Cornell has a rich tradition of offerings in Italian language, literature and culture. Our faculty includes internationally-recognized, dynamic scholars and highly dedicated teachers with particular strengths in medieval studies, women writers and thinkers, Italian politics and philosophy, the Fascist period, Architecture and Art, and Cinema.

Major Requirements

The major in Italian at Cornell readies students both in the language and cultural context of Italy. Students gain proficiency in speaking, writing, listening and reading in Italian and learn about Italian culture and literature across different historical periods, different media, and different regions.  Students learn to perform close readings, providing the relevant historical contexts for the most significant Italian cultural artifacts across the country’s eight-hundred-year history. Finally, students develop the ability to form critical judgments on Italian cultural works, while having learned to appreciate and evaluate cultural and literary expressions according to the varying modes of perceiving, experiencing, and understanding related to Italian culture.

Completing the major, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • Oral, aural and written proficiency in Italian.
  • Training in the centuries-long traditions of Italian literature and culture.
  • Training and familiarity with a variety of methodologies for studying literature and culture.
  • Skill in expressing themselves both in writing and orally on topics related to Italian culture and literature.
  • International and interdisciplinary exposure.

Eight courses are required for the major in Italian:


  1. Students must take ITAL 2202 – Italian IV (or equivalent course).
  2. Students must take ITAL 2900 – [Perspectives in Italian Culture] (or equivalent course), offered in English in Spring; OR ITAL 2204 – The Cinematic Eye of Italy (or equivalent course). Students who elect to take both of these classes may count them both toward the total of eight courses required for the major. Note that Ital 2900 has no prerequisites and may be taken at any time.
  3. Students must take ITAL 2203 – Languages/Literatures/Identities (or equivalent course), offered in Italian in Fall.
  4. Students must take at least five electives at the 2000-level or above from an approved list of courses offered in Romance Studies or other departments such as History, Architecture, History of Art, Government, Sociology, and so on.  We strongly urge majors to take as many of these electives as possible in Italian.  At least one of these five electives must focus on a period prior to the 1800s, and no more than three of these five electives may be taken in English.

No more than three of the total of eight courses toward the major may be taken abroad or at an institution other than Cornell. The minimum grade for a course to be applied toward the Italian major is B-. No courses taken for S/U grades may be applied toward the major.

Students majoring in Italian are encouraged to study abroad, especially at the Bologna Consortial Study Program, where linguistic as well as cultural competence is emphasized. Students enroll at the University of Bologna and can take a wide variety of courses in Italian literature and culture in fields such as history, philosophy, government, and art history.

Qualified students are encouraged to pursue Honors in Italian, writing and researching a thesis in close consultation with the faculty in Italian.

Inquiries

Inquiries of a general nature can first be directed to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Cal Hile.  Students who wish to major in Italian are advised to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cary Howie, who admits students into the major and assigns a faculty adviser after taking into account a student’s interest, preparation, and career goals.

Course Descriptions

Please refer to the Italian section of the Romance Studies Course Offerings list. See our departmental course roster here.

Minor Requirements

Five courses are required to complete the minor in Italian:

  1. Students must take ITAL 2202 – Italian IV (or equivalent course).
  2. Students must take ITAL 2900 – [Perspectives in Italian Culture] (or equivalent course), offered in English in Spring; OR ITAL 2204 – The Cinematic Eye of Italy (or equivalent course). Students who elect to take both of these classes may count them both toward the total of five classes required for the minor. Note that Ital 2900 has no prerequisites and may be taken at any time.
  3. Students must take at least three other classes in Italian Studies. Of these at least one, but ideally more than one, must be offered in Italian (literature/culture). The three electives may be chosen from an approved list of courses offered in Romance Studies or other departments such as History, Architecture, History of Art, Government, Sociology, and so on. We strongly urge students to consider ITAL 2203 – Languages/Literatures/Identities as one of the electives.

No more than two of these five courses for the minor may be taken abroad or at an institution other than Cornell. Only one of the five courses required for the Italian minor may be taken for S/U grades; the minimum grade is otherwise B-.  Students may declare the minor at any time.

Inquiries

Inquiries of a general nature can first be directed to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Cal Hile.  Students interested in pursuing an Italian minor should make an appointment to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cary Howie, during his weekly office hours.

Study Abroad

Italian studies faculty members strongly encourage students to consider studying abroad in Italy. Students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Italian and gain a singular perspective on the Italian cultural context.

Students are urged to consider the Bologna Consortial Studies Program (BCSP), of which Cornell is an associated member. BCSP offers qualified undergraduate students an opportunity to study for a full academic year or a semester at the University of Bologna for credit. During each semester of the academic year, which begins in October and extends through June, BCSP students enroll in one or two regular University of Bologna courses with Italian students. Students may also take special courses in Italian literature, language, art history, film studies, and contemporary politics.

Enrollment in a language course is conditional upon the student’s eligibility for the particular level and on attendance at the first scheduled class session. Because of the high demand for language courses, a student who fails to attend the first class meeting will be dropped so others may register.

Note: Students placed in the 2000-level course have the option of taking Italian literature or culture courses as well as language courses.

Further information

Additional Opportunities

Cornell Italian-American Organization (CIAO)

CAIO promotes the appreciation of Italian culture across the Cornell campus by sponsoring activities related to Italian music, language, history, literature, film, and food. Participating in CIAO-related activities gives students, particularly Italian-Americans, a chance to learn more about Italy, its culture, and their heritage. For further information, please contact K. E. Bättig von Wittelsbach.