04177 - Sociology of Literature

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Foreign Languages and Literature (cod. 0979)

    Also valid for First cycle degree programme (L) in Humanities (cod. 8850)

Course contents

Paper Wings. the Imagined Flight

Real flight and dreams of flight go together. Both are part of the same movement. Not A before B, but all together.

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Like the wings of Icarus, which melted in the sun, if you don't want to fly only in a dream, you must learn to use metal wings.

Robert Musil, Man Without Qualities

The course will introduce students to Sociology of Literature, which investigates the relationships between literature and society. We will consider, in particular, the influences of mechanical and technological changes on literature through the analysis of a series of novels and short stories, poems, paintings, music and movies of different geographical and linguistic traditions. The first airplane flight conventionally dated 1903. It was a real breakthrough: it has changed the transport and war industries over time and has immediately exerted a certain fascination on many writers. Some of them were so bewitched they would in turn become aviators. 

The syllabus will investigate three main topics.

1) How "aerial perspective" modifies the narrative point of view and, in general, the representation of space (for example in the Futurist authors).

2) How planes open up to other frontiers and recovers pre-existing myths (such as Icarus) as well as religious and mystical models in a function of "familiarization", that is, an attempt to tame adventurous experiences, especially in the first age of aviation.

3) The airplane as a technology: this is a matter that largely invests the twentieth-century literature and philosophy, and through which mankind, especially the super-human's ego (Übermensch) who, as an aviator, aspires to possess and even bend the world of air.

Beginning of the course: First Semester (21 September)

Fall Break: 2-5 November

End of the course: 3 December

Course length: 10 weeks (60h)

Timetables: Tuesday 5-7 pm (Aula Tibiletti, via Zamboni 38), Wednesday 5-7 pm and Friday 3-5 pm (Aula II, via Zamboni 38)



All texts listed below constitute exam materials, including PDF presentations provided by the teacher. Students will also need to be familiar with the films and paintings handled during lessons. Further recommended and in-depth readings will be communicated after class and reported on Unibo Moodle.

Foreign students can use translations while studying, but a good reading knowledge of Italian is required.

Novels and Short stories

- Gabriele D’Annunzio, Forse che sì forse che no (1910), Milano, Mondadori, 2001.

- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Vol de nuit (1931).

- Roald Dahl, "A Piece of Cake," "They Shall Not Grow Old,” "Only This," in Over to You. Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying (1946).

- Richard Bach, Illusions. The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977).

- Daniele Del Giudice, Staccando l’ombra da terra (1994), Torino, Einaudi, 2017 

Poems and manifestos (PDF versions on Moodle)

Some poems related to flight and airplane will be uploaded on Moodle, by authors such as Giovanni Pascoli, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Gian Pietro Lucini, William Butler Yeats, etc.

Also Manifesto dell’Aeropittura futurista (1929)  will be included on Moodle. Reference will be made to various Aeropittura works (by Tato, Gerardo Dottori, Tullio Crali, etc.) whose images, together with other materials, will be available in the Moodle.


- Murubutu, L’uomo che viaggiava nel vento (2016)

Manga movies

- Porco rosso, dir. Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, Giappone, 1992 (92 min.).

- Si leva il vento, dir. Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, Giappone, 2013 (126 min.).


- Paolo Giovannetti, Il “militante sogno” dei primi voli. Aeroplani e letteratura in Italia 1905-1915, in Paolo Ferrari (a cura di), L’aeronautica italiana. Una storia del Novecento, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2004, pp. 143-66 (PDF version on Moodle).

- Piero Boitani, Parole alate. Voli nella poesia e nella storia da Omero all'11 settembre, Milano, Mondadori, 2004, chapter 7, “Voli di notte”, pp. 187-225.

- Roland Barthes, “L’uomo-getto”, Miti d'oggi (1957), Torino, Einaudi, 2016, pp. 90-92 (fornito in PDF).

Non attending students: course’s program does not change for non-attending students, but they are recommended to study with particular attention all the teaching materials published on IOL, which are specifically designed to provide guidance also to those who could not follow the lessons.


Teaching methods

This course bases on the reading, analysis and discussion of literary and non-literary texts. During frontal lessons, students will be invited to take an active part, with questions and insights.

Assessment methods

Oral exam

The assessment consists of an oral interview that aims to assess the critical and methodological skills gained by the student, who will be invited to deal with the texts in the program. The student will have to demonstrate an appropriate knowledge of the listed bibliography and, in particular, to be able to summarize the narrative texts in their entirety, to comment and paraphrase the poetic texts and to identify the main topics of the articles. 

Top marks will be awarded to students showing a wide and systematic understanding of the issues covered in class, but also capable of using these notions critically to elaborate clear and relevant analyses through an appropriate vocabulary.

Average marks will be awarded to students showing a mostly mnemonic knowledge of the subject matter, a moderate ability to summarize and elaborate on key topics and using a correct vocabulary, though not always relevant.

A superficial knowledge and understanding of the primary sources and related bibliography, accompanied by scarce analytical and expressive competences, will be rewarded with a pass mark or just above.

Students showing significant gaps in their knowledge of the subject and related bibliography and/or expressing in a confused and inappropriate way will not be given a pass mark.

Teaching tools

Students are requested to register on the course on the Moodle Unibo Virtuale platform, which is the official tool used by the teacher for communications, notices and to provide additional teaching material. Students will find there detailed syllabus of the course, PDF and other downloadable materials in support of the lessons, projection of videos and digital images.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Guido Mattia Gallerani


Quality education Sustainable cities Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.