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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages and Cultures - Italian

Undergraduate Course: The World's Laboratory: Italian Biopolitics from Giordano Bruno to Roberto Esposito (ELCI10032)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryCourse presents Italian Biopolitics (Agamben, Cavarero, Esposito, Negri-Hardt, Virno) kickstarting work from broad premises in Critical Theory (French, Other than French, After Theory) and on Italy as World's Laboratory (early modern to present, with particular focus on 20thc), and making a further transition to a Verification section based on a canon of high-profile dissidents (Bruno, Gadda, Gramsci, Leopardi, Machiavelli, and Pasolini). Body Theory, Cognitive Science and Political Theory further supplement core methods and claims. Course is organised in 11 units of work. Lectures provide a broad overview of topic. Forums allow plenary discussion of select secondary readings. Labs bring one primary text to the fore for shared close reading. Students make individual presentations in Seminars. This format makes WL a highly valuable learning experience in which students contribute from a variety of roles for maximum training rewards. Language: English and/or Italian, depending on group demand and proficiency in the target language.
Course description Course introduces basic claims (legacy of French Theory and specificity of contemporary Italian Thought) using select Foucault readings as part of 3 introductory meetings (1 Lecture, 1 Forum, 1 Lab) followed by 4 units (1 Forum, 1 Lab, 2 Seminars) focussing on key works by Agamben, Esposito, Negri and Virno. The socio-political specifics behind Italian Biopolitics come fully to the fore in particular as part of the study of the more recent works by Toni Negri (co-author with Michael Hardt), the most senior and most militant/controversial political philosopher in the selection. Through Negri and through reference to Italy's Lead and Mud Years (1970s-1990s), WL mediates the further transition to the closing section entitled Verifications (1 Lecture, 1 Forum, 1 Lab, 1 Seminar), which combines select provocations from Bruno, Gramsci, Leopardi and Machiavelli with the political theatre of Fabrizio Gifuni (the latter based on works by Gadda and Pasolini) to put theories of the biopolitical to the further test.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of a range of sources as well as a good understanding of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks needed to analyse them.
  2. Consolidate knowledge and skills, employ relevant technical terminology, develop research methods appropriate to subject studied, accommodate ambiguities and show awareness of nuance.
  3. Use a range of study tools including online resources, form coherent arguments which engage effectively with sources and their contexts, and present material with a high level of clarity in both oral and written form.
  4. Demonstrate intellectual autonomy and initiative, carry out independent research under tutor guidance, and show awareness of own responsibilities when working with others as part of a team.
Reading List
Essential Bibliography Agamben G (1998) Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford UP. Campbell T, Sitze A (2013) (eds) Biopolitics. A Reader. Durham NC: Duke UP. Cavarero A (2009) Horrorism. Naming Contemporary Violence. NY: Columbia UP. Chiesa L, Toscano A (2009) The Italian Difference. Between Nihilism and Biopolitics. Melbourne: Esposito R (2012) Living Thought. The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy. Stanford: Stanford UP. (2004) Communitas. The Origins and Destiny of Community. Stanford: Stanford UP. Gentili D (2012) Italian Theory. Dall'operaismo alla biopolitica. Bologna: il Mulino. Hardt N, Negri A (2000) Empire. Cambridge: Harvard UP. Lemke T (2011) Biopolitics. An Advanced Introduction. New York: New York UP. Virno P (2004) A Grammar of the Multitude. For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Pasadena CA: Semiotext(e).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students will have further developed their skills in the areas of research and enquiry, personal and intellectual autonomy, communication, and personal effectiveness. For further specification of these skills see the university's graduate and employability skills framework at
KeywordsCritical Theory,Political Theory,Biopolitics,Italian Theory,Agamben,Bruno,Cavarero,Esposito
Course organiserProf Federica Pedriali
Tel: (0131 6)50 3642
Course secretaryMiss Fiona Jack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3635
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