At Bennington, students work closely with faculty to design the content, structure, and sequence of their study and practice—their Plan—taking advantage of resources inside and outside the classroom to pursue their work.
Here, acquiring and practicing language skills is never separate from actively investigating culture. This leads to generating ideas and not merely learning how to say things in a different language. Students of Italian reflect on the culture(s) of Italy critically from the first day of their introductory course. For example, during the first class period of Food in Italy, students are enabled and invited to express their opinions in Italian about a television ad on olive oil, using the few words they have just learned.
Beginning students explore culture in courses that focus on themes such as food, the family, and public and private spaces. Low-intermediate students generally examine regional cultures through music, film, and journalism. The program alternates these courses with a course on Italian opera. High-intermediate and advanced students focus on literature and theory. Language proficiency is a fundamental goal, hence the study of grammar and vocabulary remains active also in advanced, literature courses.
Often, students who do advanced studies in Italian also focus on other disciplines. The Italian program welcomes such students and encourages them to integrate their interests in other disciplines with Italian.
Study abroad in Italy, whether only for Italian or combined with other disciplines, is also strongly encouraged. Through Bennington, Students of Italian have become interns of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, in Umbria, and have taught English in Italy after graduation.
Scholars in Italian, writers, and artists come to campus often to deliver lectures, performances, and to interact with students in class.
Barbara Alfano brings a background in journalism, translation, and short-story writing in Italian to her study of 20th- and 21st-century Italian fiction.