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IT9: Text and Image

The paper is available for the academic year 2017-18.

Visual and textual art in Italy have always fed one another in productive and challenging ways, and this course offers an opportunity to study visual culture as embedded in textual traditions across a broad range of periods and mediums in Italy. Topics taught each year will vary but each topic will emphasise theoretical approaches to the study of visual culture and the interaction between word and image. You will be encouraged to develop your own particular research interests for your written work in consultation with your supervisor.

Four to five main topics will be taught in any one year, and may change from year to year in order to ensure variety.


Topics for 2017-18 are as follows:

1. Leonardo Da Vinci: Vision and Creation

This topic will examine the multi-dimensional worlds created by the words and images of Leonardo da Vinci, through study of the interplay between text and image in Leonardo's notebooks.

Primary texts:

  • (This amazing resource allows you to leaf through the manuscript pages, wth helpful transcriptions alongside. Use this for the Libro di pittura and as your primary source for analysis of the relationship between text and illustration in the Notebooks.)
  • L'uomo e la natura (Universale economica. I classici) di Leonardo da Vinci e M. De Micheli (Brossura, 2008)
  • Scritti artistici e tecnici (Classici) di Leonardo da Vinci e B. Agosti (Brossura, 2002)
  • Trattato della pittura, Leonardo da Vinci (Giunti Demetra)
  • Brizio, A. (1980). Scritti scelti di Leonardo Da Vinci. (2a ed). Torino.
  • Marinoni, A. (1974). Scritti letterari. (Nuova ed). Milano.

You may also want to look at the Oxford edition of Leonardo's Notebooks to help orient yourselves, Richter, Irma A., Thereza Wells, Thereza. Kemp, Leonardo, and Kemp, Martin. Notebooks / Leonardo Da Vinci ; Selected by Irma A. Richter ; Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Thereza Wells ; Preface by Martin Kemp. New ed. Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press, 2008).

2. Bruno Munari

Bruno Munari is known worldwide as an eclectic visual artist, designer and pedagogue. His ability of combining a holistic understanding of artistic praxis with a dose of irony and lightness earned him the reputation of being “the Leonardo and the Peter Pan of twentieth century Italian art”. He was one of the front-runners of an artistic movement that helped to invigorate the art scene in Italy, in particular industrial design. He was also a prolific writer and popularizer, who published theoretical texts, children books, and ‘illegible books’. This topic explores the various facets of his eclectic opus by connecting his methodological and theoretical statements to his artistic outputs.

Primary texts:

  • Bruno Munari, Arte come mestiere
  • Bruno Munari, Artista e Designer
  • Bruno Munari, Da cosa nasce cosa

3. Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna and the private gift

Michelangelo Buonarroti and Vittoria Colonna developed a close friendship, centred in their shared interest in matters of religious reform, that found expression through the exchange of gifts, of both manuscript poetry and works of art. This topic considers the function of these works as spiritual gifts, within the context of reformed practises of the time, and probes the status of the poems, drawings and paintings as manifestations of particular religious and cultural attitudes.

Primary texts:

  • Vittoria Colonna, Sonnets for Michelangelo, ed. by Abigail Brundin (Chicago, 2005)
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rime, (any modern Italian edition, or parallel text translation)
  • Various presentation drawings by Michelangelo, as well as a number of painted works on panel attributed to his workshop

4. Pasolini Between Text, Image and Film

Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the most significant writers and filmmakers of the second half of the 20th century in Italy. His eclectic interests also included extensive engagement with and theorization of the image - from Renaissance and Mannerist art and art history, to modernist painting, to the semiology of film. This topic will examine a series of works by Pasolini where text and image, or rather a complex triangle between text, art and moving image intersect and interact in ways that include, but also go radically beyond the paradigm of adaptation, centred on a philosophy of transposition and analogy between diverse sign systems.

Primary works by Pasolini


  • Accattone (1961)
  • Mamma Roma (1962)
  • La ricotta (1963)
  • Porcile (1969)
  • Decameron (1971)
  • Salò (1975)


  • ‘Il pianto della scavatrice’ (From Le ceneri di Gramsci)
  • Porcile (play) (1968)
  • Empirismo eretico (1970, focus on film theoretical essays)
  • Screenplays for Accattone and Mamma Roma
  • Lettere luterane (1976)


Topics previously covered:


Illustrating Dante

Bruno Munari

Representing the Author in the Renaissance: Verbal and Visual Portraits and Self-Portraits

Pasolini Between Text, Image and Film


Preparatory reading: 

The preliminary reading for this paper is the primary texts listed above.

Teaching and learning: 

The course will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and supervisions. Students will be strongly encouraged to attend all lectures in order to gain a broad insight into the broad range of the paper.

For the It.9 Moodle site, please see here. The password can be collected from the paper coordinator.


The paper will be assessed by three-hour examination or by Optional Dissertation. In the examination, there will be a choice of essay questions relating to each topic in that year's list. Candidates will be required to answer three questions, one on each of three topics. There will be no sections on the paper, and no obligation to answer any particular combination of questions, as long as the same material is not used in more than one question.

Past papers and the specimen paper are available on Moodle.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Pierpaolo Antonello
Dr Heather Webb