28392 - Semiotics of Consumptions (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Giovanna Cosenza

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-FIL/05

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course module, students will obtain the capability to apply semiotic methodology to different expressions of contemporary consumption, from advertising to fashion, from product industrial design to the practices of visiting shops, supermarkets, malls, museums, fairs, exhibitions, art galleries.

Course contents

Over the last fifteen years the semiotics of consumption has especially focused on: (1) the analysis of the places of consumption, by studying the spaces in which products, services, performances and experiences are purchased; (2) the analysis of the practices of consumption, which are the totalities of behaviors, relationships and emotions that people experience in the places of consumption.

After taking stock of the last fifteen years of semiotic studies on consumption and their possible relations to experience marketing, the course will examine in depth the media (visual, audiovisual, multimedia) representation of the slim and young human body. This can be considered as a fundamental media constant around which over the last forty years multinational companies of fashion and cosmetics have been creating, first, people’s desires and lifestyles, and second, consumer purchasing practices.

The contemporary mythology (in Roland Barthes’ sense) of the slim and young human body will be illustrated, by analyzing advertising, social and political campaigns, television programs, and popular music videos. Social consequences of this mythology will be also investigated, by examining the social practices of food consumption and body training and care, which have become the most widespread today: from common diets to eating disorders, from regular gym attendance to extreme sports, from the premature consumption of anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams to plastic surgery.

The methodology and theoretical perspective will be interdisciplinary: the semiotic approach will be integrated, when possible or necessary, with those of the sociology of consumption, cognitive psychology and social psychology.


Required texts

R. Barthes, "Il mito, oggi", in Miti d'oggi, Einaudi, Torino, 1994, pp. 189-238.

G. Cosenza "La donna Trans-Age", in L. Mascio (a cura di), Visioni di moda, Franco Angeli, Milano, 2008, pp. 74-94.
G. Cosenza, "Il corpo degli uomini", Alfabeta 2, n°4, novembre 2010. Available for download here.
G. Cosenza, "Batti e ribatti, la stessa pubblicità", Rivista Il Mulino, 1/11, anno LX, numero 453, 2011, pp. 136-141. Available for download here.

G. Cosenza, J. Colombari, E. Gasparri, “How Italian Advertising Represents Women and Men. Towards a Methodology for the Semiotic Analysis of Stereotypes”, gender/sexuality/italy, 4, pp. 190-217. Available for download here.

S. Gnasso, P. Iabichino, Existential Marketing. I consumatori comprano, gli individui scelgono, Hoepli, Milano, 2014 (the whole book).

B. Mazzara, Stereotipi e pregiudizi, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1997 (the whole book).

F. Savini, Giovani nella pubblicità per giovani, Generi, ruoli, età della vita negli spot a target giovanile, Libreriauniversitaria.it Edizioni, Limena, 2014 (the whole book).

S. Traini, "Verso una semiotica del consumo", cap. 6 in S. Traini, Semiotica della comunicazione pubblicitaria, Bompiani, Milano, 2008, pp. 147-183.


Optional texts (one or more of the required texts can be substituted with one or more of the following ones, after that an agreement with the professor has been made):

P. Cervelli, L. Romei e F. Sedda (eds.), Mitologie dello sport. 40 saggi brevi, Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2010.

M. Fusaschi, Corporalmente corretto. Note di antropologia, Meltemi, Roma, 2008.

R. Ghigi, Per piacere. Storia culturale della chirurgia estetica, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2008.

R. Goeckel, Donne che mangiano troppo, Feltrinelli, Milano, 1988 (21ma edizione 2008).

L. Lipperini, Ancora dalla parte delle bambine, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2007.

L. Lipperini, Non è un paese per vecchie, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2010.

G. Marrone (ed.), Discorso della salute. Verso una sociosemiotica medica, Meltemi, Roma, 2005.

L. Mascio (ed.), Visioni di moda, Franco Angeli, Milano, 2008.

M.G. Muzzarelli, F. Tarozzi, Donne e cibo. Una relazione nella storia, Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2003.

M.G. Muzzarelli, L. Re (ed.), Il cibo e le donne. Prospettive interdisciplinari, Clueb, Bologna, 2005.

I. Pezzini, P. Cervelli (eds.), Scene del consumo. Dallo shopping al museo, Meltemi, Roma.

R. Sassatelli, Anatomia della palestra. Cultura commerciale e disciplina del corpo, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2000.

R. Sassatelli (ed.), Sociologia del corpo, "Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia", 3, 2002.

R. Sassatelli (ed.), Sociologia dell'alimentazione, "Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia", 2, 2004.

S. Vero, Il corpo disabitato. Semiologia, fenomenologia e psicopatologia del fitness, Franco Angeli, Milano, 2008.

A. Zanacchi, Il libro nero della pubblicità, Potere e prepotenze della pubblicità sul mercato, sui media, sulla cultura, Iacobelli, Roma, 2010.

L. Zanardo, Il corpo delle donne, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2010.

Teaching methods

All lessons will examine concrete case studies taken from contemporary mass communication.

Given the eminently practical nature of the course, regular attendance of the lessons is recommended.

Assessment methods

The exam will consist of a 15-to-20-page paper (2000 characters per page). The topic of the paper has to be agreed upon with the professor either in person or via email. During lessons the professor will give several suggestions for possible research topics.

The paper has to be prepared by students at home and delivered within deadlines, which will be published on the web site of the Master programme in Semiotics.

Teaching tools

During lessons the professor will use the multimedia tools of the Department, in order to show some PowerPoint presentations, to analyse images and audiovisual products (especially commercials), and to browse the Web.

The professor will publish her lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations on her personal web site www.giovannacosenza.it.

Office hours

See the website of Giovanna Cosenza