Article Title

On Witnessing


Paolo Valesio


In any international symposium, the interplay of discourses is complex (semiotic crisscrossings, an atmosphere of discordia concors, and so forth), but the roles of the participants are generally simplified by the relief in which each one of them is cast as the representative of a particular national culture. Accordingly, none of the other participants in this symposium had to question his or her representativeness, whether of Italian (Bologna) or American (Yale) culture. Good or bad, no such certainty is available to the present writer.

I speak from the perspective of the Italian American, the least glamorous and least vocal of all the clamoring minorities in contemporary America, a minority structurally complex and not yet fully visible. In the inner articulation of that minority, still largely to be studied, what I have to say here comes from its expatriate wing - one component among several, but a fully legitimate one, of the Italian American community. My speaking position is that of a transatlantic witness, not in the sense of one speaking from another Atlantic shore (a comfortably safe retreat, and witnessing positions are never such), but in the sense of one dwelling in a spiritual space between two shores. These tentative thoughts, though developed in monologue, prepare a dialogic script, which might be titled "The Professor of Confusion Meets The Professor of Silence."