Introducing Calandra Corner

With the COVID-19 pandemic, venues that devote resources to public programming, like the Calandra Institute, have had to switch things up a bit. Calandra Corner is a new and flexible means by which we have been able to continue with some of our scheduled events that could not take place in person as well as add other fun and informative online events. These new offerings are mostly shorter and more casual conversations with people in and around the Italian American community who continue to do exciting work. Click here to see all the Corner conversations to date, and check back often, because we are only doing more.

Robert Viscusi 1941–2020

Today, January 19, 2021, marks one year since the passing of our dear friend Robert Viscusi. As I wrote last year, for those of us who knew Bob well, we knew a kind man, someone who was always respectfully inquisitive and concerned about his friends and, at the same time, always a cheerleader in championing them and their accomplishments. He was, as well, a great advocate for the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute; he made it known to many, and we will always remain grateful. Bob exhibited erudition, largesse, and beneficence in ways that very few do.

As we announced today on Twitter, we will commemorate Bob’s life and work with a special collection of essays written in his honor by some of his dearest friends. Indeed, Bob’s scholarly and creative works will live on precisely because they are so outstanding and hence greatly beneficial to all. They will serve yet future generations of scholars as they engage in their own professional development of cultural and literary studies of the Italian diaspora.

In turn, Bob the person—he who could turn a phrase and make you smile, or formulate a theoretical notion and make you go “Hmmm”—is and will remain dearly missed. As I said at the time of his passing last year, fortunately through technology we will have the opportunity to revisit with Bob: We have some recordings of him in the Italics TV archive. I will leave you with two of them here.

Un caloroso saluto a tutti,

Anthony Julian Tamburri
Dean & Distinguished Professor

Bob on Italics:
Lecture: “The Orphanage: Encounters in Transnational Space” (Sept 29, 2017)
L’oro di Napoli (at 1:03:10) Bob reading from his book Ellis Island

Italics: Mark Rotella

Host Anthony Tamburri interviews Mark Rotella, the author of Amore: The Story of Italian American Song and Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria, as Rotella describes how his search for his own Italian American identity led to the writing of both books.

Rotella’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Salon, Washington Post, and the Village Voice, among others.

Message from the Dean on COVID-19 and Civil Unrest

Dear Friends,

We currently inhabit a time in which we struggle on the one hand with nature—that is, the deadly virus that has ravaged many sectors of more than 200 countries around the world—while on the other, we find ourselves caught up in yet another struggle, the systemic racism that has sparked more than a week-long series of protests around the United States, a result of the horrible police killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis.

After close to five months (two and one-half of shutdown for most), COVID-19 remains the mysterious, debilitating, and fatal disease we have witnessed and experienced since this past February. And while genetic evidence has pinpointed the origins of the virus, we still remain, nevertheless, victims of such natural indifference.

In turn, the protests that we have witnessed in many cities across the country prove to be a result of yet another indifference. COVID-19 possesses a disinterest in the human condition; as a force of nature it was born outside the human. The forces instead that killed George Floyd are multilayered and have their roots within the human, dating back 401 years to 1619 with the introduction of African slavery to what would become the United States; they are truly, and cognitively, indifferent, lacking any and all regard for the lives of African Americans and other people of color.

As Italian Americans, and especially as scholars and teachers, who are not only cognizant of our history but who purport to study and promote it, we cannot but stand with black and brown people who have suffered and continue to suffer the indignities as well as the life-threatening violence that emanate from such disregard and callousness. Not to do so is to deny our own history and the indignities that many of our ancestors endured. The difference is that our ancestors were always free and white. Further still, they lived to tell about it.

Empathy is the first step toward fighting for justice for all.

Un caloroso saluto a tutte/i,

AJT Signature
Anthony Julian Tamburri
Dean and Distinguished Professor

Joseph Tusiani: January 14, 1924—April 11, 2020

With the passing of Joseph Tusiani, we have lost a treasure of a man, a wonderful human being, and a great cultured individual.

Joseph came to the United States in 1947 on what was to be a temporary visit. Instead, he remained and became, over the more than seven decades he spent in New York, a noted polymath. Poet first and foremost, prose writer, essayist, translator, Joseph was the true scholar/intellectual.

The winner of the prestigious Greenwood Prize of the Poetry Society of England in 1956, he was the first “American” to be given the award. He was vice president of the Poetry Society of America and director of the Catholic Poetry Society of America. Joseph was also professor of Italian for many years at Lehman College of The City University of New York.

Through his work as translator, he introduced many Italian writers to the English-speaking world: Machiavelli, Tasso, Pulci, Boccaccio, Pascoli, and Leopardi are just some of those whose work he translated over the years. It was, in turn, his translations of Michelangelo’s poetry that earned him a visit to President Kennedy’s White House! That collection will be reissued in the University of Toronto Press’s Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library Series.

Joseph’s reach was extensive and impactful. In addition to his loving family (Michael, Bea, and their children), Joseph leaves behind a plethora of friends and former students whose lives were influenced to various degrees by his mentoring, friendship, and kindness. I feel privileged to have been among those to whom he opened his home, and along with the many things I shall remember and miss, there is also the Centerba we would share during our conversations.

Once we are free of this terrible pandemic, we shall commemorate Joseph in the manner in which he so deserves.

Book Presentation of Future: il domani narrato dalle voci di oggi

On February 4, 2020, at the Calandra Institute was a presentation of Future: il domani narrato dalle voci di oggi, edited by Igiaba Scego. The evening featured Calandra’s dean Anthony Julian Tamburri giving opening comments and serving as moderator; Candice Whitney, who gave a general presentation of the book; Camilla Hawthorne, who spoke on “The Significance of Future and ‘African Italy’”; and Marie Moise and Angelica Pesarini, who gave readings from the work.