Douglas G. Biow
Professor of French and Italian, Director of the Center for European Studies
Douglas Biow is the Superior Oil Company-Linward Shivers Centennial Professor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Director of the Center for European Studies, Director of the France-UT Institute, and Co-Director of the EU Center of Excellence. He is the author of a number of articles and five books: Mirabile Dictu: Representations of the Marvelous in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (Michigan, 1996); Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries: Humanism and Professions in Renaissance Italy (Chicago, 2002), the recipient of a Robert W. Hamilton Book Award; The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy (Cornell, 2006), named a Choice Outstanding Title; In Your Face: Professional Improprieities and the Art of Being Conspicuous (Stanford, 2010); and, most recently, On the Importance of Being an Individual: Men, Their Professions, and Their Beards (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). He has been the recipient of a number of scholarly awards, including NEH, Delmas, and Guggenheim Fellowships.
UGS 303 • Italian Cinema
65320-65330 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 930-1100 PAR 301
UGS 303 Italian Cinema
Prof. Douglas Biow, Instructor
Tel: (512) 471-7267 (office)
Office: HRH 2.110B
Office hours: TTh 12:30-1:30
Christine Deden, TA
Office: HRH 4.102A
Office hours: MW 3-4
Lectures: TTh 9:30-11:00 in PAR 301
Discussion sections: F 1-2 in RLM 7.116
F 2-3 in ECJ 1.214
F 3-4 in BUR 128
Film screenings: Selected Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6pm in MEZ B0.306
This course will consist of a broad and varied sampling of classic Italian films from WWII to the present. We will consider the works that typify major directors and major trends through five decades of filmmaking. I will trace a certain stylistic and thematic development from neorealism to postmodernism, pointing out both the continuity of the tradition and exceptions to it, in an attempt to define the art of Italian film. In the process, we will become more aware how we, as viewers, respond to films in socially and culturally determined ways. Classes will include visual analysis of films. Students will be required to see films at the regularly scheduled viewings (Mondays and Wednesdays, with one Friday thrown in) unless they can demonstrate that they have a class conflict.
Bondanella. Italian Cinema (available at University Coop)
Other material on Blackboard
Assignments and Grading
There will be 5 papers. No exams. BUT: Quizzes every week. Quizzes will be held at the beginning of class and may not be made up. Come on time!
The 5 papers will be 2 pages in length. Each paper should have a separate title page with your name and email address on it. Neither the title nor your name should appear at the top of the first page of the paper proper. The papers should be double-spaced, with 1” margins and 12 pt Times type.
60% - Essays
15% - Quizzes
25% - Class Participation and Friday writing/discussion activities
More than 3 absences will automatically lower your final grade. (NOTE: Absences for both lectures and Friday discussion groups count!) For each additional absence your final grade will be lowered by 1/3 (a B becomes a B-, etc.).
The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office off the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4641.
You are required to attend class and actively participate in discussions about the reading material. The material assigned for each class corresponds to the date. Make sure you view the films at the assigned screenings and do the reading before class (TAKE NOTES on the films; you are expected to have something to say about them). You will occasionally have short in-class “thought pieces” to write, just to get you formulating ideas for discussion and to make sure you are reading the material with some thought.
Your writing matters. It is not enough to have interesting thoughts. You must express those thoughts in an intelligible, structured, and eloquent prose.
Your writing must be your own work. If you plagiarize egregiously on a paper, you will flunk the entire work for that semester. Simple rule of thumb: “If you use words or ideas that are not your own you must cite your sources. Otherwise you will be guilty of plagiarism.” If you have any questions as to what constitutes plagiarism, consult the definition in Hacker, A Pocket Manual of Style (I think we all know what it means, however).
If you are concerned about what it means to write a college paper, you can find sound advice in Trimble, Writing with Style (you can easily purchase a second-hand copy of this book). Rhetoric & Composition recommends SF Express by Ruszkiewicz (again, you can easily find a second-hand copy). I will also be putting on Blackboard copies of some sound suggestions written by a colleague of mine in the English Department, Professor Wayne A. Rebhorn, who is a first-rate scholar, teacher, writer, and editor. I hope you will find all his suggestions to be helpful. If you follow them, you are bound to do a good job on your papers.
Schedule for Film Screenings
ALL FILMS BEGIN AT 6PM, AND SOME WILL LAST PAST 8PM. WITH ONE EXCEPTION, FILMS WILL BE IN MEZ BO.306
Aug. 31 Monday, SCREENING, Open City
Sept. 4 Friday, SCREENING, Paisan
Sept. 16 Wednesday, SCREENING, Bicycle Thief
Sept. 23 Wednesday, SCREENING, La Strada
Sept. 28 Monday, SCREENING, La dolce vita
Oct. 7 Wednesday, SCREENING, Bellissima
Oct. 14 Wednesday, SCREENING, Red Desert
Oct. 21 Wednesday, SCREENING, Mamma Roma
Oct. 26 Monday SCREENING, The Conformist
Nov. 4 Wednesday, SCREENING, We All Loved Each Other So Much
Nov. 9 Monday, SCREENING, Icicle Thief
Nov. 11 Wednesday, SCREENING, Stolen Children
Nov. 18 Wednesday, SCREENING, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso VHS version
Nov. 23 Monday, SCREENING, Life is Beautiful NOTE: WE MEET IN MEZ 1.306
Nov. 30 Monday, SCREENING, Caro Diario
Schedule for Lectures
Aug. 27 Introduction to course. History of Italian Cinema until WWII
UNIT ONE: NEOREALISM
Sept. 1 Discussion: Open City (Rossellini) (Read Bondanella, 1-30; Giannetti on Blackboard)
Sept. 3 Review of Italian Political History, Rossellini. (Read Bondanella, 31-52, 161-66)
Sept. 8 Discussion: Paisan (Rossellini)
Sept. 10 Discussion: Paisan
Sept. 15 Classical Neorealism (Read Bondanella, 52-66; Zavattini and Bazin on Blackboard)
Sept. 17 Discussion: Bicycle Thief (De Sica)
UNIT TWO: THE GREAT AUTEURS/METACINEMA
Sept. 22 Federico Fellini: Beyond Neorealism (Read Bondanella, 113-41; 228-52; Fellini on Blackboard) FIRST PAPER DUE
Sept. 24 Discussion: La Strada (Fellini)
Sept. 29 Discussion: La dolce vita (Fellini)
Oct. 1 Discussion of Gilligan & Woodruff talks.
Oct. 6 Luchino Visconti and Marxist Aesthetics (Read Bondanella, 66-73, 96-100, 196-210)
Oct. 8 Discussion: Bellissima (Visconti)
Oct. 9 VISIT TO THE BLANTON, Guest lecturer: Katie Anania (Art History): Modernism in the Visual Arts. Please arrive at the Blanton Museum by 12:55, 1:55, and 2:55, depending on your section. It usually takes a few minutes just to store stuff, and I’d like us to be in a position to dedicate as much time as possible to viewing a choice selection of European Modernist art.
Oct. 13 Antonioni
Oct. 15 Discussion: Red Desert (Antonioni) (Read the Antonioni on Blackboard.)
UNIT THREE: MISERABILISM, RESISTANCE, and FASCISM REVISITED
Oct. 20. Pasolini and the Poetics of Juxtaposition SECOND PAPER DUE
Oct. 22 Discussion: Mamma Roma (Pasolini)
Oct. 27 Discussion: The Conformist (Bertolucci)
Oct. 29 A break: Commedia all’Italiana (clips)
UNIT FOUR: NEOREALISM REVISITED: POSTMODERNISM AND NOSTALGIA
Nov. 3 Modernism/Post-Modernism—definitions/shared assumptions (and errors)
(Collins on Blackboard: PLEASE READ!) THIRD PAPER DUE
Nov. 5 Discussion: We All Loved Each Other So Much (Scola)
Nov. 10 Discussion: Icicle Thief (Nichetti)
Nov. 12 Discussion: Stolen Children (Amelio)
UNIT FIVE: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Nov. 17 NO CLASS: Make-up class on Nov. 24th, afternoon lecture by Professor Millicent Marcus, Yale University
Nov. 19 Discussion: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore) FOURTH PAPER DUE
Nov. 24 Guest Lecture, Discussion of Benigni
Nov. 24 Millicent Marcus: Lecture on Life is Beautiful (Benigni) 5 pm in Garrison 0.102
Nov. 26 NO CLASS: Happy Thanksgiving!
Dec. 1 Discussion: Caro Diario (Moretti)
Dec. 3 Concluding Thoughts
FINAL PAPER DUE
On the Importance of Being an Individual in Renaissance Italy
Men, Their Professions, and Their Beards
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015)
"An elegant, erudite, and polemical book that most assuredly makes an important contribution to the literature on Renaissance individuality and male identity."—James R. Farr, Purdue University
"Douglas Biow offers a spirited and refreshing account of the ways Renaissance men carved out space for individuality over against the norms of their professions and communities."—John Jeffries Martin, Duke University
In recent decades, scholars have vigorously revised Jacob Burckhardt's notion that the free, untrammeled, and essentially modern Western individual emerged in Renaissance Italy. Douglas Biow does not deny the strong cultural and historical constraints that placed limits on identity formation in the early modern period. Still, as he contends in this witty, reflective, and generously illustrated book, the category of the individual was important and highly complex for a variety of men in this particular time and place, for both those who belonged to the elite and those who aspired to be part of it.
Biow explores the individual in light of early modern Italy's new patronage systems, educational programs, and work opportunities in the context of an increased investment in professionalization, the changing status of artisans and artists, and shifting attitudes about the ideology of work, fashion, and etiquette. He turns his attention to figures familiar (Benvenuto Cellini, Baldassare Castiglione, Niccolò Machiavelli, Jacopo Tintoretto, Giorgio Vasari) and somewhat less so (the surgeon-physician Leonardo Fioravanti, the metallurgist Vannoccio Biringuccio). One could excel as an individual, he demonstrates, by possessing an indefinable nescio quid, by acquiring, theorizing, and putting into practice a distinct body of professional knowledge, or by displaying the exclusively male adornment of impressively designed facial hair. Focusing on these and other matters, he reveals how we significantly impoverish our understanding of the past if we dismiss the notion of the individual from our narratives of the Italian and the broader European Renaissance.
In Your Face
Professional Improprieties and the Art of Being Conspicuous in Sixteenth-Century Italy
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)
In Your Face concentrates on the Renaissance concern with "self-fashioning" by examining how a group of Renaissance artists and writers encoded their own improprieties in their works of art. In the elitist court society of sixteenth-century Italy, where moderation, limitation, and discretion were generally held to be essential virtues, these men consistently sought to stand out and to underplay their conspicuousness at once. The heroes (or anti-heroes) of this book—Michelangelo Buonarroti, Benvenuto Cellini, Pietro Aretino, and Anton Francesco Doni—violated norms of decorum by promoting themselves aggressively and by using writing or artworks to memorialize their assertiveness and intractable delight in parading themselves as transgressive and insubordinate on a grand scale. Focusing on these sorts of writers and visual artists, Biow constructs a version of the Italian Renaissance that is neither the elegant one of Castiglione's and Vasari's courts—so recently favored in scholarly accounts—nor the dark, conspiratorial one of Niccolò Machiavelli's and Francesco Guicciardini's princely states.
"Once again, Douglas Biow gives us a clear, clever, engaging rethinking of a crucial aspect of Italian Renaissance culture and life. This truly unique work is highly intelligent, exciting, and thought-provoking."
—Guido Ruggiero, University of Miami
"Douglas Biow's In Your Face is a fascinating study of the nature of literary and artistic eccentricity in late Renaissance Italy. He reminds us that, in an era in which writers such as Castiglione polished the image of the perfect courtier, many of the most interesting figures were deliberately and provocatively uncouth. This is a terrific, thought-provoking book." —Paula Findlen, Stanford University
The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy
(Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2006)
Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title
Concerned about sanitation during a severe bout of plague in Milan, Leonardo da Vinci designed an ideal, clean city. Leonardo was far from alone among his contemporaries in thinking about personal and public hygiene, as Douglas Biow shows in The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy. A concern for cleanliness, he argues, was everywhere in the Renaissance.
Anxieties about cleanliness were expressed in literature from humanist panegyrics to bawdy carnival songs, as well as in the visual arts. Biow surveys them all to explain why the topic so permeated Renaissance culture. At one level, cleanliness, he documents, was a matter of real concern in the Renaissance. At another, he finds, issues such as human dignity, self-respect, self-discipline, social distinction, and originality were rethought as a matter of artistic concern.
The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy moves from the clean to the unclean, from the lofty to the base. Biow first examines the socially elevated, who defined and distinguished themselves as clean, pure, and polite. He then turns to soap, an increasingly common commodity in this period, and the figure of the washerwoman. Finally he focuses on latrines, which were universally scorned yet functioned artistically as figures of baseness, creativity, and fun in the works of Dante and Boccaccio. Paralleling this social stratification is a hierarchy of literary and visual artifacts, from the discourse of high humanism to filthy curses and scatological songs. Deftly bringing together high and low-as well as literary and visual-cultures, this book provides a fresh perspective on the Italian Renaissance and its artistic legacy.
"Douglas Biow is emerging as one of the most original scholars of Renaissance Italy. Transgressive, witty, insightful, The Culture of Cleanliness will appeal to readers immensely. Who thinks of Dante as someone who writes about shit? Who has noticed how important clean clothes are in Renaissance paintings? Who connects Renaissance literary genres-high, medium, and low-with hierarchies of cleanliness? Probing these boundaries with energy and insight, Biow offers up new perspectives on the culture of both humanists and washerwomen. His writing is excellent, and the conceptualization of his material brilliant."- John Jeffries Martin, Trinity University
"In a suggestive way this fascinating book reverses Dante's Divine Comedy--starting with Paradise and its immaculately clean dreams of the divine and the perfect, it drops through the circles of the renaissance world ending literally in the cesspool and latrines of Hell, perverse but also intriguing nightmares of the foul for the period. In doing so it develops a stimulating and challengingly different perspective on the time from the perspective of the clean and the unclean at every level from high culture to quotidian practice. At once witty, erudite and clever, it imaginatively and ironically knocks the crap out of many of the classical visions of the period, by literally returning crap (and its culturally entwined levels of the unclean) to its central place in renaissance life as lived and as imagined. Bakhtin, Elias and Burckhardt here are creatively melded with Dante, Boccaccio, Castiglione, Della Casa and a host of lesser known writers to examine a relatively ignored area of renaissance life and to suggestively rethink the renaissance itself. This is history that is definitely fun to think and rethink."—Guido Ruggiero, University of Miami
Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries
Humanism and Professions in Renaissance Italy
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002)
In this book, Douglas Biow traces the role that humanists played in the development of professions and professionalism in Renaissance Italy, and vice versa. For instance, humanists were initially quite hostile to medicine, viewing it as poorly adapted to their program of study. They much preferred the secretarial profession, which they made their own throughout the Renaissance and eventually defined in treatises in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
Examining a wide range of treatises, poems, and other works that humanists wrote both as and about doctors, ambassadors, and secretaries, Biow shows how interactions with these professions forced humanists to make their studies relevant to their own times, uniting theory and practice in a way that strengthened humanism. His detailed analyses of writings by familiar and lesser-known figures, from Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Tasso to Maggi, Fracastoro, and Barbaro, will especially interest students of Renaissance Italy, but also anyone concerned with the rise of professionalism during the early modern period.
"Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries is a formidable accomplishment. Biow traces the interactions of humanist culture with distinct areas of professional expertise and practice. His readings of key historical figures and works are compelling, even brilliant at times. Persuasively written, this work will attract a wide range of readers interested in the intertwined histories of the humanistic Renaissance and early modernity." - Albert Russell Ascoli, University of California, Berkeley
Mirabile Dictu Representations of the Marvelous in Medieval and Renaissance Epic
(Ann Arbor: University of Michiagn Press, 1996)
Mirabile Dictu covers in six separate chapters the works of Virgil, Dante, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser. Its broad aim is to provide a select cross-section of works in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in order systematically to examine and compare for the first time the marvelous in the light of epic genre, of literary and critical theory (both past and present), and of historically and culturally determined representational practices.
Douglas Biow organizes this volume around the literary topos of the bleeding branch through which a metamorphosed person speaks. In each chapter the author takes this "marvellous event" as his starting point for a broad-ranging comparison of the several poets who employed the image; he also investigates the ways in which a period's notion of "history" underpins its representations of the marvelous. This method offers a controlled yet flexible framework within which to develop readings that engage a multiplicity of theories and approaches.
Mirabile Dictu offers not only an insightful survey of the literary connections among this group of important poets, but also a useful point of departure for scholars and students intrigued by the reuse of epic conventions, by the peculiar role of "marvellous" events in dramatic poetry, and by the later history of classical literature.
"[An] engaging comparative study of literature and culture. . . . Biow's analyses are informed and thoughtful, offering insightful close readings of primary texts in connection with various theoretical and cultural lines of critical inquiry. Written in a lively, engaging, and jargon-free style, this study is both accessible and challenging, offering a refreshing lucidity in its attention to detail and method. Scholars, teachers, and students of classical, medieval, and early modern literature and culture will doubtless find much of interest in this study, a welcome addition to comparative medieval and Renaissance studies."
--Sixteenth Century Journal
". . . highly recommended as an engaging and original account of the ways in which that ambiguous concept of the marvelous informs epic poetry of the late-medieval and early-modern eras."
--Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies
"Delightful and instructive readings all along the way . . . ."
I am currently working on a short book about Vasari's Lives, examining it as a history of ideas.
I am also currently developing two other book-length projects. One is monograph on the history of the individual in European thought from antiquity to the end of the modern period. The other is an edited volume devoted to sociable spaces, beyond the court, in Renaissance Italy.
Academic Honors, Fellowships, and Awards
- 2013-14: Faculty Research Assignment, University of Texas at Austin
- 2008-9: Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for Research in Venice and the Veneto (winter)
- 2008: Fellow of the Humanities Institute, University of Texas at Austin (spring)
- 2007: Recipient of a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title (The Culture of Cleanliness)
- 2007: Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for Research in Venice and the Veneto (summer)
- 2006-7: John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship Foundation
- 2006-7: Faculty Research Assignment, University of Texas at Austin
- 2006: Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for Research in Venice and the Veneto (summer)
- 2005: Dean’s Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin (fall semester)
- 2003: Recipient of a Robert W. Hamilton Book Award (Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries)
- 2003: Faculty Research Assignment, University of Texas at Austin (spring semester)
- 1996-97: National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
- 1996-97: National Humanities Center Fellowship (declined)
- 1996-97: Faculty Research Assignment, University of Texas at Austin
- 1996: Summer Research Assignment, University of Texas at Austin
- 1992: Summer Research Award, Syracuse University
- 1988-89: Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program
- 1986-88: The Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, United States Department of Education
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR GRANTS
- 2014-18: Principal Investigator, Title VI Award for National Resource Center, Department of Education (awarded $1,972,000 over 4 years) for the Center for European Studies
- 2014-15: Principal Investigator and Co-Director, EU Center of Excellence, awarded from the EU Delegation (90,000 Euros over 1 year) for the Center for European Studies
- 2014-15: Co-Principal Investigator (with Mary Neuburger), $50,000, Office of the Provost, UT-Austin, Course Transformation Grant.
- 2012-14: Principal Investigator, French Embassy Award, $37,650: Energy Policies in the US and France ($12,500, conference), Magnum Collection Exhibit ($10,600, symposium), WWI Exhibition ($14,550, lectures and workshops).
- 2011-14: Principal Investigator and Co-Director, EU Center of Excellence, awarded from the EU Delegation (300,000 Euros over 3 years) for the Center for European Studies
- 2010-14: Principal Investigator, Title VI Award for National Resource Center, Department of Education (awarded $1,622,380 over 4 years) for the Center for European Studies