120: Topics in Italian Studies

MWF 3-4 | 263 Dwinelle | Instructor: Kate Noson

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

Disability, Difference and Desire in Italian Fiction and Film

In this course, we will analyze representations of disability in Italian literature and film, focusing on the relationship between bodily difference, language, and sexuality. Drawing from some of the basic tenets of disability studies, we will question assumptions about normalcy and ask what it means to characterize someone or something as “disabled.” We will put pressure on concepts such as “cure” and “wholeness,” and will investigate the ways in which these concepts are mobilized within the literary form. In particular, we will explore the role of language in creating, understanding, and/or challenging various definitions of disability. We will consider the importance of voice, speech, and silence in each of the texts we read, exploring the relationship between the characters’ modes of communication and the telling, or writing, of the narrative itself. Do norms of communication and speech contribute to an “outsider” status for disabled subjects? How do different types of communication and knowledge lead to different relationships to the body? Is the desire of a disabled character necessarily queer? In order to answer these questions, we will consider the relationship between disability and other marginalized groups, asking to what extent disability presents a set of issues and concerns apart from other categories of difference, such as gender, class or race. As a backdrop for our analyses of fictional texts, students will also learn about the disability rights movement in Italy and will read and engage with scholarly work in the field of disability studies.

Course Requirements

Aside from discussion and class participation, graded assignments consist of weekly reading responses, a short midterm essay (3-5 pages) and a final paper (5-7 pages). In addition, students will be expected to give two 10-minute presentations, one on a course reading and one presenting the final paper.


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


Giuseppe Pontiggia, Born Twice ISBN: 037572768X

Dacia Maraini, The Silent Duchess ISBN: 155861222X

Paolo Giordano, The Solitude of Prime Numbers ISBN: 0143118595

A course reader will also be made available with selections from: Gianni Celati, Italo Calvino, Giovanni Boccaccio, Lennard Davis, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Harlan Lane, Kathi Wolfe, Simi Linton and others.