This course – through historical-cultural analysis and an independent research project – will focus on the history of Italian immigration to the US and on the contribution of Italians to the formation of a collective American cultural identity.
The first element of the course will examine the history of Italian American immigration to the US and the experience and depiction of Italian identity (as well as its related themes of ethnic identity and cultural conflict) in American society, especially after the turn of the Twentieth century. Students will analyze the historical reasons of why Italians left their homeland and look at the conditions of their voyages and first arrival in the United States. The course will then go on to examine the conditions, treatment, and cultural experiences of the immigrants in their new home, and to consider which changes old-world traditions (familial, sexual, political, social) underwent. Interdisciplinary in nature, the historical component of the course will also give space to Italian-American voices in literature, film, and music.
The second element of this course is an independent research project, which can (but is not required) to take into account possible family roots and emigration vicissitudes. In order to complete this research, the course includes elements to familiarize students with the basic methods and techniques of research writing, focusing on such issues as developing a thesis statement, finding source material, generating a convincing argument, writing and revising drafts, documentation of sources, and preparing research for the public.
By the end of this course, students will have:
- an understanding of the history and heritage of Italian emigration
- examined the conditions Italian immigrants experienced during their voyage and upon their arrival
- become aware of the contributions Italian immigrants made to the diverse cultural landscape in the USA
- analyzed various narrative sources (literary and cinematic) dealing with Italian migratory experience
- the ability to comment on artistic and literary representations of the Italian migratory experience
- completed an individual research project
- used various sources (digital archives, burial records, census data, etc.) in preparation for their research
Jerre Mangione – Ben Morreale, La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience, New York, Harper Perennial, 1992. [MM on syllabus]
- Georges Perec Ellis Island (short story) – handout
- Puzo, Mario The Fortunate Pilgrim
- The Bronx Tale
- Sacco and Vanzetti
- Big Night (evening screening)
- The Rose Tatoo