When Universality agrees with the future, in a present full of memories

Prof. Ossola during the recordings of
Prof. Ossola during the recordings of "Classici italiani":

Institutional Communication Service

28 February 2011

The essence of what led to the creation of the Institute of Italian Studies at USI can be understood in T.S. Elliot’s claim on Dante: “… the most universal of poets in the modern languages”[i]. This ‘universality’ is not given for inclusion, contamination, or mediation, resulting in a merely colourful Harlequin; it is given rather for deeper consideration by seeking, through literature and arts, history, and language, all that is common to the human condition: thoughts, values and hopes – as René Char puts it, the “permanent invisibility of the denseness of the rose that one day will become”.

Scholars from all over Europe, and not only from Switzerland and Italy, convene to teach at the Institute, acknowledging the "reasons for a future" in that legacy of civilisation. Likewise, with the convergence of young students from all over the world, who see in the Italian language a boundless “spiritual supplement”, that needs to exist in the peaceful wholeness of everyone.

This is not a vision, as Aristophanes would say, that is hanging in the clouds: the fruitful collaboration with RSI (in the series “Classici italiani” and “Classici del Novecento”) and with the Dicastero giovani ed eventi of the City of Lugano, the series of initiatives Qui e ora and Per voce sola, vouch for the engagement of ISI in the region and in the present. Provided all is understood as present:  “praesens de praeteritis, praesens de praesentibus, praesens de futuris”, as Saint Augustin wrote in Confessions (XI, 20). A present full of ‘memory’, ‘understanding’ and ‘expectation’, a ‘present that makes one exist’.

An existence where thought is a seminal reason that sets in motion, rather than  lessening it to a mere network terminal. Russian poet Osip Mandelstam reinterpreted the finale of the XV canto of the Inferno (“This said, he turn’d, and seem’d as one of those / Who o’er Verona’s champaign try their speed / For the green mantle; and of them he seem’d, / Not he who loses but who gains the prize.”) with: “Do you remember those runners / in the environs of Verona, every year, / unrolling green fabric / and the fastest one, / will certainly be, / escaping a Dantesque canto, / to compete in a circle). Emerging from a Dantesque circle, here  “competing in a circle”, in the circle of knowledge and friendship: Mandelstam called this convergence “panhuman”: we envision our Institute in Lugano as such.


All episodes, produced by ISI and RSI, are available as multimedia lectures in the Treccani enciclopedia:  www.treccani.it/Portale/sito/altre_aree/Arte_Lingua_e_Letteratura/I_Clas...   


[i] http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/19th-october-1929/25/mr-eliot-on-dante