Course: Italo Calvino: History, Art, and Science in the Modern World

HC 434H/431H

Professor: Roxann Prazniak

Graduation Requirement: This class fulfills the following requirement: a Social Science Colloquium (431H) and an International Cultures (IC) Multicultural class. If the student has already taken a Social Science Colloquium, this class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and an IC Multicultural class. 

World renowned Italian author,Italo Calvino (1923-1985), was born in Cuba to Italian parents whose lives were devoted to science and rational, secular thought.  Calvino traveled with his family shortly after his birth to Sanremo on the Via Francigena, at the border between Italy and France.  He studied botany at Pavia University but secretly wrote fiction and lived during the most tumultuous century of human history thus far.  By the time he died in the pilgrimage hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, Italy, Calvino lived as a journalist, novelist, and resistance fighter in World War II. 

This course focuses on selections from Calvino’s writings in various genres, including his stories that attempt to express scientific theories such as quantum physics in a literary form.  Other pieces recreate conversations between Marco Polo and Khubilai Khan, or tell the story of an Italian soldier in the Second World War who questions why it is okay to kill someone the state decides is an enemy, but not someone he has good reason to consider a personal enemy. 

We will look at the political, intellectual, and personal issues of modernity through Calvino’s letters, essays, and fiction. 

Each student will select a research topic related to the themes of the course and present this work to the seminar.