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  • Writer's pictureGEM LAB

ENZO TRAVERSO SEMINAR: Left-Wing Melancholia



*This is a public event, open to all; however, we do ask that you register your interest. Once you have provided contact information, you will be redirected to Google Drive to download the preparatory texts for the seminar. Please read these in advance. Please register via

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War but also the rise of a melancholic vision of history as a series of losses. For the political left, the cause lost was communism, and this trauma determined how leftists wrote the next chapter in their political struggle and how they have thought about their past since. Throughout the twentieth century, argues Left-Wing Melancholia, from classical Marxism to psychoanalysis to the advent of critical theory, a culture of defeat and its emotional overlay of melancholy have characterized the leftist understanding of the political in history and in theoretical critique.Drawing on a vast and diverse archive in theory, testimony, and image and on such thinkers as Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, and others, the intellectual historian Enzo Traverso explores the varying nature of left melancholy as it has manifested in a feeling of guilt for not sufficiently challenging authority, in a fear of surrendering in disarray and resignation, in mourning the human costs of the past, and in a sense of failure for not realizing utopian aspirations. Yet hidden within this melancholic tradition are the resources for a renewed challenge to prevailing regimes of historicity, a passion that has the power to reignite the dialectic of revolutionary thought.t here. You can insert images and videos by clicking on the icons above.

Speaker Bio

Enzo Traverso is a historian of modern and contemporary Europe; his research focuses on the intellectual history and the political ideas of the twentieth century. He was born in Italy, studied history at the University of Genoa and received his PhD from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) of Paris in 1989. Before coming to Cornell in 2013, he taught political science for many years in France. He has been a visiting professor at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, the Universidad de Valencia, the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the Freie Universität of Berlin, the UNAM of Mexico City, the Universidad Nacional de La Plata and the Universidad Tres de Frebrero of Buenos Aires. His publications, all translated into different languages, include a dozen authored and edited collections. Several of his works investigate the impact of political and mass violence in the European culture. He is currently preparing a book on the representations of the Jewish intellectual in Germany, France and Italy at the turn of the twentieth century, as well as an edited book on the history of revolutions. Awarded in 2014 (Premio Pozzale, Empoli, Florence) and 2016 (Huésped de Honor Extraordinario, Universidad Nacional de La Plata), for his historical essays.

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