Italian Thought on COVID-19

“Italian Thought: Inside and Out,” a collaborative humanities graduate seminar taught by Laura Odello and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg in Spring 2020, was already underway when Italy and the U.S. successively became epicenters of the global coronavirus pandemic. As Italian philosophers and thinkers engaged in a rapid-fire analysis of the event and its implications, seminar participants and guest speakers explored those responses in turn. The ongoing collaborative project Italian Thought on COVID-19 features a series of essays and resources selected, translated, edited, and composed by seminar participants.

An introduction into what is called “Italian Thought,” the seminar offered close readings of texts considered as classics (the “Inside” of the title) while seeking to include and make functional other languages excluded from this discourse (the “Out” of the title: feminism, queer theory, psychoanalysis).

Laura Odello is Visiting Assistant Professor of French Studies. Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg is Director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women and Professor of Italian Studies and Comparative Literature.


Heretical Reflections by Sergio Benvenuto.
Translated by F. S. Ciccone and Andrea Sartori.
Every day our televisions remind us that we are in the midst of an unprecedented event, one that will leave nothing unchanged. Italian psychoanalyst Sergio Benvenuto offers a disenchanted counter-narrative. According to Benvenuto, true revolutions are not so easily televised. They unfold gradually, over years, and, as such, they exceed the limits of an “event.” Read more.

Take Care: Society of Care and Self-determination Income by Cristina Morini.
Translated by Francesca Zambon and edited by Julie Dind and Katia Rozenberg. Illustration by Katia Rozenberg.
COVID-19 reveals the gap between an imagined society of (caring) mothers and state structures that make people endure distance and die in solitude. In the era of the coronavirus, journalist and essayist Cristina Morini writes, an individual, unconditional income, is a condition for true self-determination. Read more.

What Can “Remaining” Mean Today? by Vito Teti.
Translated by Morris Karp and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg.
In the age of absolute mobility, the coronavirus crisis has suddenly forced most people into a condition of immobility. Anthropologist Vito Teti outlines an idea of what “to live,” “to stay,” and “to remain” in a place can mean in this emergency. Read more.

Coronavirus, That Place We All Call Home: Staying in Necessity and Responsibility by Vito Teti.
Translated by Morris Karp and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg.
During the coronavirus pandemic, most people have been forced to stay at home. Anthropologist Vito Teti reflects on the ambivalent meaning of the home in the history and culture of southern Italy, exploring a possible new meaning for the word “home.” Read more.

The Iatrogenic Society by Raffaele Alberto Venturo.
Translated by Pablo a Marca with proofreading, copyediting, and paratext by Alessandro Moghrabi.
Nature created the virus, but it is the technological system that transformed it into an epidemic. In this way, the virus issues its extreme blackmail: either sacrifice bare life or accelerate towards dystopia. Read more.

Plague Literatures. A dossier assembled by Geophrey Darrow and F. S. Ciccone. The response to crisis and disease is thought not only in philosophy but also, and just as importantly, in literature. Texts by Boccaccio, Isabella Whitney, John Donne, Daniel Defoe, Albert Camus, and Don DeLillo can help us think the present moment. Read more.