Most Cornell undergraduates take at least one course in the Knight Institute's First-Year Writing Seminar Program. After their first-year experience, they can receive further intensive writing instruction through programs and courses supported by the Knight Institute as well as in courses offered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Hotel School. Knight Institute programs also support graduate students as they develop scholarly and professional projects and prepare to teach writing.
Spotlight FWS | Cultural Identities/Cultural Differences: Writing Italy
Irene Eibenstein-Alvisi (Romance Studies, PhD 2003) wants to take her FWS students on a tour of Italy. More specifically, she wants the students in “Cultural Identities/Cultural Differences: Writing Italy” to participate, virtually, in the Grand Tour, a rite of passage for affluent Americans and Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In “Blogging Italy,” Eibenstein-Alvisi guides us through her 21st century version of the Grand Tour, as it plays out in her FWS.
Three literary texts, set in three Italian cities, written by three non-Italian authors, provide the textual foundation for “Writing Italy.” As Eibenstein-Alvisi notes, the original audience for these fictions—Henry James’s “Daisy Miller,” E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice—brought a base of knowledge to the reading, either because they had participated in the Grand Tour themselves, or because they had read travel journalism about Italy (including pieces written by these same authors).
The blog assignment described in “Blogging Italy,” helps contemporary Cornell undergraduates fill in gaps in cultural knowledge. As a longtime teacher of Italian, Eibenstein-Alvisi knows that cultural context is essential to language learning and to writing about literary texts.
The blog is designed to be both an individual assignment—each student researches, in sequence, a topic related to Rome, Florence, and Venice—and a collective resource. When writing their papers about each city, students are required to cite the blogs written (and illustrated) by their classmates.