76214 - History and Anthropology of Images

Course Unit Page


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

Good health and well-being Quality education Gender equality

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The course deals with some major topics and methodological questions in cultural and religious history of Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance (mythologies and rituals, laws and doctrines, vectors and communication processes between orality and writing), with particular attention to the developments of the theological reflection on image and intermediaries on the sacred (places of worship, icons, relics, devotional images and liturgical furnishings) and the role of the ruling classes in secular and ecclesiastical patronage on monumental art. The student, at the end of the course is able to handle some of the main tools for a critical evaluation of the art-history heritage of Italy and Europe, especially in relation to the role of religious institutions and religious orders from the fourth to the eighteenth century.

Course contents

Consisting of seminars, the course is based on the reading and discussion of literary, iconographic and documentary sources. The topic addressed this year will be Between rite and play: the historical semantics of swinging and suspension.


A) Theoretical essays (one of the following, compulsory for attending students):

J. Huizinga, Homo ludens (1939), trad. it. Einaudi, Torino 1973 e ristt.

N. Spineto, La festa, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2015

E. Fink, Oasi del gioco (1957), trad. it. R. Cortina, Milano 2008

R. Caillois, I giochi e gli uomini. La maschera e la vertigine (1958) trad. it. Bompiani, Milano 1994 e ristt.

V. Turner, Dal rito al teatro (1982), trad. it. il Mulino, Bologna 1986 e ristt.

P. de Sanctis Ricciardone (a cura di), Il potere del debole. Dal gioco al sapere, Meltemi, Roma 1997

F. Cardini, I giorni del sacro. I riti e le feste del calendario dall'antichità a oggi, n. ed. UTET, Torino 2017

Byung-Chul Han, La scomparsa dei riti. Una topologia del presente, Nottetempo, Milano 2021


B) Monographies and collections of essays regarding the course topic (one of the following, compulsory for non-attending students):

A. Rizzi, Ludus/ludere. Giocare in Italia alla fine del medio evo, Viella, Roma 1995 e ristt.

A. Arcangeli, Passatempi rinascimentali. Storia culturale del divertimento in Europa (secoli XV-XVII), Carocci, Roma 2004

P. Arena, Feste e rituali a Roma. Il principe incontra il popolo nel Circo Massimo, Edipuglia, Bari 2010

I. E. Buttitta, Continuità delle forme e mutamento dei sensi. Ricerche e analisi sul simbolismo festivo, Bonanno, Acireale-Roma 2013

C. Lamburgo - C. Torre (a cura di), Il gioco e i giochi nel mondo antico. Tra cultura materiale e immateriale, Edipuglia, Bari 2013

F. Aceto - F. Lucioli (a cura di), Giocare tra Medioevo ed età moderna. Modelli etici ed estetici per l’Europa, Viella, Roma 2019


C) Only for non-attending students, in addition to one of the titles listed in B), it is compulsory to study one of the following:

D. Freedberg, Il potere delle immagini. Il mondo delle figure: reazioni e emozioni del pubblico, trad. it. Torino, Einaudi, 1993 (rist. 2009)

P. Burke, Testimoni oculari. Il significato storico delle immagini, trad. it. Roma, Carocci, 2002

H. Belting, Antropologia delle immagini, trad. it. Roma, Carocci, 2011

L. Canetti, Impronte di gloria. Effigie e ornamento nell'Europa cristiana, Carocci, Roma 2012

H. Bredekamp, Immagini che ci guardano. Teoria dell'atto iconico, trad. it. Milano, Raffaello Cortina, 2015

U. Fabietti, Materia sacra. Corpi, oggetti, immagini, feticci nella pratica religiosa, R. Cortina, Milano 2015

M. Cometa, Cultura visuale. Una geneaologia, R. Cortina, Milano 2020

Teaching methods

The lecturer will use texts and images, which will be projected and made available to students on the course page on the website Virtuale. The textual and iconographic sources presented during the lectures and gradually uploaded onto the website are an integral part of the course programme for attending students.

Students are expected to play an active role in the course by presenting articles and essays related to the course topic during the lectures. These will be found on the course page on the website Virtuale.

Assessment methods

Class attendance is recommended to achieve a good result. All those who cannot attend the course for demonstrable reasons of work are required to agree their syllabus in advance during the lecturer’s office hours.

The oral examination will be held at the end of the course, and it will assess:

- basic knowledge relating to the course program (the assessment is carried out on the basis of the materials examined in class and the texts indicated in the program);

- the ability to understand the problems faced during the lectures;

- knowledge of the discipline in its historical development;

- the ability to frame the sources examined in class in their context, and to discuss them critically;

- the quality of oral expression and the ability to construct a logical-argumentative type of speech.

For attending students, the exam consists of an assessment of the knowledge acquired during the course, namely the sources and materials gradually uploaded onto the website Virtuale [https://virtuale.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=17846] . Furthermore, they are expected to study one of the theoretical essays listed in point A) of the section “Reading/Bibliography”. Anyone who does not present an article during a lecture will be expected to study two of the texts that can be downloaded from the website Virtuale [https://virtuale.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=17846] .

Non-attending students are expected to study on of the titles listed in point B) in detail, along with one of those listed in point C) of the section “Reading/Bibliography”.

The final evaluation will follow these criteria:

- insufficient grade: lack of basic knowledge and inability to produce a correct interpretation of the texts and / or problems;

- sufficient grade: possession of basic knowledge; mainly correct interpretation, but carried out with imprecision and little autonomy;

- good grade: possession of intermediate level knowledge; fully correct interpretation, but not always precise and autonomous;

- excellent grade: possession of high level knowledge; interpretation of problems not only correct but conducted with autonomy and precision. Excellent oral expression skills.

To apply for the thesis, it is necessary to have given a presentation during the lectures, or to have submitted for the examination a final paper on a topic defined together with the lecturer. It is also highly recommended to register on the website and take part in the workshops of the Laboratorio sulle fonti per la ricerca storica organised by Dr Donatella Tronca.

As the timeframe for drafting a thesis needs to be carefully calculated, arrangements should be made with the lecturer well in advance: at least six months for a three-year degree and at least a year for a master’s degree. The most appropriate graduation session will be suggested by the lecturer on the basis of the work done.

Teaching tools

The main teaching support tools, which will be illustrated in class and on the Virtuale [https://virtuale.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=17846] course page, are available at the Campus Central Library (Palazzo Corradini) and at the website AlmaRe, the Library of Bibliographic and Documentary Electronic Resources of the University of Bologna.

Office hours

See the website of Luigi Canetti