Carlo Ossola

Carlo Ossola

Collège de France, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Speaker/ tuesday May 29


This Latin formula comes to us from a rare collection of carmina retrograda dated 1623. For anyone studying design, it may be useful to know that peace too has its own form, like civil life. Every politically healthy relationship, which produces civil ties, generates balance, not conflict, between the parts. Peace is – as Erasmus said – both the goal and the instrument for action in society. In his Compendium Institutionum Civilium, book V, the Cardinal and politician Giacinto Sigismondo Gerdil (1718-1802) observed that “vita civilis, in libertate e civitate consistens”, is based on mutual obligations, which Cicero termed officia, which are greater – themselves – than the mere sum of rights and duties. The point is therefore to find a way that can be effective today, to advocate these officia.

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Carlo Ossola (born in Turin in 1946), has been a professor of Italian Literature at the universities of Geneva (1976-82), Padua (1982-88) and Turin (1988-1999). Since 2000, he is a professor at the Collège de France in Paris, chair of Modern literature in neo-Latin Europe. He is a co-director of the reviews “Lettere Italiane” and “Rivista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa”; member of the Accademia dei Lincei since 1995; member of the Scientific Board of the Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana. From 2007 to 2017 Carlo Ossola was the director of the Institute of Italian Studies at the Università della Svizzera Italiana. The author of essays in which the acuity of a philologist merges with the skills of the comparatist and the historian of ideas, he has focused in particular on Renaissance culture and on the civilizations of the European courts: Autunno del Rinascimento: “Idea del tempio dell’arte” nell’ultimo Cinquecento, 1971; Dal “Cortegiano” all'”Uomo di mondo”: storia di un libro e di un modello sociale, 1987, expanded in the French edition: Miroirs sans visage. Du courtisan à l’homme de la rue, 1997.
Dedicated to the discussion of texts and ideas, at the limits of literary space and the figures who interpret it, are his books Figurato e rimosso: icone e interni del testo, 1988; and L’Avenir de nos origines. Le copiste et le prophète, 2004. In his studies on contemporary authors, a prominent position is reserved for Ungaretti: the monograph Giuseppe Ungaretti, 1975; the commented edition of a 1916 work Il Porto Sepolto, 1981; a re-edition of Il povero nella città (1993), a book of poetic prose which appeared in 1949; and of a book of rare texts: Filosofia fantastica. Prose di meditazione e d’intervento (1926-1929), 1997, the new “Meridiani” editions of the Poesie complete, 2009 and the Traduzioni poetiche, 2010. He edited rare and unpublished works by Juan de Valdés, E. Tesauro, J.-B. Bossuet, A. Rossi, C. Cantù, W. Deonna, R. Caillois, M. Olivetti, M. de Certeau, R. Barthes, D. Hammarskjöld, with special attention to the Baroque civilization: L’anima in barocco: testi del Seicento italiano, 1995; Le antiche memorie del nulla, 1997 and 2007. For twenty years, he directed the courses in Alta Cultura at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, working with Vittore Branca to publishing books of significant cultural value. He has dedicated in-depth studies to the tradition of literary institutions in schools: Brano a brano. L´antologia di italiano nella scuola media inferiore, 1978, and with P. M. Bertinetto: La pratica della scrittura: costruzione e analisi del testo poetico, 1976, and Insegnare stanca, 1982. With Cesare Segre, he directed the Antologia della poesia italiana (3 vol., 1997-99) for “Pléiade” Einaudi-Gallimard. His most recent books include: Europa ritrovata. Geografie e miti del vecchio continente (Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 2017); Nel vivaio delle comete. Figure di un’Europa a venire (Venice, Marsilio, 2018).

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