Harvard Summer Program in Venice, Italy

NOTE: 2016 program information is currently displayed. This program is expected to run in 2017 and updated information will be published in mid-October.

June 5, 2016 to July 30, 2016
Apply by: 
January 28, 2016

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 and this multidisciplinary program that brings together students and faculty from Harvard University and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. In addition to classes, a carefully designed program of activities brings you into the local community and promotes your 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, all students are encouraged to investigate the culture, art, and history of the city.

During the first two weeks of the session, you participate in projects designed to give you 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.

All courses are limited enrollment. You 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.

The following courses have been scheduled, and additional courses will be announced.


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 John Mayard Keynes's 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.

Prerequisites: introductory economics at the level of ECON S-10ab. A
year of college calculus is useful even though mathematics are used very sparingly.

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 Africans, 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.

Note: Professor Greenblatt will be lecturing for the first and last week of the course.

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-1745 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Introduction to International Business Law ( 33633)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 10 am-12:30 pm
Fabrizio Marrella

4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

In today's global village, business decisions are no longer local. Even the smallest company may engage in transactions that have international legal implications. As the world gets smaller the ability to access foreign markets grows ever wider. Companies may seek new sources of supply overseas, sales may cross national borders to customers located abroad, and joint ventures and other forms of direct investment in a foreign country abound. Resolving disputes arising from such operations may lead to multistate litigation and/or to arbitration. Many legal systems may become relevant in arbitration including transnational principles (such as the Unidroit Principles) or the lex mercatoria, the on-going formation of a global law for international commercial contracts. This course is designed to introduce students to the problems affecting cross-border transactions from a legal standpoint. International private and public law aspects of business transactions are examined. We examine the legal framework of international commerce, pointing out the potential constraints posed by laws, cultures, ideologies, currencies, and government policies to effective international business negotiations.

HARC S-148 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Venice and the Classical Past ( 33638)

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 10 am-12:30 pm
Lorenzo Calvelli

4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Venice is certainly the largest and best known modern Italian city that did not grow on top of a classical settlement. Ever since the Middle Ages, Venetian statesmen and intellectuals supported the idea that their hometown was born from the ashes of the Roman Empire, thus remarking the city's political independence since the earliest stages of her history. At the same time, however, numerous objects dating to the classical period, including both artworks and simple building materials, can be found in Venice and in the main islands of the surrounding lagoon.
This course explores the shifting relationship that Venice developed with the Greco-Roman past, investigating in particular how classical antiquities were used and re-used in Venice, as well as in the neighboring areas and in the Venetian maritime empire. The course combines class lectures and field trips to different locations in and around Venice (museums, churches, public spaces), in order to get a real experience of the presence of antiquities in the city and in the surrounding islands. In the final week of the course, students present and discuss their own work, based on the reading of Patricia Brown's quintessential book Venice and Antiquity (1996), the only comprehensive survey of this topic that has been published so far.

Prerequisite: none; an essential understanding of Latin would be useful, but the language basics necessary to reach course requirements will be covered in class.

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-1582 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: The Population of the Ghetto ( 33644)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 am-12:30 pm
Giovanni Favero

4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

The course aims to provide knowledge of the demography of the Venetian ghetto, from 1516 to 1797. Students are invited to engage with the assessment of the numbers of inhabitants and of their births and deaths, and with the interpretation of their mobility, reproductive behavior, life expectancy, and the resulting population dynamics. In the first part, the teacher presents and discusses the main sources on the population of the Ghetto, providing at the same time an overview of the demographic methods used to compare and interpret their data in the frame of the historical demographic debate on Early Modern Venetian Jews. In the second part, after two introductory visits to the Venetian State Archive and to the archive and library of the Venetian Jewish Community, students present and discuss the results of their qualitative and quantitative works on the sources.

Prerequisite: Basic knowledge of general European history.

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)

Mondays, Wednesdays, 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


The application deadline has passed.

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

You 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 28, 2016:

  • 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, discuss any relevant coursework you have taken and address how you think your experience in Venice will shape your intellectual and social development.
    • Transcripts (Harvard students may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu.)

You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.


There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The program cost includes the following:

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

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

  • A health insurance fee (waived if you have US insurance that provides coverage outside the United States)
  • Transportation to and from Venice, Italy
  • 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.


You stay in the newly restructured dormitories "We_Crociferi." All rooms are doubles or triples and have air conditioning and Internet. With the exception of breakfast, which is provided in dorms, you are responsible for your own meals. All bedrooms are provided with a kitchenette so that you have the opportunity to cook meals.

Venice has many restaurants, bars, cafes, and pasticciere. You have the opportunity to shop at the local markets and frequent the restaurants and bars in your 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

Contact the Accessibility Services Office as soon as possible. See Students in Need of Accommodations for more information.


  • Stephen Greenblatt, PhD, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
  • Jay M. Harris, PhD, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University
  • Carlo Barbante, Laurea, Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Ca' Foscari University
  • Shaul Bassi, PhD, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca' Foscari University
  • Lorenzo Calvelli, PhD, Tenured Lecturer in Ancient History, Ca' Foscari University
  • Glenda R. Carpio, PhD, Professor of English and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
  • Joyce E. Chaplin, PhD, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Harvard University
  • Michele Daloiso, PhD, Adjunct Professor in English Language, Ca' Foscari University
  • Giovanni Favero, PhD, Associate Professor of Management, Ca'Foscari University
  • Stephen A. Marglin, PhD, Walter S. Barker Professor of Economics, Harvard University