Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Mixing it up: Italian and History of Art

Graduate, Madeline Robinson, tells us about the benefits of doing a joint degree in two great cultural subjects.

Photo of Madeline Robinson
Madeline Robinson, Italian & History of Art graduate

Ranked 19th in the world for modern languages in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018, the University of Edinburgh has more than 140 joint language programmes.

Available in a fantastic range of 20 degree combinations, Italian has been taught here since 1919, though it’s been part of our tradition for many years.

Madeline Robinson, who graduated with an MA (Hons) degree in Italian and History of Art last year, discovered that the University of Edinburgh offered this combination while studying for her AS levels at school.

She says: “I had been lucky enough to do a GCSE in Italian and I knew I wanted to study it again, but I also wanted to learn something totally new. Studying History of Art sounded to me like learning a visual language and so, as someone who loves verbal languages, it struck me as the perfect challenge.”

The skills to independently investigate any culture of my choice

Whether you're a complete beginner in Italian or have studied the language before, you’ll study both the language and culture of Italy at Edinburgh, including history, literature and cinema.

History of Art, which is taught at Edinburgh College of Art, is similarly diverse, exploring art and visual culture in all their forms, and the histories and ideas that they embody.

Madeline says: “Italy’s historically rich art scene aside, Italian and History of Art was a beneficial combination because both disciplines hinge upon understanding culture.”

“To understand a language properly you have to be aware of the cultural context: the same goes for art. My degree gave me the skills to independently investigate any culture of my choice and to be able to critically assess what is being communicated through both art and language.”

The city as a fantastic learning resource

“The best thing about my degree was the location”, adds Madeline. “Edinburgh is crammed full of museums, galleries, theatres, etc. It was a fantastic learning resource and I especially loved it when our tutorials were held in the national museums.”

“Edinburgh’s cultural vibrancy is probably also a key reason for its fantastic international community: hands down the highlight of the Italian part of my degree. The city has a thriving Italian presence and participating in university initiatives such as the annual Italian play allowed me to live the language I studied.”

Forging career pathways

Studying a language to degree level, especially when you spend a year abroad as part of your studies, gives you a set of skills and life experiences highly prized in industry.

History of Art is one of the classic humanities disciplines, teaching you how to interpret and critique images and objects of almost every conceivable kind.

Since graduation, Madeline has become a freelance Italian to English translator: “a career brought to my attention by a brilliantly taught fourth year Italian language module.”

“My History of Art training has been indispensable to my work so far because it has given me the knowledge, research techniques, and the confidence I need to win work with clients that range from Italian museums to university art journals.”



Are you interested in studying Italian at Edinburgh?

Whether you're a complete beginner or have studied the language before, you can take Italian as a single honours subject, or jointly with one of up to 19 other subjects.

Find out more

Related links

Find out about studying History of Art (Joint/Single Honours) on the Edinburgh College of Art website

Read our feature on Life after LLC