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Department of Italian and Italian Studies
Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899

Phone: (610) 526-5198
FAX: (610) 526-7479

Department of Italian and Italian Studies

As a discipline, Italian Studies has changed a lot in the last few years. Rather than focusing merely on language and literature, it now focuses on problems of a cross-disciplinary nature in both content and method. The range of research interests has broadened beyond the confines of the traditional canon and can no longer be met solely within the traditional language/literature courses. It is a significant shift in perspective. The aim of the major/minor in Italian Studies is to develop a holistic view of Italian culture, history, and society through study and research ranging from the Middle Ages to present day. Alongside the works of the great Italian authors, Italian Studies at Bryn Mawr now explores more popular genres of literature as well as politics, gender and sexuality, philosophy, history, film, the visual arts, and popular culture in Italy.  Often students opt for a double major by combining Italian with work in other fields. Students majoring in areas such as music, International Studies, Comparative Literature, Art History, Cities, Classics, Anthropology, and Film Studies, in particular will find the Italian Studies program ideally suited to their interdisciplinary interests. After fulfilling basic units of language instruction, students will choose from a variety of interesting courses (in English and Italian) on the literature, art, culture, history, and cinema of Italy.

Why Study Italian at BMC?

Italian language and culture as a field of study is attractive for numerous reasons. In the context of globalization and internationalization, the usefulness of studying languages is no longer contested. Language is not only a skill to use for exchanging thoughts, but a crucial component of self-expressions and—as such—it is at the core of trans-lingual and trans-cultural competence. While we use language to communicate our needs to others, language simultaneously reveals us to others and to ourselves. Language is a complex multifunctional phenomenon that links an individual to other individuals, to communities, and to other cultures. For the past decades, Italian has been an expanding field with significant growth in the number of Italian Studies programs in colleges and universities.  According to recent MLA statistics, the number of students of Italian language has increased steadily in the United States (more than 22%) and for good reason, as the knowledge of Italian in particular is relevant for a many professional paths including fashion and design, government and policy, finance, wine and food, art history, curatorial and museum studies, publishing, and other culture sectors.

As an interdisciplinary program, the holistic study of Italy’s rich historical and cultural patrimony (Italy contains the most UNESCO world heritage sites) with particular emphases on research and writing in both Italian and English prepares studies for a world that requires flexible workers, efficient problem solvers, excellent collaborators, and effective communicators. Put simply, our students in our robust curriculum learn effectively to analyze an outside culture through various channels, which in itself is useful for any career. The Italian Studies program was developed in the truest spirit of the liberal arts curriculum and the department aims to produce through the study of Italian language and culture well-rounded students equipped with real-world research, analytical, and communication skills for life immediately after Bryn Mawr, whether that be in the workforce, graduate school, or professional school.

The Department of Italian welcomes all students from the Trico system interested in Italian culture as viewed from a variety of critical perspectives and cross-cultural reflections, including but not limited to cultural studies, women’s studies and feminist criticism, post-colonial theory, and film theory. The sound reputation of Italian that our department enjoys may be measured by the fact that all the students who have majored in Italian and have gone on to do graduate work in Italian have been accepted by the schools of their choice including Harvard, Berkeley, Rutgers, Johns Hopkins—often with financial assistance.

How can I study Italian at BMC?

Trico students may choose to study Italian as:

What to do with a major in Italian Studies?

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to see what our alumnae have done over the years -

    • Internships in Milano (SITE Program, one or two years). 
    •  Graduate School (History, Literature, Linguistics, Romance Languages, Education, Public Health, Library and Information, Social Work, International Education). Law School. Medical School. Veterinarian School.
    • Alumnae who decided not to continue with graduate school, have found employments as –Mortgage Broker, Sale Associate, Business Managers, Project Managers, Special Youth Managers, Publishing/Translating, Acting, Realtors, Research Assistants, Business Analysts, Service Associates, Researchers, Advertising.
    • Translation from our alumna: The Archives of The Biomedical Library (Biblioteca Biomedica) of the University of Florence 
How many students study Italian?

At present we have 120 students in Italian classes. Though the recent increased intake means an average of 38 students per year over the last three years.

Can I start Italian from scratch?

Yes, a beginner in Italian has the same chance of majoring in Italian with honors (3.7 GPA) as a non-beginner. In our average first-year class enrollments of 35-40 students and of 7-10 majors in Italian, one a third of these will have previous knowledge of the language.

Extracurricular Activities and Fellowships

The classroom experience is enriched through the mediation of the Italian Club (le Italianiste di Bryn Mawr), which sponsors a variety of cultural activities, including the Tavola Italiana (once a week), the Italian Tea (once a semester), scholarly events, and films.The Italian Department also offers fellowship opportunities for students of Italian via Italian-American institutions (see our useful links) and Internships.