170: The Italian Cinema: Projecting Ancient Rome

MW 3-4:30 | 188 Dwinelle | Instructor: Lisa Pieraccini

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature breadth requirement.

Lecture MW 3-4:30 + Lab W 4:30-7

Ancient Rome, with its emperors, splendor, cruelty and power has captured the popular imagination for centuries and has been a well-liked genre for films since the beginning of cinema. The film industry has continued to resurrect ancient Rome on the big screen to address significant issues of contemporary culture, from national identity and civil rights, to questions of religion, gender and race. How can films about ancient Rome tell us about the cultures which produced them?  How are we connected to the ancient Romans? By viewing ancient Rome through Italian cinema and Hollywood, this course will explore how ancient Rome is used to both entertain audiences and address political and social concerns of the present. Films such as Quo Vadis, Cleopatra, Spartacus and even La Dolce Vita, are considered “classics” today and since Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), a popular renaissance of films dedicated to antiquity has emerged. How do these films shape stereotypes of Italian culture today? Through readings, careful analysis of films, and class lectures, this course will examine how cinematic traditions have interpreted and misinterpreted ancient Rome and how ancient Rome is used as a backdrop for communicating contemporary social and political issues. It will also explore how contemporary audiences relate to ancient Romans on the screen, how important is it to be historically accurate, and how do projections of ancient Rome impact visitors to Italy today.

Texts and films:  to be announced.

Prerequisites:  None.  This course is taught in English with readings in English.