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Study Abroad

Centennial Program in Poppi, Italy

Dante Alighieri in Poppi, 1321-2021

June 6-26, 2021

University of Rochester / Biblioteca Rilliana
Castle of the Counts Guidi (Arezzo)

Overview

An exterior view of Dante's castle in Poppi, Italy.The program offers a formal instruction on Italian medieval culture and art -in particular history, history of art and architecture, history of the manuscript, early printed book, and communication media-, conservation and restoration of works on paper (manuscripts, drawings, prints, ancient books), and digital technologies for cultural heritage.

Activities and Assessment

  1. Object-based study and analysis of selected original materials related to Dante’s work and age
  2. Mentored individual projects on specific works geared to a final presentation
  3. Completion of individual projects in Rochester finalized to an exhibit to be held at the Robbins Library

Credits

The program is four (4) credits Italian (ITAL 208), English (ENGL 205), History (HIST 245),  Religion and Classics (RELC 262) for undergraduate and five (5) for graduate students, Italian (ITAL 408), History (HIST 445), English (ENGL 405) and Religion and Classics (RELC 462).

Course Information

Faculty

Program Director: Alessandra Baroni (art history, Arezzo program instructor)

Collaborators:

  • Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio (Italian)
  • Gregory Heyworth (English)
  • Anna Siebach-Larsen (Medieval Studies-Robbins Library)
  • Jessica Lacher-Feldman (Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation)
  • Alessia Busi and Roberto Salvi (Biblioteca Rilliana)
  • Italy-based guest lecturers in various specialties

Course Description

The program consists of several academic learning labs: a hands-on experience of the medieval works (military and civic architecture, original manuscripts and earlier editions of the Divine Comedy dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century) that are preserved in the Rilliana collection housed in the Castle of the Counts Guidi. Formal instruction on Italian medieval culture and art (in particular history, history of art and architecture, history of the manuscript, early printed book, and communication media), conservation and restoration of works on paper (manuscripts, drawings, prints, ancient books), and digital technologies for cultural heritage will make up a fundamental part of the specific competence segment of the program. This part will also include some cultural excursions to Arezzo, Florence, La Verna, Stia, Porciano, and Romena.

Participants will be operating in conjunction with the Comune di Poppi (City Administration) and the Biblioteca Rilliana (the Rilliana Library is a rare book collection within the city library of Poppi ).

The project is structured in three phases.

Stage I (first week)

General training on the main topics of the course with daily morning classes and afternoon learning labs (from about 9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 2:15 to 4:30 p.m.) on medieval history, history of the ancient book, history of the manuscript and book, history of art and graphic arts, codicology, conservation and restoration of works on paper (manuscripts, drawing prints, antique books), digital technologies for cultural heritage and the humanities.

Stage II (second week)

Study and analysis of selected original medieval manuscripts related to Dante’s work and age. The selection is made by the Project team in agreement with the Head of the Castle of Poppi and Director of the Rilliana Library. Here students are involved in an object-based study including the analysis of the materiality of the works under examination (with the help of specific readings and language instruction by the project director, Professor Baroni). They will also receive a historical introduction on Poppi and the artistic, cultural and architectural features of the surrounding territory, complemented by organized visits to other locations relevant to Dante and the Counts Guidi in Casentino.

Stage III (third week)

Students work on individual final projects to be presented at the end of the week. These projects will be completed back in Rochester. Stage IV (to be completed in the fall on the Rochester campus and/or online). The capstone of the project will be the exhibit set up by participating students, both in person and virtually, in the Robbins Library at the University of Rochester. This part will be team-taught by Jessica Lacher-Feldman, Anna Siebach-Larsen, and Alessandra Baroni.

Intended Audience

Graduate and undergraduate University of Rochester students, non-Rochester students, majors and minors in Italian language and culture, history, English (digital humanities), visual art and art history, religion and classics, and medieval studies. 18 years of age minimum. Strong interest in a full-immersion intercultural experience. Participants will come into direct contact with Italian thirteenth-fourteenth century atmosphere, working in a medieval Castle on original medieval documents. The course does not require prior study of Italian. Students will follow the same courses and seminars but their assignments will differ according to whether they are graduate or undergraduate.

Course Objectives and Outcomes

A pile of manuscripts and scrollsThe project aims to offer students the opportunity to experience first-hand the geographical, historical, and cultural context in which Dante Alighieri lived and wrote. In approaching the object-based study, the course will aim to the following:

  1. Provide students with an avenue of investigation on the materiality of objects and the potentiality of digital technology applied to the cultural heritage for museums, libraries and archives
  2. Focus on the knowledge of Dante’s work, within the Arezzo-Poppi historical context and environment
  3. Guide students in the development of critical tools and research skills
  4. Offer customized language instruction based on individual proficiency

The second objective of the course is the organization of a documentary exhibition on Dante in Poppi 1321-2021 (to be held in Rochester at the Robbins Library and Rare Books and entirely curated by the University of Rochester course participants) in which students will display their personal projects initiated and developed during the summer program in Poppi. This stage, which includes an instructional component, will be completed with the collaboration of the Rush Rhees Library personnel and other University departments involved in the project.

Assessment

Graduate and undergraduate students will follow the same courses and seminars but their assignments will differ according to whether they are graduate or undergraduate. Participants to the course are not expected to have any expertise in manuscripts and/or early printed editions of the Divina Commedia, and there will be a single approach to teaching. Nevertheless, students are encouraged to use whatever analytic and critical skills they possess or have acquired during the course.

  • Faithful attendance to all scheduled meetings including cultural excursions and visits: 25% of course grade.
  • Active participation (student shows great enthusiasm and a strong interest for the topic; she/he listens actively to her teacher and classmates; she/he often asks questions), and completion of weekly assignments (with difference between graduates and undergraduates): 25% of course grade.
  • Test (at the end of the course): an essay for each course subject with answers to 5 questions: 25% of course grade and an outline of the final.
  • Final: take home final (after the end of course), in preparation of the fall 2021 exhibition curated on the topic by participants: 25% of course grade.
Complementary Activities

A woman holding a bird.The program includes excursions to nearby sites of interest, including Arezzo, Florence, La Verna, the Castles of Porciano and Romena. Late afternoon and evenings will be usually free for sport activities (golf, tennis, swimming, horseback riding, trekking), local entertaining events, and optional trips to nearby sites of interest including Arezzo, La Verna, Porciano, Romena, and Florence, and the naturalistic park of the Foreste Casentinesi (Forests of the Casentino Valley). One weekend is free for personal activities or optional trips to nearby sites of interest, including Anghiari, Sansepolcro, Cortona, and Siena.

Location
A view of Poppi, Italy in fog.

@Gherardo Brami, Poppi  (Arezzo); 
@Golfclubcasentino, Poppi (Arezzo)

This program is fully-immersed in the atmosphere of an original Medieval castle: the Counts Guidi Castle in Poppi, located in the spectacular Casentino Valley, 30 kilometers from Arezzo, Tuscany. Its famous castle, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in the late thirteenth century, belonged to the Counts Guidi of Tuscany. It overlooks Campaldino, the field of the memorable 1289 battle between Florentine Guelfs and Aretine Ghibellines in which Dante himself took part. It is also one of the places in which Dante spent time as a host of the same noble family during his subsequent exile from Florence and where he is likely to have written Canto V of Purgatorio. Today the castle houses the Biblioteca Rilliana, one of the richest Italian collections of medieval manuscripts, incunaboli, and fifteenth century printed books, along with a comprehensive historical archive pertaining to local history since the middle ages.