Accommodations

It is the policy of the University of Washington to reasonably accommodate student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities in accordance with Washington state law. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Guidance to Students Taking Courses Outside the US:

Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.

If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.

If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.



Schedule Fall 2020




Oct 1 (Th) – Introduction to the course – The idea of authorship vs genre movies.

Oct 6 (T) – The period after WWII in Italy. Clips from Paisa’ by Roberto Rossellini (1945)

The beginning of Neorealism –

Oct. 8(Th) – Watch: two episodes of Paisa’ The notion of Neorealism – The Neorealist qualities of Paisa’

Oct. 13(T) – Watch: Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica 1949) – Intro lesson on BT

Oct.15 (Th)– Discussion of The Bycicle Thief  - and the aesthetics of Neorealism

Oct. 20 (T) – Watch: Umberto D – Vittorio De Sica (1952) – Intro to Umberto D

Oct. 22 (Th) – Discussion on Umberto D – wrapping up Neorealism – Group activity

Oct. 27 (T) – Watch: Bitter Rice – Giuseppe de Santis (1946) – Intro to Bitter Rice

Oct. 29 (Th) – Between Neorealism and Hollywood VISUAL EXAM 1

Nov 3 (T) -  Watch The nights of Cabiria (1956) – Intro to Fellini and The nights of Cabiria

Nov 5 (Th) – Discussion on The nights of Cabiria

Nov 10 (T) – Watch L’avventura Michelangelo Antonioni (1960)  Intro to L’avventura

Nov 12 (Th)   Discussion on L’avventura and the social changes of the 1960’s.VISUAL EXAM 2

Nov 17 (T)  – Watch The Passenger – Michelangelo Antonioni (1977) – GROUP PROJECT – first meeting

Nov. 19 (Th)  - Discussion on The Passenger and the cinema of the 1970’s.

Nov. 24 (T) – Open


Dec. 1 (T) – Watch : The consequences of Love – Paolo Sorrentino (1996) Intro: Italian Cinema today. Discussion on The consequences of Love

Dec. 3 (Th) – Watch: Gomorra – Matteo Garrone (2011) – Intro to Gomorra and the Mafia movie genre

Dec. 8(T) – Discussion on Gomorra

Dec. 10 (Th) – Presentation of the groups’ project





Catalog Description: 
Studies the evolution of Italian postwar society through the analysis of film and literature as well as critical, historical, and sociological readings.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 28, 2020 - 11:01am