Majors and Concentrations

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Konstantina Zanou, 4-0747;
Departmental Office: 502 Hamilton Hall; 854-2308

Teodolinda Barolini (chair)
Jo Ann Cavallo (On Leave 2018-2019)
Elizabeth Leake:Director of Graduate Studies, 4-4601;

Associate Professor
Nelson Moe (Barnard)

Assistant Professors
Pier Mattia Tommasino (On leave 2018-19)
Konstantia Zanou
Senior Lecturers

Barbara Spinelli 
Felice Beneduce: Intermediate Language Coordinator:
Patrizia Palumbo
Federica Franze
Carol Rounds (Hungarian)


Alessandra Saggin: Elementary Language Coordinator:


A major in Italian offers students the opportunity to study Italian literature and culture in an intimate, seminar setting with the close supervision of the department’s faculty. In addition, the prerequisite and corequisite sequence of language courses is designed to give students a command of written and spoken Italian.

Majors must complete 30 points and concentrators must complete 24 points. All majors and concentrators are required to take two semesters of Advanced Italian (ITAL UN3101) Advanced Italian, ITAL UN3102 Advanced Italian II: Italian Language Culture, ITAL UN3103 Advanced Italian Through Cinema, or ITAL UN3104 Italiana. Introduction to Italian Culture, the High, the Low, and the In-between), as well as one of the following two sequences:

  • Introduction to Italian Literature I and II (ITAL UN3333-ITAL UN3334) provides an overview of major authors and works in the Italian literary tradition from the Middle Ages to the present;
  • Italian Cultural Studies I and II (ITAL GU4502-ITAL GU4503) is an interdisciplinary investigation into Italian culture and society from national unification in 1860 to the present.

In consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, majors select six additional courses (concentrators select four additional courses) from the department’s 3000- or 4000-level offerings or from other humanities and social science departments with a focus on Italian culture.  Students who have taken courses in Italian Literature, Italian History, and/or Italian Culture while abroad should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to determine if the courses may be applicable to the major. 

Highly motivated students have the opportunity to pursue a senior thesis under the guidance of a faculty adviser in an area of Italian literature or culture of their choosing. The senior thesis tutorial, ITAL UN3993 Senior Thesis/Tutorial, will count for 3 points.

Departmental courses taught entirely in English do not have linguistic prerequisites and students from other departments who have interests related to Italian culture are especially welcome to enroll.

Italian language instruction employs a communicative approach that integrates speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Courses make use of materials that help students to learn languages not just as abstract systems of grammar and vocabulary but as living cultures with specific content. Across the levels from elementary to advanced, a wide range of literary, cultural and multimedia materials, including books, film, and opera, supplement the primary course text.

The sequence in elementary and intermediate Italian enables students to fulfill the College’s foreign language requirement and thoroughly prepares them for advanced study of language and for literature courses taught in Italian. Specialized language courses allow students to develop their conversational skills.

For highly motivated students, the department offers intensive elementary and intensive intermediate Italian, both of which cover a full year of instruction in one semester. Courses in advanced Italian, although part of the requirements for a major or a concentration in Italian, are open to any qualified student whose main goal is to improve and perfect their competence in the language. It is recommended that advanced undergraduate students take Stylistics (ITAL GU4000) if they are considering graduate studies in Italian or a career that requires superior command of spoken and written Italian.

Outside the classroom, the Department of Italian organizes a weekly Caffè e conversazione where students at all levels can converse with fellow students and faculty members over Italian espresso and cookies. Students can also attend the Serata al cinema, Italian film viewings scheduled in the evening throughout the academic year, in which faculty and graduate students introduce each film and then conclude with a question and answer session. In addition, the student-run Società Italiana ( organizes events such as pasta-making workshops, movie nights, and costume parties.

Advanced Placement

The department grants 3 credits for a score of 5 on the AP Italian Language exam, which satisfies the foreign language requirement. Credit is awarded upon successful completion of a 3000-level (or higher) course with a grade of B or higher. This course must be for at least 3 points of credit and be taught in Italian. Courses taught in English may not be used for language AP credit. The department grants 0 credits for a score of 4 on the AP Italian Language exam, but the foreign language requirement is satisfied.

The Italian Academy

A wide range of cultural programs are sponsored by the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, located in Casa Italiana. These programs, which include the activities of the Columbia Seminar on Modern Italian Studies and the Italian Academy Film Festival, enrich the learning experience of the student and offer opportunities to meet distinguished Italian and Italian-American visitors to the University. The Paterno book collection is housed in Butler Library and contains valuable resources on Italian literature and culture.

For inquiries into the department and its undergraduate and graduate degrees offered, please contact 212-854-2308 or

Language Resource Center

The Language Resource Center (LRC) provides resources for intensive practice in pronunciation, diction, and aural comprehension of some twenty-five modern languages. LRC exercises are closely coordinated with the classroom work.

Coordinated tape programs and on-line audio are available and mandatory for students registered in elementary and intermediate Italian language courses. Taped exercises in pronunciation and intonation as well as tapes of selected literary works are also available to all students in Italian courses.

Electronic Classrooms

Language instruction courses meet at least once a week in a multimedia-equipped electronic classroom in order to facilitate exposure to Italian arts such as music, opera, and film, and for other pedagogical uses.

Departmental Honors

Majors in Italian literature or Italian cultural studies who wish to be considered for departmental honors in Italian must (1) have at least a 3.6 GPA in their courses for the major and (2) complete a senior thesis or tutorial and receive a grade of at least A- within the context of the course ITAL UN3993. Normally, departmental honors are awarded to no more than one graduating senior.