A Brief History of the Institute

In the late 1960s, Giorgio Tagliacozzo (b. Rome, 1909 -- d. New York, 1996) organized a volume of original essays to celebrate the tercentenary of the birth of Giambattista Vico (b. 1668).  He visited scholars in Europe and the United States to discuss Vico and organize this volume.  The result, Giambattista Vico: An International Symposium (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969) presents forty-one essays, from all fields of the humanities and social sciences, examining the significance of Vico's thought from historical, philosophical, and scientific perspectives.  The book was reviewed worldwide by a great number of academic journals and by the public press.  It provided focus and shape to the current renaissance in Vico studies in the English-speaking world.

Tagliacozzo was Libero Docente at the University of Rome (1935-1938).  He came to the United States during World War II.  He was Lecturer at the New School for Social Research (1946-1961) and was Editor of the Voice of America's Radio University (1944-1974).  After editing the first Symposium he continued indefatigably to contact scholars to urge them to read Vico, which resulted in his editing further collections of essays on Vico.  He collected some of his own writings, including his five-part "Toward a History of Recent Vico Scholarship in English" (published originally in New Vico Studies), in The Arbor scientiae Reconceived and the History of Vico's Resurrection (1993); in several essays he narrates his "discovery" of Vico as the key figure for his research on his conception of a tree of knowledge, which he continued to the end of his life.

Donald Phillip Verene met Tagliacozzo in 1969 through a mutual interest in Ernst Cassirer's conception of symbolic forms and the philosophy of culture.  By coincidence, Verene had recently compiled a philosophical anthology, Man and Culture (Dell Laurel, 1970), in which he presents Vico as the founder of both the philosophy of history and the philosophy of culture.  In 1974 Tagliacozzo and Verene founded the Institute.  They began collaboration on a second collection of essays which would further explore the implications of Vico's philosophical ideas and examine the connections of his thought to questions in the humanities and social sciences.

The resulting Giambattista Vico's Science of Humanity (Johns Hopkins, 1976) contains twenty-eight essays by leading international scholars from various fields.  Included is the translation by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch of Vico's "Pratica" or "Practic of the New Science" a chapter from Vico's revisions of the New Science which did not appear in their original translation of Vico's major work (Cornell 1948) but which is included in the corrected, revised edition (Cornell, 1984).

Also in the Science of Humanity is Molly Black Verene's first bibliography of work on Vico in English, the beginning of the comprehensive bibliography which is now an ongoing project of the Institute, updated annually in New Vico Studies. The latest edition of the bibliography appeared in book form: Vico: A Bibliography of Works in English from 1884 to 1994 (Philosophy Documentation Center, 1994).

In January 1976, in connection with Columbia University and the Graduate Faculty of the New School, the Institute sponsored a week-long international conference in New York City, on the general topic of "Vico and Contemporary Thought." It was the first meeting on Vico held in the United States.  The conference involved a wide and diverse group of scholars in the study of Vico.  Sessions were held at the New School and at Columbia in the Casa Italiana; the sessions were prominently reported in the New York Times

The conference papers were first published in two special issues of Social Research (43, nos. 3 and 4 [1976]), and were republished as Vico and Contemporary Thought, edited by Tagliacozzo, Michael Mooney, and Verene (Humanities, 1979).  The volume includes the first English translation of Vico's oration, "On the Heroic Mind," by Elizabeth Sewell and Anthony C. Sirignano.

A second international conference organized and sponsored by the Institute, "Vico/Venezia," was held in August 1978 at the Giorgio Cini Foundation, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, in Venice, Italy. This was a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the publication of Vico's Autobiography, which appeared in the first issue of the journal, Raccolta d'opuscoli scientifici e filologici (1728). This week-long conference involved scholars from many countries, with papers on the Autobiography and on various aspects of Vico's thought. 

Many of the papers appear in Vico: Past and Present (Humanities, 1981) and in two Italian volumes, Vico oggi, edited by Andrea Battistini (Armando Armando 1979) and Vico e Venezia  edited by Cesare de Michelis and Gilberto Pizzamiglio (Olschki, 1982). Leggere Vico , edited by Emanuele Riverso (Spirali, 1982), presented a number of essays in Italian translation, some of which were originally published in connection with the Institute. The next year Tagliacozzo published Vico and Marx: Affinities and Contrasts (Humanities, 1983), essays examining the  connections and differences between Vico's and Marx's conceptions of history and related questions.

Tagliacozzo and Verene founded New Vico Studies and published the first annual issue in 1983.  In June 1985, once again at the Cini Foundation in Venice, the Institute held a week-long conference, "Vico and Joyce."  This conference was conceived and organized by Donald Phillip Verene.  It involved over one hundred participants, from thirteen countries, including Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa, brought together for the first time to discuss the influence of Vico on James Joyce and the wider philosophical and literary meanings to be found in connecting their two forms of thought.  

Vico and Joyce, a volume of selected papers from the conference, edited by Verene and published on Bloomsday, 1987, opened a new topic in Joyce studies; it is the first work to explore fully the dimensions of connection between Vico and Joyce.

In the summer of 1993, a six-week seminar for twenty-five university and college faculty, "Vico and Humanistic Knowledge," was held in the Vico Institute at Emory University under the direction of Donald Phillip Verene, sponsored by a grant he received from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Among other topics, the importance of Vico's ideas for education in the tradition of humane letters was discussed by Andrea Battistini (Bologna), John Bishop (Berkeley), Gustavo Costa (Berkeley), Marcel Danesi (Toronto), Donald R. Kelly (Rutgers), Giuseppe Mazzotta (Yale), John O'Neill (York), and Nancy S. Struever (Johns Hopkins).

In cooperation with several other organizations, the Institute for Vico Studies helped to sponsor the 1999 international congress, "Pensar para el nuevo siglo.  Giambattista Vico y la cultura Europea," held in Spain, organized and directed by Josè M. Sevilla of the Centro de Investigaciones sobre Vico.

"Vico at the Millennium: Corso and ricorso" convened at the Institute for Vico Studies at Emory in April 2000.  The symposium format provided opportunity for more established Vico scholars to meet with younger colleagues.  Bruce A. Haddock (Swansea), Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the year 2000, Nancy S. Struever (Johns Hopkins), and John D. Schaeffer (Northern Illinois) presented themes, ideas, and questions for discussion.  Alexander U. Bertland (Hastings), Jams R. Goetsch, Jr. (Eckerd), Nancy du Bois Marcus (Spelman), Jennifer Rust Murray (Seattle), and Charlotte Smith Thomas (Mercer) were discussants.

There are four institutes or centers of Vico Studies.  Pietro Piovani founded the Centro di studi Vichiani in Naples (1971).  The Institute for Vico Studies at Emory University is the only Vico center in the English-speaking world (founded 1974).  The Centro de Estudios sobre Vico, in Seville, was founded by José M. Sevilla (1991). Under the direction of Pierre Francois Moreau and Paolo Cristofolini, a group of French scholars formed the Centre Giambattista Vico in Paris (1997).

New Vico Studies is one of three journals dedicated exclusively to Vico; the others are Bollettino del Centro di Studi Vichiani (Bulletin of the Center for Vico Studies), founded by Pietro Piovani in Naples, Italy in 1971, and Cuadernos sobre Vico, the journal of the Center for Vico Research founded by Josè M. Sevilla Fernández in Seville, Spain in 1991. The Bollettino publishes in Italian, and generally publishes articles on specific textual and historical questions relating to Vico; it also publishes a bibliography of works on and related to Vico studies.  The Cuadernos, published in Spanish, began in 1991. New Vico Studies publishes in English and English translation.