Harvard Summer Program in Venice, Italy

Liberal arts studies in Italy’s city of canals

Faculty: From Harvard and Ca’ Foscari Universities

The lagoon city of Venice, la Serenissima, has for centuries been the cultural and commercial nexus of eastern and western Europe. Now it is the site of an educational crossroads as well with a multidisciplinary program that brings together students and faculty from Harvard University and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. The program offers courses in a range of fields, including art history, economics, English literature, Italian, and sociology. In addition to classes, a carefully designed program of activities brings students into the local community and promotes their understanding of Venice as a city with a rich history and an environment unlike any other.

In this program, Italian students study and learn alongside Harvard students so that all may develop a deeper knowledge of the city and of each other. Through a range of guided activities, students are encouraged to investigate the culture, art, and history of the city.

During the first two weeks of the session, students participate in projects designed to give a hands-on experience of Venice, such as traditional arts and crafts and activities, guided visits to places of historical interest, and other activities that give insight into the city. Past programs have included workshops in fashion, design, and Venetian masks; lessons on the traditional rowing technique Voga; and classes on Venetian cooking. The 2015 program will also feature weekend excursions outside the city, including to the Veneto and neighboring Friuli.

Watch a video by a former Venice program participant documenting her experiences in Italy.

Course of study

All courses are limited enrollment. Students enroll in two courses. Course enrollments are dependent on availability, and final course enrollment is issued from the Summer School Registrar’s Office following acceptance to the program.

ECON S-1059 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: An Introduction to Complexity in Economics and the Social Sciences (33200)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 1-3:30 pm.
Paolo Pellizzari
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

Complexity is defined as what emerges from a collection of interacting agents. Typically, complexity arises in systems with many interacting and adaptive parts, where outputs are not linearly dependent on inputs (nonlinearity), in the presence of feedback loops and in the absence of any central authority governing the system. Complexity can produce amazingly rich and robust behaviors as well as catastrophic and unpredictable events. This course provides an introduction to complexity with an emphasis on economic and social systems. In the attempt to find a formal and shared definition of complex phenomena, we will explore ideas, models, and examples coming from biology, chaos theory, financial markets, computational science, genetics, and societies. We also run some computational models to acquire hands-on experience of complex system simulation and control.

ECON S-1472 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Urban Management (33366)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Jan van der Borg
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

European urban systems are in a stage of transition. A number of factors, such as the shift toward a knowledge society, globalization, and the ITC evolution, are offering them a number of challenges. The opportunities that these challenges offer can only be used if the metropolitan regions are managed adequately. The course offers its students the principal ingredients of such a modern urban policy that renders development of cities both competitive and sustainable: from strategic planning to city marketing, from project financing to infrastructural policies. Venice, an urban laboratory, serves as a permanent point of reference during the course.

Prerequisites: ECON S-10ab, or equivalent

ECON S-1936 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Redeeming Keynes (33314)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 1-3:30 pm.
Stephen A. Marglin
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

This course explores the birth, death, and resurrection of The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money from the Great Depression (1929-1939) to the Great Recession (2008-?). Keynes intended The General Theory to provide an intellectually consistent and persuasive argument that would explain the failure of a market system, even an idealized system with all of the warts removed, to provide jobs for willing workers. It is clear from its checkered career that The General Theory was at best a partial success. It is not only difficult to read, it does not make good on the promise of a clear and consistent account of why a competitive economy might fail to reach a full-employment equilibrium. This course attempts to provide the coherent argument that, for all its theoretical innovation, The General Theory did not deliver. In the process we examine the orthodoxy that Keynes attacked and that resurfaced in the 1960s and 1970s; the key concepts on which rest the models implicit in The General Theory; and the attempts of the Keynesian mainstream to make peace with both Keynes and orthodoxy. We also explore the applicability of The General Theory to the long run. A final section views the present economic difficulties through a Keynesian lens.

ENGL S-88 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Interracial Literature (32137)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Werner Sollors
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

This course examines a wide variety of literary texts on black-white couples, interracial families, and biracial identity, from classical antiquity to the present. Works studied include romances, novellas, plays, novels, short stories, poems, and nonfiction, as well as some films and examples from the visual arts. Topics for discussion range from interracial genealogies to racial "passing," from representations of racial difference to alternative plot resolutions, and from religious and political to legal and scientific contexts for the changing understanding of race. Focus is on the European tradition and the Harlem Renaissance.

Prerequisite: none.

ENGL S-122 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Shakespeare's Venice—Jews, Blacks, Muslims, and Christians at the Origin of the Modern World (33365)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Stephen Greenblatt
Shaul Bassi
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

A great early modern metropolis and a richly symbolic landscape, Venice is the setting of two seminal plays by Shakespeare, a comedy and a tragedy. The Merchant of Venice and Othello have made the Jewish moneylender Shylock and the Moor Othello the emblematic ethnic and cultural outsiders, figures who both foreshadow and challenge the modern notion of a multicultural community. This course analyzes the Shakespearean texts, reads their principal sources, and charts their controversial critical and theatrical histories. We examine the rich cultural and literary material that informs the plays, including the representations of African, Jews, and Muslims, and their multiple resonances in different times and places, including modern adaptations in fiction and film. Our presence in Venice is crucial to our understanding: we explore why the setting for these plays had to be here and not elsewhere, and we visit Venetian sites that illuminate the Biblical, classical, and ethnographic contexts that forged Shakespeare's notions of cultural and religious difference.

ENGL S-177v Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: American Literary Expatriates in Europe (32606)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 1-3:30 pm.
Glenda R. Carpio
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

This course explores the fiction and travel literature produced by American writers living in Europe, from Henry James to the present. In the course of this period the relationship between old to new world continuously evolves. While Europe becomes the battlefield for two bloody World Wars as well as a museum of the past, the United States assumes a dominant role on the world stage. At the same time, America also betrays key fundamental ideals as it seeks to extend its sphere of influence. American writers living and traveling in Europe reflect on these shifts and changes while also exploring the complex set of contradictions that expatriate life reveals. For African American writers, for instance, Europe represents both a site of liberation from the oppression of American color codes and also an area of the world where they are often exoticized. We focus on American literature set in Europe with readings that include but are not limited to essays, travelogues, poems, novellas, novels, and short stories.

Prerequisite: none.

ENVR S-133 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Earth's Climate—Past, Present, and Future (32299)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Carlo Barbante
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

This course deals with past, present, and future climate changes as evinced from the most recent studies on palaeoclimate archives, such as marine sediments and ice cores. The techniques available for the study of climate are carefully reviewed and the most recent results are presented. Climate changes involve multiple interactions among different components of the climate system, such as the atmosphere, the ocean, the earth, the biosphere, and the ice sheet. One way to make sense of this complex system is to understand the inherent rate at which each of its components respond both to the primary causes of climate change and as part of a web of interactions within the system. Testing of hypothesis by means of climate models strongly supports the experimental data presented in the course.

Prerequisite: none.

GOVT S-1781 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: International Oil Politics from the 1970s to the Present (32725)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Duccio Basosi
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

The course examines oil as a source of both international cooperation and international conflict in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The oil crises of the 1970s, petrodollar recycling, Third World indebtedness, Soviet decline, the two Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003, the Kyoto and Copenhagen negotiations on climate changes, and other relevant processes and events of recent international relations are read through the role played by oil in each case. By analyzing a set of case studies, the course places oil politics in relation to economic, military, social, and environmental issues. By making use of primary declassified sources from public and private archives, the course aims to allow students to critically evaluate the assigned readings. At the end of the course, students are able to assess the role of oil politics in recent and present international relations, and to display a confident knowledge of the complexities of issues such as the relationship between governments and oil corporations, oil and international finance, oil and international power, oil and the international debate on renewable sources.

Prerequisite: no required prerequisite, but a basic knowledge of twentieth-century international relations is highly advisable.

HIST S-35 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Nature (33015)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 1-3:30 pm.
Joyce E. Chaplin
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

It may seem that questions about human responsibility toward the natural world are new, but there are long-standing traditions within Western philosophy of arguing for ethical behavior in relation to nature, whether to benefit humans or to help non-humans. This course offers a critical and historical analysis of selected texts that identify human beings as a distinctively ethical species within the natural world, with particular attention to the emergence of normative theories that rank humans with and against other natural beings. Topics include: definitions of wilderness and property; agriculture, industrialization, and consumerism as historic transformations of humanity; social hierarchies based on perceived natural abilities; ideas of natural rights; conservation and environmentalism; and animal rights. Readings include Aristotle, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Bentham, Malthus, Mill, Emerson, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Singer. We also examine how contemporary debates over the human place within nature have continued to cite and critique normative traditions defined in the past.

Prerequisite: none

HIST S-41 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Power and Protest—the US and the World of the 1960s (33202)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 1-3:30 pm.
Lisa McGirr
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

The 1960s witnessed dynamic mobilizations for social change in the United States and the world more broadly. This course charts the key events, actors, ideas and strategies of these movements, from civil rights to women's rights, and situates them within the context of the central economic, social, and geopolitical developments of the post-World War II period. Lectures examine national and international politics within the context of the Cold War as well as grass-roots mobilization to understand the intersection between institutional and protest politics. The legacies of these movements and the more recent economic and political shifts that have challenged some of their core assumptions are also considered. Through learning about this turbulent moment of collective action, you gain an understanding of the factors that have impeded and contributed to meaningful alterations in the distribution of political, economic, and social power in the past. One goal of the class, as a course in General Education, is to provide you with foundational historical knowledge that may help inform the choices you make as engaged social citizens in the United States and the world.

Prerequisites: none.

HARC S-152m Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Leonardo da Vinci (33149)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Frank Fehrenbach
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

This course focuses on the main topics and developments in Leonardo's art, science, and technology, contextualizing him in the artistic, cultural and political setting of Renaissance Italy around 1500, but also in the history of appropriations from Vasari to Dan Brown. The mutual interdependence of art and science, but also the internal tensions of this relationship, make Leonardo's work particularly relevant for major trends in contemporary culture. Two 1-day excursions (Milan and Florence; dates to be announced) allow us to discuss major works by Leonardo.

ITAL S-Aav Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Beginning Italian (33427)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Michele Daloiso
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

For students with little or no knowledge of Italian and no previous formal study of the language. This course aims at achieving basic communication skills and vocabulary. Emphasis is on oral expression and listening comprehension.

RELI S-15 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: "If There Is No God, All is Permitted"—Theism and Moral Reasoning (33371)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 1-3:30 pm.
Jay M. Harris
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

For centuries, Jewish and Christian thinkers (among others) have asserted that moral judgment is impossible without some concept of the deity. So convincing were they that one important character created by a Russian author of the nineteenth century was led to express the idea (if not exactly the words), "If there is no God, all is permitted." In more recent times some thinkers have challenged this assumption, and insisted that removing (or reducing) the role of God is indispensable to proper moral discourse. This course examines the ways in which a concept of God has informed Western moral discourse, trying to help students engage the literature as they confront the basic question, why might one think, "If there is no God, all is permitted?" and why might one think if there is a God human moral achievement is diminished or impossible. Further, we examine ways in which the differing paradigms actually affect the moral conclusions we might generate.

Prerequisites: none.

Course credit

See Study Abroad Credit Information.


Carlo Barbante, Laurea, Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Ca' Foscari University
Duccio Basosi, PhD, Researcher in Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca' Foscari University
Frank Fehrenbach, Foreign Doctorate, Alexander von Humboldt Professor, University of Hamburg
Glenda R. Carpio, PhD, Professor of English and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
Jan van der Borg, PhD, Associate Professor of Applied Economics, Ca' Foscari University and Visiting Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Leuven
Jay M. Harris, PhD, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University
Joyce E. Chaplin, PhD, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Harvard University
Lisa McGirr, PhD, Professor of History, Harvard University
Michele Daloiso, PhD, Adjunct Professor in English Language, Ca' Foscari University
Paolo Pellizzari, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics, Ca' Foscari University
Stephen A. Marglin, PhD, Walter S. Barker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Stephen Greenblatt, PhD, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
Werner Sollors, DPhil, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
Shaul Bassi, PhD, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca' Foscari University


Before applying, review the Admission and Policies and FAQs pages.

The application period has now closed.

Students must be at least 18 years old and have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student in good academic standing to apply.

The application materials, outlined below, are due January 29, 2015:

  • A completed online application that includes:
    • A $50 nonrefundable application fee.
    • A statement describing your overall academic interests and your reasons for wanting to study in Venice this summer. In your statement you should discuss any relevant coursework you have taken and address how you think your experience in Venice will shape your intellectual and social development.
    • Transcripts (student record accepted for Harvard students).

Students will be notified of admission decisions by mid-February.


There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The cost of the program is $8,000 and includes the following:

  • Tuition
  • Room and breakfast
  • All scheduled excursions and extracurricular activities

In addition to the program fee, students are responsible for:

  • A health insurance fee (waived if students have US insurance that provides coverage outside the United States)
  • Transportation to and from Venice
  • The cost of passports and visas (if the latter is needed)
  • Any immunizations
  • Meals (lunch and dinner)

Suggested budget

See a sample budget for estimated expenses.

How to pay and funding options

See Payment and Funding for payment deadlines, deposit amounts, and more information, including funding options for Harvard College students.


Students stay in the newly restructured dormitories “Ai Crociferi.” All rooms are doubles or triples and have air conditioning and Internet. With the exception of breakfast, which is provided in dorms, students are responsible for their own meals. All bedrooms are provided with a kitchenette so that students have the opportunity to cook their own meals.

Venice has many restaurants, bars, cafes, and pasticciere. Students have the opportunity to shop at the local markets and frequent the restaurants and bars in their neighborhood. Cafeterias offering low-cost meals are another option.

Additional information

Contact the Venice program coordinator, venice@dcemail.harvard.edu.

Watch this video, made by a student during the 2013 session, which shows her experiences and activities she did while abroad.

Students with disabilities

Students should contact the disability services coordinator as soon as possible. See Students with Disabilities for more information.