Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Donatella Tronca

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-STO/07

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage (cod. 9237)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


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 Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

From the first centuries of the Christian era, the call to conversion opened the challenge of translating the Gospel into all the languages of the world by promoting the literacy of new idioms and the contamination of different cultures. The lively intellectual and institutional competition between the major urban centers of the Mediterranean ecumene resulted, between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, in unprecedented forms of dialogue and clash between civilizations, with which the contemporary world is still dealing with. By the end of the course, the student: knows how Christianization has affected the representations of the body, time and space, has shaped economies, societies and political institutions; is capable of understanding how it has transformed artistic, book and documentary production, and has the critical tools for understanding the decisive role played by Christianity in the globalization processes of the world

Course contents

The course focuses on one particular object of Christian cultural heritage: the book. The Christian book is analysed in its material forms as well as its conceptual content; these methods will provide an understanding of cultural heritage in its broad sense of memory, legacy, and self-representation. The main topics of the course are the following: how Christianity shaped its own books and libraries and how Christianity shaped its own cultural memory and identity through books. In order to answer the first question, the book is analysed from a material perspective by examining milestones causally related to the spread of Christianity such as the transition from the volumen to the codex. In order to answer the second question, Christian texts are analysed as vectors of cultural memory. To this end, special focus is placed on translations of Christian texts from the early centuries to the Reformation and the translation of the Bible into modern languages. As translations always convey a complete cultural system, the choice of certain concepts in the target language is never neutral; in this way, entire cultural categories are expressed – more or less consciously – with the use of new terminology. Many of these, for example, are connected to the ways in which Christianity described the body and gestures, redefining the conceptual devices for regulating the forms, times, and ways of belonging to the Christian community. In this respect, students will learn the basics of a critical approach to reading Christian sources, also from a historical semantic perspective, with an overview of some of the specialised databases available through the university such as the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and the Library of Latin Texts.


Choose one of:

H. Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts, New Haven – London, Yale University Press, 1995

A. Grafton – M. Williams, Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea, Cambridge, MA – London, Harvard University Press, 2006

A further reading list will be provided during the lectures and depending on the subject chosen by the students for the final paper (see the section below about Assessment methods).

Teaching methods

The traditional lecture format will be supported by texts and images which will be shown and made available online to students in the Virtual Learning Environment on the university website. On this page, students will also have specific sections dedicated to learning how to research sources. To this end it is also useful to register on the website of the Laboratorio sulle fonti per la ricerca storica organized by the lecturer.

Assessment methods

At least ten days before the oral examination, students are required to present a final paper (max 5000 words) on a topic defined together with the lecturer.

The evaluation of the paper will constitute the starting point for the oral examination that will assess:

- basic knowledge of the course program;

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

- 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 students attending the course: in addition to the discussion of the paper presented, the examination will check the knowledge acquired during the course.

For non-attending students: all those who cannot attend the course are required to agree their syllabus in advance by contacting the lecturer via email or during the office hours.

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.

Teaching tools

The main teaching support tools, which will be illustrated in class and on the Virtual 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.

Students with a disability or specific learning disabilities (DSA) who are requesting academic adjustments or compensatory tools are invited to communicate their needs to the teaching staff in order to properly address them and agree on the appropriate measures with the competent bodies.

Office hours

See the website of Donatella Tronca