This is a course I taught just for the first time this past Winter semester, with my dear friend Vincenzo Binetti.  Autonomy, besides being a word in English in its own right (coming from the Greek words "auto", meaning "self-" and "nomos" meaning "law" or "rule"), is the English translation of the Italian word autonomia.   Autonomia means the same thing as the English word, but it also is the name of a very significant political movement in Italy in the 1970s.  Autonomia involved students, workers, housewives, and intellectuals who sought to transform daily life activities from work to play to thought to love to chores.  Autonomia was distinctive in part because it was not a political party and it did not seek governmental power.  Rather, though its participants did participate in public demonstrations against state power and social injustice, more frequently they would simply form temporary communities gathered together to be, to  enact the change they sought in the world.  In the highly polarized political climate of Italy in the 1970s, autonomia eventually fell apart as many of its major participants were jailed or forced into exile by the government that insisted on (unfairly) associating autonomia with organized, violent left-wing groups such as the Red Brigades.

Vincenzo and I have been enjoying seeing movies together for nearly a decade now.  At some point, we realized that many of the movies we liked best involved variations on the basic "coming of age" story:  a child confronts the adult world and the process of moving into it.  In many of the movies below, that story gets some sort of unusual twist that highlights the different dynamics of power, of authority and autonomy, involved in the passage through childhood and into closer contact with the adult world.  We used these stories to get our students talking about autonomy and its associated issues, not only authority and autonomy and power, but innocence and experience, risk-taking, journeying without fixed destination, stupidity versus calculation, invention, and a range of other issues.

Here's a copy of the syllabus we used:

Course Materials

Novels (at Shaman Drum)

Roberto Arlt, Mad Toy
Cesare Pavese, The Moon and the Bonfires
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries
Niccolo Ammaniti, I'm Not Scared
Julio Cortázar, Cronopios and Famas
Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar

Movies (screened Mondays and Wednesdays, 8 to 10 pm, 2nd Floor of MLB, Language Resource Center Screening Room - see course schedule below for specific movies and dates)

I'm Not Scared
Goodbye, Lenin
Life is Beautiful
Padre padrone
The Return
Stolen Children
Central Station
The Bicycle Thief
Historias Minimas
Cinema Paradiso
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring

Course Schedule

Wk I

T 1.11     Course Introduction
W 1.12     8-10 pm (screening):  I'm Not Scared (Io non ho paura; d. Gabriele Salvatores, Italy, 2003)
R 1.13     Discussion: I'm Not Scared


T 1.18     Julio Cortázar, "Silvia" (Argentina, 1967)
W 1.19     8-10 pm (screening):  Goodbye, Lenin (d. Wolfgang Becker, Germany, 2003)
R 1.20     Discussion: Goodbye, Lenin


T 1.25     Discussion: Roberto Arlt, Mad Toy (El juguete rabioso, Argentina, 1926)
W 1.26     8-10 pm (screening): Valentín (d. Alejandro Agresti, Argentina, 2002)
R 1.27     Discussion: Arlt, Mad Toy


T 2.1     Discussion: Valentín
W 2.2     8-10 pm (screening): Life is Beautiful (La vita e bella, d. Roberto Benigni, Italy, 1997)
R 2.3     Discussion: Life is Beautiful

Wk V

T 2.8     Discussion: Cesare Pavese, The Moon and the Bonfires (La luna e il falo, Italy, 1950)
W 2.9     8-10 pm (screening): Padre padrone (d. Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani, Italy, 1977)
R 2.10     Discussion: Pavese, The Moon and the Bonfires


T 2.15     Discussion: Padre padrone
W 2.16     8-10 pm (screening): The Return (d. Andrei Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2003)
R 2.17     Discussion:  The Return


 T 2.22     Discussion: Niccolo Ammaniti, I'm Not Scared (Io non ho paura, Italy, 2001)
R 2.24     Discussion:  Ammaniti, I'm Not Scared



M 3.7     8-10 (screening): Stolen Children (Il Ladro di bambini, d. Gianni Amelio, 1992)
T 3.8     Discussion: Stolen Children
W 3.9     8-10 pm (screening): Central Station (Central do Brasil, d. Walter Salles, Brazil, 1998)
R 3.10     Discussion:  Central Station


T 3.15     Discussion: Ernesto "Che" Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries (Notas de viaje: diario en motocicleta, Argentina, 1953)
R 3.17     Discussion: Guevara, The Motorcyle Diaries

Wk X

M 3.21     8-10 (screening): The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette, d. Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1948)
T 3.22     Discussion: The Bicycle Thief
W 3.23     8-10 pm (screening): Historias mínimas (d. Carlos Sorín, Argentina, 2002)
R 3.24     Discussion:  Historias mínimas


T 3.29     Discussion: Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar (Palomar, Italy, 1983)
R 3.31     Discussion: Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar


M 4.4     8-10 (screening): Cinema paradiso (d. Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy, 1989)
T 4.5     Discussion: Cinema paradiso
W 4.6     8-10 pm (screening): One Night With Sabrina Love (Una Noche con Sabrina Love, d. Alejandro Agresti, Argentina, 2000)
R 4.7     Discussion:  One Night with Sabrina Love


T 4.12     Discussion: Julio Cortázar, Cronopios and Famas (Historias de cronopios y famas, Argentina, 1962)
W 4.13     8-10 pm (screening): Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ...And Spring (d. Ki-duk Kim, South Korea, 2003)
R 4.14     Discussion: Julio Cortázar, Cronopios and Famas

Reading to Live course page
Innocence and Experience course page
Pragmatism course page
Hopscotch course page
Julio Cortazar's Short Stories course main page
Gilles Deleuze Course Main Page
Romanticism and Buddhism course home page
Jorge Luis Borges course main page
Love course main page