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Vico Lecture

The wide-ranging ideas of Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) on history, culture and myth have had a profound influence on the humanities and social sciences.

In 2000, Canadian Senator Jerry Grafstein donated to York two rare, Italian volumes of Vico’s works that were originally published in 1746. Senator Grafstein garnered the support of Elvio DelZotto (LLB Osgoode and senior partner of DelZotto, Zorzi) who rallied Italian-Canadian business leaders to fund an annual lecture at York in memory of his law partner Fred Zorzi. This lecture series remains an important link between York University and the community, and particularly the Italian-Canadian community.

2022 Vico & Marx: Comparing two interpretations of history

Date: Thursday, January 27, 2022

Vico and Marx sketch profile photo

In times of crisis, one feels the need to return to the reading of the “classics,” that is, to those authors, to those philosophical giants, who, despite the passage of time, are still essential to understanding society and continue to provide critical tools to transform it.  

Professor Marcello Musto’s engaging talk, “Vico & Marx: Comparing two interpretations of history” covered Giambattista Vico’s and Karl Marx’ personal histories and their influence on their times; it encapsulated and expanded on each philosophers’ concepts of history and society, including humanity’s role in construction of history, ideas of providence, colonization, and nation.

Marcello Musto is a Professor of Sociology at York University and is acknowledged globally as one of the authors who has made significant contributions to the revival of Marx studies over the last decade. His major writings comprise four single-authored books, eleven edited volumes, and more than 40 journal articles and books chapters.

His authored books include Another Marx: Early Manuscripts to the International (Bloomsbury, 2018); and The Last Years of Karl Marx: An Intellectual Biography (Stanford University Press, 2020); while his edited volumes include the recent Marx’s Capital after 150 Years: Critique and Alternative to Capitalism (Routledge, 2019); The Marx Revival: Key Concepts and New Interpretations (Cambridge University Press, 2020); and Karl Marx’s Writings on Alienation (Palgrave, 2021). His writings have been published worldwide in twenty-five languages.

Past Events

Amore in the City: A purpose driven approach to public life

November 7, 2019

2019's keynote address was given by Mayor of Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua. During this lecture, he discussed his commitment to public service and the role of political leaders in shaping society. Over his 30-year career in politics, Bevilacqua has occupied several prominent positions at the federal level and municipal level, which gives him a unique perspective on public life, and political philosophy in action.

Maurizio Bevilacqua

Matters of the Heart: Is there hope?

September 25, 2017

York University welcomed internationally renowned cardiac surgeon, Dr. Robert James “RJ” Cusimano, for his special lecture on life, death, faith and the wonders of the living, beating human heart. Dr. Cusimano’s engaging talk looks the importance of hope and compassion while engaging patients and their families. The full lecture can be viewed on YouTube.

Read more about the event in YFile.

Democratic Deficit: Universities and the Future of Democracy

February 15, 2011

Universities can play a critical role in confronting the democratic deficit pervading politics at every level, York’s George Fallis argued in the 2011 Giambattista Vico Lecture.

During his presentation, he argues that the problem must be confronted not just by political parties and parliaments but by universities. Universities are not just institutions of teaching and books, not just institutions of the economy, but institutions of democracy.

Marketization, Social Protection, Emancipation: Toward a Neo-Polanyian Conception of Capitalist Crisis

November 19, 2009

During her lecture, Nancy Fraser advocated for a reconceptualization of academic analyses of capitalist economies and how society – or, more specifically, her intellectual contemporaries – should engage in critical discussions of this subject.

As a launching-off point for her talk, she referred to the classic 1944 book by Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, which she characterized as an account of capitalist crisis, an intricate, historical process beginning with the laws of enclosure and the Industrial Revolution in Britain that, over the course of a century, transformed the entire world.

Read more about the event in YFile.

Political Psychology, American Myth and Hollywood Westerns: Politics and Truth in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

November 5, 2008

The 2008 Vico Lecture was delivered by Robert Pippen, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, Philosophy, at the University of Chicago.

“Vico’s single, great contribution to us in philosophy is his drawing attention to the significance of historical change in understanding all things human,” said Pippin. The historically transitional period that formed the subject of his Vico Lecture was the post-Civil War founding of the territorial United States and the conquest of the West. Pippin used American director John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance as the key example for his analysis.

Pippin suggested that the deception in Ford’s classic western was necessary in order for the new order to supplant the old. He characterized the conflict in the movie as typical of great westerns, a struggle between heroic and marshal virtues, and bourgeois virtues – especially the domestic ones – of compromise, peace and security.

“We make our own history and we make the stories about our history to attempt to explain it to us,” said Pippin. Stating that while the Greeks have Odysseus and the British have the Arthurian legend, in the United States, Pippin explained the genre of the Hollywood western offers a significant expression of American mythology and that the Hollywood western has turned the Trojan War into the American Civil War and that The Odyssey found its counterpart in the great migration west.

Read more about this event in YFile.

Vico and The New Science

November 1, 2006

The 2006 Vico Lecture was delivered by Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor in the Humanities for Italian at Yale University. Author of groundbreaking books on Dante, Boccaccio, Vico and other literary figures of the Renaissance, Mazzotta's passion and enthusiasm were unmistakable as he delivered his presentation. Guests listened carefully as Mazzotta brought them back in time into the mind of this great 18th-century author. The lecture was followed by some engaging discussions that took place during the concluding question and answer period.

Read more about the event in YFile.