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Writing the Modern Self

What do we understand by the term ‘selfhood’, and especially ‘the modern self’? What influences – historical, cultural, philosophical, psychological, scientific and linguistic – help to shape it, and what techniques do modern writers and filmmakers use to bring that constructed notion of selfhood into being? What underlying assumptions are being made about gender, class and race in portrayals of selfhood, and how do texts – from modernism to the present day – continue to perpetuate or challenge entrenched intellectual hierarchies? How are conceptualisations of gender, race and class articulated in literature and film? 

This module aims to introduce students to the portrayal of selfhood and identity in literature and film in the Italian and the broader global context from the late nineteenth century to the present day. Studying texts and films ranging from Luigi Pirandello’s plays to Antonioni’s cinema, from Italo Svevo’s fiction to Elena Ferrante and Igiaba Scego’s contemporary reflections on gender, race, motherhood and transnational identities, students will learn about the historical, cultural, philosophical and psychoanalytical influences that continue to shape the formation of the self, but they will also be introduced to the various techniques writers and filmmakers employ to express or indeed to deconstruct dominant notions of selfhood. The thematic foci will range from psychoanalysis to self-narrative, autobiography, narrative fragmentation, the construction of the gendered self, ecocriticism and Italy’s legacies of colonialism and transnational identities. While the principal focus will be on texts and films originating in the Italian and Italophone literary tradition, these will be contextualized within the global literary and cultural landscape.  

Set Texts/Films likely to be studies include:  

Term 1

  • Luigi Pirandello, Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921/25); Vestire gli ignudi (1922)  
  • Italo Svevo, La coscienza di Zeno (1921) 
  • Bernardo Bertolucci, Il conformista (1970) [film; available on BoB] 
  • Michelangelo Antonioni, Deserto rosso (1964) [available on BoB]; Zabriskie Point (1970) 

Term 2

  • Goliarda Sapienza, Il filo di mezzogiorno (1969) 
  • Mario Martone, L’amore molesto (1995) [film; available on Kanopy] 
  • Elena Ferrante, La figlia oscura (2008) 
  • Igiaba Scego, La mia casa è dove sono (Milan: Rizzoli, 2010); Selection of short stories 

Coordinator:  Dr Katrin Wehling-Giorgi

Further details of pre-requisites, co-requisites, aims, contact hours and assessment.