Italy, Venice

The Merchant of Venice and Beyond: Representations of Capitalism in History and Literature

when 18 July 2016 - 29 July 2016
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 ECTS
fee EUR 650

Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" is regarded as one of the seminal literary documents connected to the development of venture capitalism in the early modern era. The association between Venice and trading, on the one hand, and Jews and moneylending, on the other, has made of this controversial play both a vehicle of antisemitic prejudice and a productive arena of discussion for these key issues that continue to be topical in the era of neoliberal globalization and of geopolitical crisis in the Mediterranean.

The aim of this program is to examine the multiple representations of capitalism in literature, history, and the arts, looking at different periods and texts to provide a comparative perspective, while taking advantage of the first historic performance of Shakespeare's play in the Ghetto of Venice (its ideal setting).

The course will also include site-specific activities that will highlight the role of Venice in different stages of the history of capitalism, from the age of mercantilism to the present state of global tourism. Literary and cultural texts will be read alongside economic and historical essays that both promote and criticize capitalism in its various forms, and popular culture will be used to represent example of local resistance to the pressure of global capitalism (Gualtiero Bertelli, Le Orme, Pitura Freska, Alberto D'Amico).

Topics:
Merchant capitalism and merchant republics
Images, interpretations, myths and anti-myths of Venetian capitalism and republicanism
Legal and economic aspects of The Merchant of Venice
The rise of the bourgeoisie and the spirit of modern capitalism
Interpretations of the decline of Venice
Literary representations of 19th Century capitalism
Monopoly capitalism, the fordist factory and imperialism
Images of capitalism in Russia (1861-1917)
Representations of imperial 20th Century Venice, Giuseppe Volpi and Fascism
Industrial Marghera, factory life, popular culture and workers' resistance
Globalization and the age of neoliberalism
Representations of Venice in the neoliberal and postindustrial era


Site visits include:
Guided tour of Palazzo Ducale
Guided tour of the Ghetto and Synagogues
Visit to the Biennale
Tour of the Arsenale
Lagoon Tour by boat


Texts under scrutiny will include Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Dickens' Little Dorritt and Great Expectations, Friedrich Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England, John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice, William Dean Howells's Venetian Life, the life stories of the workers of the industrial port of Marghera (Venice) collected in Petrolkimiko (edited by Gianfranco Bettin), Goeff Dyer' Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. Praises of merchants and enterpreneurs in both Venetian and non-Venetian ancient and modern contexts will also be considered. The texts will provide rival visions of capitalism as a creative force able to make history, bring development, create wealth and poverty, structure society, time and space, changing people's expectations and ideas, commodifying, wiping out old customs and transforming the environment. Each class shall deal with one of these themes. Each theme shall be dealt through the comparative analysis of literary and historiographic texts (canonical and contemporary) as well as a selection of accounts of the Venetian experience from the Renaissance to the present (literature, songs, historiography, life stories...).


Venice Ghetto 500:
The program will coincide with the Quincentennial of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice and will include the first performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a seminal representation of the dynamics of modern capitalism, in the Ghetto. This course offers a unique contribution to a rich national and international program of cultural events, choosing as its distinctive perspective that of representations of capitalism in different texts, especially literary and visual, from the early modern to the postmodern, neoliberal era.

Course leader

Luca Pes, (History, Venice International University)
Shaul Bassi, (Literature, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia)

Target group

Preferably Master's and PhD students in the fields of Literature, History, Sociology, Political Science, Economics, but anyone motivated and interested may apply.

Course aim

Students will develop the ability to critically analyze and compare texts, from a specific point of view; will develop the ability to discuss in interdisciplinary, international context; will achieve introductory knowledge about varieties of ways in which capitalist relations have been imagined and described in different times of History and will be introduced to the history of Venice, from this particular angle.  

Venice Ghetto 500:
The program will coincide with the Quincentennial of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice and will include the first performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a seminal representation of the dynamics of modern capitalism, in the Ghetto. This course offers a unique contribution to a rich national and international program of cultural events, choosing as its distinctive perspective that of representations of capitalism in different texts, especially literary and visual, from the early modern to the postmodern, neoliberal era.


Bibliography:
A part from the texts, which will be discussed in class and read in excerpts:
Joyce Appleby, The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism, Norton, 2011
James Fulcher, Capitalism. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford UP, 2004
David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism, Profile Books, 2011


Location:
Venice International University is situated in beautiful grounds on the island of San Servolo, which is 10 minutes by boat from the San Zaccaria (adjacent to Piazza San Marco). It is served by the public transport system (no. 20 vaporetto/water bus). Some events will take place in other venues.

Campus services include a self-service cafeteria, a café, wifi, computer rooms etc.
Participants will have access to the VIU library.

Credits info

3 ECTS
The program is equivalent to 3 ECTS.
Credit-seeking students who prepare a research paper or a creative project during the month following the Summer School, under the guidance of one of the program directors, will be awarded 6 ECTS. A final grade will be given, based on the paper or project (60%) and participation in class (40%)
A detailed certificate with complete information about the program will be provided.

Fee info

EUR 650: Fee for university students and PhD candidates.
The fees cover tuition, course materials, entrance tickets to museums and galleries (and guides) included in the program of activities, the welcome dinner and the farewell lunch.
Accommodation and other meals are not included.
EUR 1000: Full fee for unaffiliated individuals

Scholarships

Applicants from VIU's member universities can apply for reduced fees (€400): http://www.univiu.org/what-is-viu/viu-members