This course provides a travel opportunity to Florence, Italy, to study women's lives in Italian society. After meeting for one week on Transylvania's campus, the class will visit Italy for two weeks to examine and study issues related to women's roles, from the Renaissance to present. Italy is an ideal location to explore this distinction between representation and reality given the complicated understanding of women in this country. For example, although Italy is a country with a strong and active women's movement, and Italian society has long been known for supporting “strong women,” many institutions in Italy–including the family, the museum, and the church–maintain that women should adhere to their more traditional roles.
This disjuncture can also be seen in the visual arts. From the rich history of the Italian Renaissance to contemporary cinema and photography, women in Italy have been represented in ways that do not coincide with their power in public and private spaces. We will therefore consider the role of women in Italy from a variety of perspectives, examining religious ideology, body image, women's rights, the role of women in the family, and the representation of women in fine arts and popular culture.
While in Lexington, course lectures will draw on literature from contemporary ethnography, art history, women's studies, and feminist theory. In Italy, students will learn through visits to museums, churches, and businesses; they will hear from female politicians, businesswomen, and activists from the contemporary feminist movement in Italy. Finally, students will be asked to make their own interpretations of roles that women play, through their observations of daily life and conversations with peers in Italy. This course is cross-listed as a Special Topics course in each program, and may be taken for women's studies, art history, or anthropology credit.