Italian-American Culture (Italian 131)
Dr. Maria Truglio
Lessons: Tuesday & Thursday, 9:45-11:00 105 Wartik
Office Hours: Tues. & Wed., 1:00- 3:00 354 N Burrowes or by appointment.
Are the recent criticisms of Christopher Columbus’s exploits an attempt to rectify inaccurate myths or an assault on Italian-American heritage? Does The Sopranos
perpetuate negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans or simply provide entertainment? What accounts for the fascination and appeal of Mafia-movies among Americans? This course will offer students a framework within which to consider current debates such as these. Our inquiry will focus on the period of the Great Migration and its effects. Between 1870 and 1920 over five million Italians left their homeland and immigrated to the United States. Of these immigrants, most were men from Southern Italy who came to earn a better living. While at least one third of these immigrants returned to Italy, those who remained contributed in a wide variety of ways to American culture.
Through our study of historical, sociological, literary and cinematic texts, we will consider, among other topics: the factors that motivated the great wave of immigration; the obstacles to assimilation faced by the early generations of immigrants; the role of labor unions and the Church in the lives of Italian-Americans; forms and consequences of prejudice, from lynching to media stereotypes; and the contributions of Italian-Americans in sports, cinema, literature, politics and other fields. No prerequisites.
; Coursepack. A compilation of photocopied essays. SBS
; Mangione, Jerre & Ben Morreale. La Storia. Five Centuries of the Italian-
American Experience. (New York: Harper-Collins, 1993). HUB st; DiDonato, Pietro. Christ in Concrete. (London: Penguin Books, 1993; 1 pub.
; Mazzucco, Melania. Vita: A Novel. Trans. Virginia Jewiss. (NY: Picador,
Scorsese, Martin. Mean Streets. 1973
Tucci, Stanley. Big Night. 1996
Coppola, Francis F. The Godfather. 1971
Taviani, Paolo and Vittorio. The Other Son / Kaos. 1984
N.B.: Viewing of films is required. Schedule of screenings is included in Course
Calendar. Location of screenings TBA. Cassettes are available on reserve (West Pattee) for those unable to attend scheduled screenings. **It is your responsibility to view
the films before we discuss them in class, whether at the scheduled group screening or individually in Pattee library.
Semester Exams: 55 %
Message boards: 10%
Final Paper 15%
A 95.0 - 100 B+ 87.0 - 89.9 C+ 75.0-79.9 D 60 – 69.9
A- 90.0-94.9 B 83.0 - 86.9 C 70.0 – 74.9 F 0.0 – 59.9
B- 80.0 – 82.9
1. Exams: There will four exams covering the material from the readings, lectures, and films. Exams 1, 2, and3 will be worth 15% each, exam 4 will be worth 10%. The format will be a combination of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions and a short paragraph. There will be no make-up exams administered. You may take an exam in advance for an anticipated excused absence (university sponsored event, religious
observance). If you miss an exam due to an unanticipated excused absence (serious
illness, family emergency), I will count the subsequent exam twice. You may be required to provide documentation to have your absence excused. You will receive no credit for any additional missed exams.
2. Message Boards: Students are required to participate in two on-line threaded
discussions (Angel) based on course films. There will be three message boards in the course of the semester, from which you choose two. Five points each. 3. Debates: Working in groups, students will prepare a debate on an issue of concern to the course and stage the debate for the class. Presentations should be kept to a twenty-minute maximum, and should be designed to elicit class discussion. A written
bibliography must be submitted. Topics and assigned dates will be organized by the
second week. 20%
4. Final Paper: Students will submit a three-page essay on or before December 18. Please choose any of the debate topics that were presented during the semester. You may continue to work on the topic you presented, or choose another. In your paper, please develop the topic into a three-page argument, in which you offer a thesis, support it with evidence, and cite your sources properly. (In the class debate, the groups should present the full range of view points and encourage discussion. In your individual papers, you must argue for one interpretation, supporting your analysis with as much evidence as possible.) 15%
The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in the course or have questions about physical access, please inform the instructor as soon as possible.
Regarding the Honor Code: Italian 131 encourages discussion of course content both in and out of class, and collaborative studying for exams is permitted. However, written work submitted for a grade must result from your own individual effort (i.e. no sharing of answers). All sources consulted on research projects, whether printed or electronic, must be appropriately cited. Noncompliance will be considered a violation of the Pennsylvania State University Honor Code for which appropriate measures will be taken.
Assigned readings to be completed before each class.
; Asterisk (*) denotes course-packet reading, identified by author’s last name.
; Please consult the course site on Angel regularly for announcements.
Week One: Overview
Tuesday, August 28: Introduction to the course, syllabus, and texts. Thursday, August 30: First encounters: Italian Explorers in the Americas
La Storia, Ch. 1 & 2
Week Two: Italy in the Nineteenth Century
Tuesday, September 4: La Storia Ch.3, 4 & 5.
Thursday, September 6: Screening and Discussion of Kaos
Week Three: Emigration
Tuesday, Sept. 11: *Alcorn; La Storia Ch. 6
Thursday, Sept. 13: *Baily; La Storia Ch. 7
Tuesday, Sept. 18: Research seminar. Dr. Roberta Astroff. Foster Auditorium, Pattee
Thursday, Sept. 20: First exam
Week Five: Immigration
Tuesday, Sept. 25: La Storia Ch. 8 & 9
Thursday, Sept. 27: La Storia Ch. 10 (presentations #5 & #8)
Week Six: Assimilation
Tuesday, October 2: La Storia, Ch. 11, 12
Thursday, October 4: La Storia Ch. 13 (w/ “Linciati”)
Week Seven: Labor and the Left
Tuesday, October 9: La Storia Ch 16, 17, (presentation #3) Thursday, October 11: * Zappia (presentation # 10)
Week Eight: Crime & Prejudice
Tuesday, October 16: Second Exam
Wednesday, October 17: Film: Mean Streets. 1:00 pm.
Thursday, October 18: *Gambetta, Discussion of film
Week Nine: The Mafia
Tuesday, October 23: La Storia Ch. 15 & 20
Wednesday, October 24: Film: The Godfather 1:00 pm.
Thursday, October 25: [recommended: *Block] discussion of film (presentation #6)
Week Ten: Writing and Testimony
Tuesday, October 30: Christ in Concrete, [recommended: La Storia Ch. 21]
Thursday, November 1: Christ in Concrete
Week Eleven: World War II; The Role of the Church
ndTuesday, November 6: La Storia Ch. 18 (2 part). (Presentation #4) Thursday, November 8: *Vecoli “Prelates & Peasants”, La Storia Ch. 19 (Presentation #9)
Week Twelve: Writing and Identity
Tuesday, November 13: Third Exam
Thursday, November 15: Vita
Tuesday, November 27: Vita
Thursday, November 29: Vita (presentation #7)
Week Fourteen: Film, Food, Family, Folklore
[Recommended film: Moonstruck, available on reserve]
Tuesday, December 4: *Gardaphè, *Magliocco (Presentations #1, #2)
Wednesday, December 5: Film: Big Night 1:00 pm
Thursday, December 6: Discussion of film, *DeSalvo
Week Fifteen: “The Old Italians Dying”
Tuesday, December 11: Ferlinghetti (in class) Evaluations Thursday, December 13: Fourth Exam
December 18: Submit final papers