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Italian Studies, Deparment of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

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About Italian Studies


Some highlights from Prof. Ludovico's appearance on Costantino's Round Table, which aired on PBS

Having chosen to attend UMass, you no doubt already understand the benefits of a well-rounded education. What you may not realize, however, is that a major in Italian reflects the very essence of this sort of study. Italian is indispensable to anyone with a serious interest in music, literature or fine arts and is an important tool for research in many other fields. Italy and its people have contributed enormously not only to the arts but also to political theory and to Western culture in general. Italy is the birthplace of the Roman Empire, the cradle of the Renaissance and the seat of Christianity. Who doesn't recognize such names as Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Ariosto, Tasso and Galileo? Who has never seen the artwork of Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael or Titian? Who has not heard of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi or St. Catherine of Siena? Have you ever seen an opera by Verdi, Puccini or Rossini? The cultural patrimony of Italy defies description and yet its importance is in no way limited to the past. You may have seen an Italian movie recently and be familiar with the work of Federico Fellini or Roberto Benigni. You may have also read novels by Umberto Eco, Primo Levi or Italo Calvino. The nation and its culture continue to influence our world today and to contribute to everyday life in nearly limitless ways: Guglielmo Marconi pioneered wireless telecommunication; Giulio Natta received the Nobel Prize for his innovative work in the field of polymers; Maria Montessori developed a revolutionary system of education that has been adopted by all first-world countries; Bruno Coppi, inventor of the "Ignitor," may one day be known as the father of controlled nuclear fusion, 1000 times more powerful than conventional atomic energy. The list goes on and on. Now that Italy has the fifth-largest economy in the world (Italians have a higher per capita income than the British), it is certain that significant cultural and scientific innovations will continue far into the future.

A major in Italian is a practical and valuable asset for students with all sorts of interests and specializations. Naturally, those who pursue careers in the arts, from music to painting to architecture, will enjoy several distinct advantages when the time comes to send out their resumes. Indeed, according to official UNESCO data, one half of the entire world's art treasures is located in Italy. Opportunities for employment are to be found in the arts and art administration, in museums, restoration and conservation, the performing arts, music and ballet. Being the Romance language closest to Latin, Italian will be helpful to students of Classics as well, both in understanding texts and in traveling to archeological sites in Italy. Publishing firms, especially those that market their books abroad or deal in foreign language texts, often seek editors, editorial assistants and managers with training in Italian. As Italy's economic and political relevance grows, it will have an ever greater role in international affairs. For people interested in international relations, diplomacy and the Foreign Service, knowledge of Italian will certainly be an important asset. A background in Italian can help you to find a rewarding job in the fields of library science, journalism, radio, television and film, as well as in tourism and international transportation. Each year nearly 50 million tourists travel to Italy, a number almost as large as the entire Italian population itself. The opportunities for well-trained bilingual professionals in the field of tourism and hospitality management are plentiful. While the traditional centers of tourism (such as Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan) will remain important centers in the industry, new initiatives are currently being developed for Southern Italy, where there is an abundance of natural and historical attractions as well as a perpetually inviting climate. The Italian government is determined to transform the South into "another Florida," in the words of Ex-Vice Prime Minister Walter Veltroni. This will require reorienting the hospitality industry away from the traditional mom-and-pop type of operations to a system based on international standards. American companies will be instrumental in this transformation and are looking for individuals who are eager to work in Italy or are competent to maintain contacts with the local operators. In this country, in the field of interior design, home furnishings and accessories, and apparel manufacturing, the ability to speak Italian is a definite advantage. But Italy is not only fashion, leather couches, shoes and wine. From 1991 to 1996, according to the Italian Embassy, the number of Italian companies engaged in all areas of commerce in the United States almost doubled. They are in need of intelligent, well-educated employees who can maintain contacts directly with company headquarters in Italy, something that can be done only by individuals who are competent in the language.