For centuries, the artistic and intellectual accomplishments of the people of the Italian peninsula—in painting, sculpture, and architecture; literature; music; political theory; philosophy; theology; and other important areas of human activity—have been celebrated and carefully studied. 

The interdisciplinary minor in Italian studies increases familiarity with that remarkable legacy and the scholarship examining it.

A central focus of the minor is on the several major cultural traditions of the Mediterranean worldthe Greco-Roman, Judaeo-Christian, and Islamic traditionsthat were inherited and refashioned by Italians of the medieval, Renaissance, and modern eras.  Depending upon students’ particular interests, the program develops their familiarity with ancient languages, literatures, philosophy, and religion, in the belief that an understanding of the Renaissance philosophy of Marsilio Ficino depends upon an understanding of Plato’s philosophy, or that an understanding of the neo-Latin literature of the Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance depends upon a familiarity with classical Latin.

Students who understand Christian imagery will be better able to interpret medieval and Renaissance Italian painting, and those with an interest in the visual arts of Italy will therefore be encouraged to study Christian traditions.  Similarly, students with an interest in Niccolò Machiavelli’s political theory will benefit from an understanding of his indebtedness to ancient Roman models such as Livy’s history.

Another contrasting focus of the minor is modern Italy’s role in the European Union and the challenges of economic and political integration, Third World immigration, and other such complex issues that Italy faces, in common with other European Union nations.

When prospective minors are designing their course program, the program coordinator will, therefore, suggest that they select courses that enable them to understand the interconnections between the Mediterranean world and its reflections in later Italian history, or the economic and political complexities of modern-day Italy (among other possibilities).