Readings in common
Paolo Virno
3 - 4 March 2014

Texts by Sigmund Freud e Reinhart Koselleck

In an activity initially developed by the Libera Università Metropolitana, Studio Roma has decided to experiment with readings in-common as part of its own program, to stimulate research based on active participation, dialogue and discussion. In the present economic, political and social crisis, the reading of The Uncanny by Freud can take on an original force: it permits us to underline the ambivalence that a critical situation brings with it, where there is no other refuge than the one outlined by the peril itself, and where what previously played a role of protection and security has been transformed into peril. The transformations of the present imposed by the crisis has been described through the reading of the essay by Koselleck entitled «Space of experience» and «horizon of expectation»: two historical categories, regarding the landslide of conditions of possibility of experience and, as a result, of history itself.


Paolo Virno

A philosopher, he has taught Ethics of Communication at the University of Calabria, and is now a professor of Philosophy of Language at the Roma Tre University. Starting in the 1970s, he has contributed to many publications on radical political theory and philosophy, including “Metropoli”, “Luogo comune”, “Futur Antérieur”, “Derive Approdi”, “Forme di vita”. He is one of the people involved in the Libera Università Metropolitana (LUM) of Rome. His initial field of research was the heterodox Marxism of the Italian labor movement and of Walter Benjamin. He soon moved on to develop, through intense confrontation with authors like Ferdinand de Saussure, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Austin, Émile Benveniste, an original materialistic theory of language. More recently, his philosophy of language has critically come to terms with the themes proposed by the philosophical anthropology of Arnold Gehlen and Helmuth Plessner, and with the political and legal theory of Carl Schmitt. Virno has published extensively in Italian (please consult the Italian page of Studio Roma for a comprehensive list), some of his writings have been traslated into English on the platform Generation Online. With Semiotext(e) for MIT Press, Virno has published A Grammar of the Multitude (2004) and Multitude between Innovation and Negation (2008); for University of Minnesota Press he edited with Michael Hardt Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (1996).

Monday 03 March
Biblioteca Vallicelliana - Piazza della Chiesa Nuova 18 – Roma

Paolo Virno reads The Uncanny by Sigmund Freud

Clarifying the fact that the uncanny is not, as one might think, the unusual, Freud writes: the uncanny is that « that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar». More precisely, we perceive as uncanny the unexpected resurfacing of the repetition of what had an «apotropaic function» (to banish, to keep fear at a distance), but was later repressed (if from childhood) or overcome (if archaic). Unlike Freud, Virno approaches the uncanny through an ethical-political interpretation. Uncanny, on the contemporary scene, is «the acute threat that emanates from presently frequented refuges, or the danger triggered by certain “reactions” to the perilous nature of the world-context. Ease is the protection of the uncanny, or that secondary refuge that safeguards from destructive refuges» (Virno, Mondanità).


Vallicelliana Library

With an architecture by Francesco Borromini, it is established as library in 1565 by the Congregation of the Oratory and is opened to the public in 1581. According to the rule of the oratory, the meals needed to be accompanied by the reading and discussion on religious texts. The library holds manuscripts of the Reform and of the Countereform- the members of the Oratory were well known censors-, of Medieval studies and several volumes of humanistic studies, including the commentaries of Aristotle and the ancient musical heritage of the Oratory. After a serious ransacking during the French occupation, the library acquires in 1883 volumes on the history of the city of Rome and its provinces.


Tuesday 04 March
Biblioteca Angelica - Piazza Sant’Agostino 8 – Roma

Paolo Virno reads «Space of experience» and «horizon of expectation»: two historical categories by Reinhart Koselleck

In the essay from 1975 entitled «Space of experience» and «horizon of expectation»: two historical categories, Koselleck defines the conditions of possibility as “metahistorical” and anthropologically based categories of history itself. Experience and expectation, in fact, are the axes, the abscissa and the ordinate, inside which history presents itself. To use the words of Koselleck: «gnoseological categories that help us to found the possibility of a history. In other terms: no history exists that is not constituted by experiences and expectations of men to the extent that they act and undergo.» In the reading of Koselleck’s text, Paolo Virno proposes that we grasp the contemporary condition in which we are immersed, marked by biocapitalism and its crisis, as the era in which these very conditions of possibility fall short.


Angelica Library

Founded in 1604 by Augustinian bishop Angelo Rocca, it was the first European library opened to the public and not limited by census or condition. The bequests of the Roman aristocrats and of the guardian of the Vatican Library Lukas Holste represent the basis of this institution that gained a widespread interest and notoriety because of its unprecedented openness to the city. In the second half of the 18th century, architect Luigi Vanvitelli restructures the salon and the entire building, and at the same time, the catalogue of the printed works is compiled. Following the birth of the Republic, the Library is acquired by the Italian State, that since 1873, increases considerably the library’s patrimony, among which are counted ten thousand volumes from Accademia Letteraria dell’Arcadia.

Gallery: Paolo Virno reads Freud – 03 March 2014
Gallery: Paolo Virno reads Koselleck – 04 March 2014