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How an Unexpected Case of Sexual Assault Can Lead to Global Competence

Updated: Sep 4, 2018

Adrienne Ward

A scene from the film "Berlinguer ti voglio bene."
A scene from the film "Berlinguer ti voglio bene."


This paper relates an experience shared with a group of American students studying the Bertolucci-Benigni film Berlinguer ti voglio bene (1977; Berlinguer I Love You in English). It traces the surprising outcomes when students reacted in a brand-new way to old material – old given that the movie was made over forty years ago, and also in the sense that I had used it numerous times in my course on comic Italian performers. Never before had students classified the action as sexual assault, referring to the scene in which Mario Cioni’s friend, Bozzone, arrives to spend the night with Cioni’s mother, with winnings he had earned in a card game. The students’ response prompted us to carry out “the Berlinguer research project,” in which they explored five key topics relating to the scene: 1) The Movie Itself, 2) Italian Feminism in the 1970s, 3) Roberto Benigni and Feminism, 4) Sexual Assault and the Law (Italy and US), 5) Sexual Assault and Film.

My students did not produce the literary analysis of the scene I had envisioned, but instead moved in directions consonant with the acquisition of certain global competencies. This was an unexpected but rewarding outcome from a pedagogical perspective. I describe how their work led to gains in global competence, and also advocate that professors also strive to become more globally competent, in terms of appreciating contexts relevant to today’s university students. In particular, the issues of sexual violence and mistreatment of women call us all to become more globally aware and proficient.

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