Foundations of European Literature (Texts in English)

Please note: this is archived course information from 2022 for ITALIAN 304.


Examines the founding texts of Italian literature and canonical books of Western culture: Dante’s Divine Comedy, a poetic summary of medieval learning, Boccaccio’s Decameron, a flawless human comedy and Petrarch’s Canzoniere (scattered rhymes), an intense examination of the self which became the model for love poetry in Western literature from Sidney and Shakespeare to the Romantic poets.

The course will illustrate the lives, major works and time (1265-1375) of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. The lectures will highlight their contributions to the world of literature and ideas. There will be close readings of selected cantos, tales and poems from the texts in English translation. Students will hone their critical thinking abilities while developing the skills necessary for perceptive literary and cultural analysis.

All writing assignments, class discussions and readings are in English.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should demonstrate:

  • Familiarity with the more important works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio and the political and historical environment that affected their writings
  • Knowledge of the most important literary concepts and genres that were available in fourteenth century Europe
  • Ability to recognise problems and concerns of society in fourteenth century Italy
  • Knowledge of cultural settings and the impact of culture, gender and age in medieval Italy and in the writings of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio in particular
  • Ethical knowledge pertaining to secular and lay thought in medieval Europe and how it relates to our own time and world


Coursework only

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022




ITALIAN 304: 15 points


30 points at Stage II in BA courses


ITALIAN 302, 303, 305