85105 - Italian Political Thought (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2022/2023

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Italian Studies, European Literary Cultures, Linguistics (cod. 9220)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will have the tools for gaining a basic understanding of the theoretical and practical issues debated in the history of Italian political thought in the modern and contemporary ages. By directly analysing the sources, students will define the theoretical specificities of the main authors of the history of Italian political thought and relate these to one another, communicating them in an effective, coherent way.

Course contents

The course will introduce the students to the work of some of the most important authors in the history of the Italian political thought in periods ranging from the 16th century to our days, with a particular emphasis on their understanding of historical crises, conflicts and transformations. In doing so, this course will also address some important specificities of modern Italian history, society and culture.

After a short methodological and theoretical introduction that will provide some basic elements and concepts to frame the overall issue (classes 1 and 2), the course will be structured in different units, respectively focused on:

- The early modern age, with a specific focus on Niccolò Machiavelli’s theorization of a republican political framework and its potential crisis and Giambattista Vico’s reflection on history and the ever-present possibility of a return to barbarity.

- The age of the Risorgimento, that will be addressed through the discussion of a number of literary works dating to that moment (such as Leopardi and Manzoni), but also through works dealing with that moment of the Italian history (such as Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, The Leopard).

- The first decades of the 20th century, with a focus on Gramsci’s Notebooks and his understanding of organic crises and passive revolutions.

- The second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, with a focus on Mario Tronti’s heterodox interpretation of the dynamics of capitalistic development and its possible crisis and Giorgio Agamben’s theorization on the state of exception, the notion of stasis and the transformations of modern democracies.



Program for students attending at least 70% of the course

A reading list including parts of the works of the aforementioned authors that will be read and commented in class (particularly, Machiavelli’s Discourses, Vico’s New Science, Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Leopard, Gramsci’s Notebooks, Tronti’s Workers and Capital and Agamben’s Homo Sacer, The State of Exception and Stasis) will be available on Virtuale before the beginning of the course and together with the passages included in the slides will constitute the basic bibliography for the final examination of students attending at least the 70% of the course. Students are strongly encouraged to keep up on the readings during classes in order to facilitate their analysis and discussion.

Program for student who cannot attend the course with regularity

The bibliography for non attending students will be based on the following groups of texts (including sources but also at least a critical essay which can serve as a guide). In order to pass the final exam, students will have to study two of them at their choice.

Group A:

N. Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Translated by H. C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov (Book I, chapters 1-13, 16-20, 37, 55, 58; Book II, chapters 1-2, 17-18, 20, 29; Book III, chapter 1, 8-9).

N. Machiavelli, The Prince, translated and with an Introduction by H. C. Mansfield Jr., 2. ed, Chicago-London, The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

F. Del Lucchese, The Political Philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2015 (pp. 1-113).

Group B:

G.B. Vico, The New Science, translated and edited by J. Taylor and R. Miner, with an Introduction of G. Mazzotta, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2020 (Book One: On the Elements; On The Principles; On Methods: pp. 74-122, Book Two: On Poetic Metaphysic; On Poetic Morals; On Poetic Politics: pp. 132-144; 193-202; 236-289, Book Five and conclusion).

D. P. Verene, Vico's "New Science": A Philosophical Commentary, Ithaca (NY), Cornell University Press (pp. 3-28; 71-103; 107-127; 140-150; 191-238).

Group C:

A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. by Q. Hoare - G. Nowell Smith, New York, New York International Publisher, 2014 (pp. 1-276).

J. Schwarzmantel, The Routledge Guidebook to Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, London-New York, Routledge, 2015 (pp. 1-212).

Group D:

M. Tronti, Workers and Capital, New York, Verso Books, 2019 (Introduction; Factory and Society; The Plan of Capital; A New Type of Political Experiment: Lenin in England; The Strategy of Refusal).

S. Wright, Storming Heaven. Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism, London, Pluto Press, 2002.

Group E:

G. Agamben, Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1998, Introduction, chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 1-38) and third part (pp. 119-188).

G. Agamben, State of Exception, London and Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2005.

G. Agamben, Stasis. Civil War as Political Paradigm, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2015.

S. Prozorov, Agamben and Politics: A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

Teaching methods

Classwork will be structured in part as lectures aimed at introducing the different authors, their context and their fundamental arguments, in part as a reading and a collective discussion of their texts. Students are encouraged to actively take part in the debates and to contact the professor when they need further clarifications.

Assessment methods

Attending students may choose either to take a full oral exam based on all the materials presented in class (power point slides, passages read during the lectures and the texts indicated in the final reading list) and aimed at evaluating their ability to read the sources and illustrate and connect their fundamental arguments, or to propose a paper on a specific topic agreed with the teacher and discuss it as part of the oral exam, during which it will be in any case necessary to display an overall understanding of the topics discussed during the lectures. Students' papers are to be sent at least 5 days before the date of the exam, but the final assessment will consider both the essay and the student's capacity to discuss it and answer to possible questions and objections coming from the teacher.

Non attending students must necessarily take an oral exam based on at least two of groups of texts listed above and will be asked questions directly concerning the authors and the primary texts. Non attending students are in any case recommended to get in touch with the professor before the exam in order to have more detailed information and to communicate their choice about the groups of texts they decide to study.

Students who can attend only part of the classes can agree with the professor a specific program according to their necessities. In this case, some supplementary texts can be added to the program for attending students as a complement for a better preparation.

Criteria of evaluation

The assessment will consider both the knowledge of the subject and the student’s skill in summarizing and exposing the different themes and problems addressed in the texts with consistency and a proper terminology.

- In order to receive an excellent final grade, students should display their capacity to correctly analyze the sources and to clearly and critically discuss about them with a proper language and a confident mastership of the issues addressed in class and in the course's bibliography.

- Good or average marks will be awarded to students who display an acceptable knowledge of the texts combined with a fair capacity to expose their content and with an overall understanding of the issues discussed in class, though with some minor imperfections and a less appropriate lexicon.

- A basic and mnemonic knowledge of the texts and of the main points addressed during classes will receive a lower or sufficient assessment.

- An unclear or significantly inaccurate exposition of the texts and the course's contents will be evaluated as insufficient to pass the examination.

Teaching tools

Slides with texts, summaries and other materials. The page of this course on Virtuale will be constantly used to provide additional materials, to suggest further readings or to keep a dialogue between the teacher and the class during the lessons' period.

Office hours

See the website of Antonio Del Vecchio


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