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Semester 1

Performing Europa in Modern and Contemporary Italy (ELCI10033)


European Languages and Cultures - Italian





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Entry is subject to a language proficiency test within the relevant subject area and at the discretion of the Course Organiser. In order to be eligible to take 4th Year Options, Visiting Students should have the equivalent of at least two years of study at University level of the appropriate language(s) and culture(s).

Course Summary

This option course aims to engage Honours students in Italian with modern and contemporary interpretations of the myth of Europa. According to the myth, Europa was the name of a Phoenician princess of mixed Asian and African lineage who was seduced by the Greek god Zeus, in disguise as a white bull, and abducted to the island of Crete, where she 'originated' the first civilisation of Europe. Classical commentators highlighted that this myth elaborates on a history of migration and forced marriages across the Mediterranean Sea, as the bull into which the god transforms himself is a clear metaphor for a ship. The historical allegory of the mixed origins of the European civilisation was constructed with common narratives of erotic seduction as cultural and political conquest, which have strong implications in terms of the representation of gender (the male god) and ethnicity (the white bull). The myth will be studied and put under critical scrutiny through modern and contemporary sources, with a particular attention to operatic adaptations.

Course Description

Students will explore a selection of Italian sources on the myth of Europa from early-modern to contemporary literature, with a particular focus on operatic adaptations. The myth of Europa was present at the very beginnings of opera, in late Renaissance Italy, and the operatic adaptations will be particularly instrumental to unlocking the potential for critical and creative interpretations of this highly influential myth of origins. One of the main objectives of the course is to develop a critical understanding of the myth's dominant narratives of migration, gender, and ethnicity by contrasting them with the idea of the 'original' in translation and performance, challenging in particular the conventional associations of narrative voices and performative roles. The study of the myth of Europa throughout different times and cultures, languages, genres, and media enhances the learning experience by contributing to a wider sense of belonging and becoming in the construction of European identities. The course runs over ten weeks, and it is divided in two parts. In the first part, students will be engaged in 2-hour weekly sessions, with a combination of seminars and autonomous learning groups. Class discussions will focus on a set of essential primary and secondary texts that will be relevant for the final essays. All the essential texts will be available on Learn. In the second and final part of the course, students will submit and discuss short presentations of their essays, which will receive formative feedback and will be marked as part of the coursework.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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