Italian Culture Proves Appealing


By Yvonne Siu '03

In a classroom on the third floor of the Lovejoy Building, Professor Mario Moroni strode back and forth in front of his students, his arms raised, his face animated, exclaiming, "Live free or die!"

It's probably not the first time the New Hampshire state motto has been the stuff of a college lecture, but consider that Moroni is Colby's Paul and Marilyn Pagannuci Assistant Professor of Language and Literature. What, pray tell, could the Granite State's renowned rebel streak have to do with Italian?

Plenty, for Moroni. The topic of discussion that day: a comparative analysis of the Italian independence movement, il Risorgimento, with America's own 18th-century struggle for independence.

Moroni incorporates elements of comparative and cross-cultural analysis into his courses. It's his way of making the subject appealing, not that Italian needs a lot of help.

Interest in Italian has surged, prompting the College to establish an Italian studies minor in September 2002. "In its first year, it already had twenty-seven students," Moroni said proudly.

Italian minors eagerly await junior year to spend their semester abroad in a country famed for its history, romance and beauty. Those back from their semester in Italy relish their memories of studying the art of Michelangelo in the cradle of the Renaissance and Roman history and mythology in the heart of the Roman Empire.

Colby students aren't alone in their enthusiasm for Italian. In colleges across the nation there is growing interest in this country, which is only slightly larger than Arizona but heavily influences the world's fashion, art and cuisine.

The attraction, in part, stems from Italy's association with important cultural and intellectual developments in Western civilization. "That, together with the fact that Italy occupies seventh place among industrialized nations, is what accounts for Italy's enduring popularity among American students," said Allison Cooper, instructor in Italian. "That ranking also solidifies Italy's relevance in the global economy."

It also highlights another aspect of the interest Italy engenders among Americans. According to Moroni, students are attracted to Italian because the mentality of Italian culture is appealing. With Italians, students get the sense of "knowing how to be productive, but also knowing how to lead a livable and relaxed lifestyle," he said. "They get a sense that Italians know how to enjoy life above all things."