Welcome to the Department of Italian Studies!
Learning at a Research Institution
Since its modest beginnings before the middle of last century, Italian studies has had a diversified development. Combined into one department with Spanish from 1887 to the early 1970s, Italian studies succeeded in 1973 in charting its own course and becoming the largest Italian department outside of Italy.
The record shows that students have always firmly supported the promotion of Italian studies, often through initiatives of their own, such as the student club which was founded in 1946. The role of the Italian Canadian community in nurturing the culture of its country of origin has also been a contributing factor in the consolidation of the department.
The department’s undergraduate programs include courses dealing with all aspects of Italian literature as well as Italian drama and cinema, Italian culture, and Italian Canadian culture. The language courses are structured to suit the demands of students of varied backgrounds and levels of preparation and to attract students beginning the language in their first year of university. Courses in linguistics and history of Italian language offer further specialization. The translation and interpretation courses have been very successful and now constitute a minor program, along with Italian and the arts, Italian for business purposes, Italian Canadian studies, and other minor programs.
The graduate department was reviewed in 1997 and received the highest grading from the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies. It is among the very few in North America which offers a specialization at the doctoral level not only in Italian literature but also in Italian linguistics. Courses in Italian cinema and computer-assisted research are now part of the graduate program. The department counts among its members a number of established scholars, who have produced 40 books over the past five years. Younger scholars are also quickly establishing themselves on the international stage.
Almost 1400 students are currently enrolled in undergraduate courses in Italian. The department’s 40 graduate students come from several parts of Canada, the United States, and Europe. The fifteen full-time faculty members on the St. George campus and five members at the Mississauga campus are heavily engaged in teaching and research in their fields. Some of them are associated at the undergraduate level with the Renaissance and semiotics programs at Victoria College and the cinema program at Innis College. At the graduate level, they are associated with the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for Medieval Studies, the McLuhan program and the Center for the Study of Drama.
The launch of the summer program in Siena in 1972 was an auspicious sign for the future of Italian studies at U of T. Sponsored by Woodsworth College, the program offers courses in Italian and fine art to over 150 students each year. The program provides the unique experience of total immersion in the culture of Italy while earning credits toward a U of T degree.
Connecting Scholarship with the World
Many members of Italian Studies collaborate with their colleagues in Canada and abroad and international conferences are sponsored regularly by the department. U of T Italianists have also been among the main participants in the Canadian Society for Italian Studies, with five members of the department serving as the society’s president.
Research projects in various fields of Italian literature, language and pedagogy have been, and are being carried out in collaboration with the Universities of Rome, Venice, Pisa, and Bologna. Distinguished members from these and other institutions are appointed on a yearly basis as visiting professors to U of T. The Emilio Goggio Chair, endowed by the family of a former chair of Italian studies, sponsors a program of visiting professors. Renowned author and communications expert Umberto Eco was the 1998 visiting professor. Through the Goggio Chair, the department has launched the Goggio lecture publication series.
Relations with the Italian community of Toronto have flourished since the early 1970s. The “Famee Furlane” has sponsored courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on the language and culture of the Friuli region. The Association of Molisani has also sponsored courses in the culture of the Molise region. Some community groups, such as the Order Sons of Italy, have sponsored scholarships.
The Frank Iacobucci Centre for Italian Canadian Studies has been located within the department since 1988. The 1995 decision of the Canadian Italian Development Association to provide funding for the Centre and rename it after Frank Iacobucci has attracted a renewed interest in our department. Such an honour recognizes the achievements of the first Canadian of Italian ancestry to be named Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, a person who left his imprint at the U of T as professor, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Vice-President. This honour has also contributed to establishing Italian Canadian Studies as an added dimension to the academic offerings of the Department of Italian Studies.