Two years ago, when I was teaching the same period, I tackled the following texts and themes with my class: Vasari’s “Lives of Artists” and Ross King’s “Brunelleschi’s Dome” as we considered the Renaissance. We also read Boccaccio’s “Decameron” and Castiglione’s “The Courtier”. We looked at several artists of the Italian Renaissance and spent some time considering Mantegna’s “Camera degli Sposi” in Mantua, assisted by John and Katya Berger’s book, “Lying down to sleep”
In the final term we considered Watteau as an artist and read Diderot’s “Rameau’s nephew” and Beaumarchais’ plays “The Barber of Seville” and “The Marriage of Figaro” and the operas, which were inspired by these plays.
Last year my class considered the modern period and we again turned our thoughts to Italy in the first term, reading Italo Svevo’s “A Life” and Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. Our incursion into Triestian literature was guided by Jan Morris’ book “Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere” and we explored the artistic movement known as “Expressionism”. We analysed three films, which are centred on Venice: “Death in Venice”, “Don’t look now” and “Pane e Tulipani”. We also read James Joyce’s prose poem “Giacomo Joyce”.
In the second term we switched our focus to France and read Flaubert’s “Sentimental Education” and watched Chabrol’s “Madame Bovary”. We also read Jules Valles’ “The Child” and our historical analysis dealt with the Paris Commune, guided by Alistair Horne’s “The Fall of Paris”. Our art focus moved from Expressionism to Impressionism.
The final term took us to Czechoslovakia, Russia and the Ukraine. We read three plays by Vaclav Havel and watched “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. We considered how we interpret art with John Berger’s book and television series “Ways of Seeing”. We read Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” and watched Tarkovsky’s masterpieces “Solaris” and “Andrei Rublev”. Our final text for the year was Andrei Kurkov’s black comedy “Death and the Penguin”.