Minor Program Rome-Florence: Italian Art & History

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Rome and Florence are of paramount importance to those working in the humanities, since most of its disciplines originate in late medieval or early modern Italy, and even postmodernism has some of its most significant roots in Italian intellectual debates. Therefore, Rome and Florence offer an ideal ground to explore the historiography of art history, history and adjacent fields from both a historical and a contemporary perspective.

The Minor program Italian Art & History, hosted and financed by the Dutch Institutes in Rome and Florence, offers the opportunity to do so to a select group of students from Dutch universities, allowing them to work with a large variety of methodologies in order to understand present-day Italy through its historical developments, as well as stimulating them to critically assess their disciplinary orientation in a profoundly cross-disciplinary context.

What distinguishes this Minor is the on-site teaching, where students are invited to always take into account the first-hand observation of objects, locations, urbanistics and social contexts. In all its courses, students are trained in documenting and analyzing visual materials and performative practices in the Roman and Florentine contexts.

This Minor is also unique because of the integration of essential skills. Students acquire a basic proficiency in the Italian language that allows them to read both primary sources and contemporary scholarship. Following an introductory intensive language course, a reading laboratory focuses on the comprehension of relevant source texts in Italian, by means of collaborative translations. All courses have the format of an intense seminar that invites students to actively participate.

The program runs during the first semester. From Late August until Christmas, students will stay for two months in Rome at the KNIR and two months in Florence at the NIKI. The Minor is concluded with a final essay written in January under the supervision of one of the teachers.

Teaching staff
All courses are taught by staff members of the two institutes and by historians and art historians of the KNIR and NIKI partner universities in the Netherlands: RUG, UvA, RU, VU, UL and UU.

English and Italian (language training and source reading)

Course reading

Information will follow.

Target group and admission

The course is open to a maximum of 10 selected 3rd year BA students from KNIR and NIKI partner universities (University of Amsterdam, Free University of Amsterdam, University of Leiden, University of Utrecht, Radboud University, University of Groningen). Applicants have obtained a minimum of 90 ECTS by the time of application and 120 ECTS by the time of the start of the program. A committee of art historians and historians from the six Dutch universities affiliated with the KNIR and the NIKI, together with staff members from the two institutes will carry out the selection of candidates. Please note that an online interview with the selection committee will be part of the selection procedure. This interview will take place around the middle of May.

Course format and assignments
The Minor is organized by and hosted at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR) and the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence NIKI). It consists of five intensive courses of two or three weeks each, with lectures, seminars, and on-site visits. Active participation is required. Assignments consist of a language test, translations, oral (on site) presentations and essays or written exams.

Description of the five courses:
1. Italian Language: Reading Practicum
The goal of this course is to provide the student with the necessary tools to comprehend and analyze Italian texts, with particular focus on (art) historical literature. Through the active reading of specific texts, the student will learn the basic notions of Italian grammar, how to use a dictionary, and how to decipher the meaning of a text. Although specifically designed to target reading skills, this course will also enhance listening, and writing. These skills are engaged by various types of material, including digital format, with which the students can also practice independently. Italian grammar will be explained and practiced during the morning sessions. In the afternoon sessions, reading assignments will give students the opportunity to individuate in the texts certain issues of grammar discussed in class, analyze how sentence structure works and expand the essential vocabulary knowledge, all necessary ingredients to understanding written Italian.

2. Fascism and anti-fascism in Rome: history, legacy, and cultural memories
This course aims to critically assess the material and symbolic legacy of fascism and anti- fascism today by questioning the complex dynamics among power, ideology and culture that are displayed in the urban space. Fascism represents the most dramatic political innovation of the 20 th  century and its legacy, largely visible in Rome, is an object of heated debate. However, there is also another Rome, rebellious and untamed, which has resisted oppression and despotism leaving its traces both in the memoryscape and in artistic activism. Combining (art) history, heritage, and memory studies, the course intends to explore to what extent urban planning, architecture, and artistic production concur(red) in mediating fascist ideology or continue to counteract it. We will look in particular at fascist heritage today as a tool to grasp how Italians connect to their past and evaluate it. Topics to be studied are the history of (anti-)fascism, futurism, fascist and colonial heritage, institutionalized memories, cultural memories and practices of far-right/left activism. The course includes several excursions to sites such as the Historical Museum of Liberation, La Sapienza University complex, and the antifascist Quadraro neighborhood.

3. Italian Worlds of Knowledge: Academies, Universities and Courts
In this course we will explore the what, how and why of the paradigmatic Italian and especially Roman worlds of knowledge in its heydays (1400-1700). Our approach derives from the so-called “spatial turn” in the humanities, and we will therefore focus on Roman spaces, places, sites, or indeed “worlds” of knowledge, such as universities, academies, museums, libraries, archives, but also on monuments, works of art and architecture, and the city itself. We will discuss the novelty of artistic and intellectual achievements in medieval and early modern Italy by assessing the extent to which these developments built on existing theoretical and philosophical premises. Central themes are the reorganization of knowledge in the pre-modern period, the relation between theory and practice in medicine, the visualization of science (e.g. in the work of Leonardo and Galileo), and the place of Italy in the globalization of knowledge after the “discovery” of the “New World” in 1492. The course consists of seminar meetings, (guest) lectures, and, most importantly, excursions and site visits in and outside of Rome. The places of knowledge we will visit include the Villa Farnesina, the Vatican Museums, the Bibliotheca Hertziana, and the former hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia and the Museo Storico Nazionale Dell’Arte Sanitaria.

4. The Discovery of Time: Renaissances and Revolutions
Our modern understanding of time as a discontinuous process, with periods of splendour and decay, was invented in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Tuscany, particularly in Florence. It engendered a vision of history that still dominates Western civilization. This concept is based on a dichotomy between Renaissances and Revolutions, classicisms and anti-classicisms, and of modernism and postmodernism. This course addresses these dynamics and its origins, as well as its reflection in historiography and philosophy. As a result, this course aims to critically assess concepts like ‘Renaissance’,  Risorgimento’, ‘futurism’ and ‘(trans)avanguardia’, as well as investigating the historical contexts and sites that facilitated the rise of such revolutionary movements. Topics to be studied range from Michelangelo and Machiavelli to early 20th-century futurism and the contemporary art scene and its patrons.

5. Bella Figura: Florence and the Phenomenology of Display
Throughout its history, the city of Florence has been a privileged stage for all kinds of display. Politicians, princes, bankers and businessmen, as well as artists, architects and collectors: they all felt compelled to display their own persona, their work or their collections. From the Renaissance onwards, art and museums have played a role in the city’s cultural self-understanding and have served as instruments of power and a means of what Italians characteristically define as ‘fare bella figura’: keeping up appearances. In this course, Florence’s – and Italy’s – primary role in displaying and exhibiting art and culture in the past, and its role in the antiquities trade, will be confronted with its present strategies to connect to international developments in the museological field.

Credits and assessment
This minor comprises 30 ECTS and consists of 6 components: 4 seminars of 6 EC each, one Italian language course of 3 EC, and one final paper of 3 EC (to be written in January, following the stay in Rome and Florence).

Tuition and lodging in Rome and Florence at the KNIR and the NIKI is free for selected participants from the above-mentioned Dutch universities. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students receive a €100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome and from Florence after submission of their final essay; also the transportation from Rome to Florence is covered by the two institutes.

Facilities in Rome and Florence
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome and the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence, respectively. From both institutes it is only a short walk to the historical city centers. The KNIR and NIKI accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of both institutes.

More info
E-mail: secretary@knir.it
Phone: (+39)063269621