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Gustavo Costa (1930–2012)

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 7, 2013

Gustavo Costa, emeritus colleague in the Department of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, passed away on August 29 of this year, at the age of 82.  Gustavo Costa took his laurea at La Sapienza and a post-doctoral specialization at the Istituto per gli Studi Storici in Naples thereafter.  

Following brief apprenticeships in Rome and Lyon, in 1961 Costa joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Italian, where he served until his retirement in 1991 first as instructor, then as assistant, associate, and full professor, with two terms as department chair.  

Gustavo’s scholarly accomplishments were extraordinary, both in quality and in quantity.  Perhaps best known for his work on the literary, intellectual and cultural milieu of Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries (and its relationship to the European Enlightenment more generally—including Locke, Montesquieu, Descartes and many, many others), and above all on Vico, he published as well on Dante, Pontano, Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Foscolo, Mazzini, and Pirandello, among many others.  His oeuvre includes 3 long monographic essays, 111 articles and review articles, 52 notes, and 332 reviews.  His books number nine, six of which, remarkably, appeared in the years since his retirement.  (See below for bibliographic references.)  

Costa’s vast learning and incisive intellect, his attention both to the great questions and to the crucial details of Italian culture, were, and are, an inspiration to his colleagues and former students, as, indeed, was his extraordinary dedication to our profession, a dedication that continued to shine out until the very hour of his death.  He is survived by his widow, the scholar Natalia Costa-Zalessow, by his daughter Dora, and his grandson Alexander.   

Books by Gustavo Costa

  1. La critica omerica di Thomas Blackwell (1701-1757) (Florence: G.C. Sansoni 1959).
  2. La leggenda dei secoli d’oro nella letteratura italiana (Bari: Laterza, 1972). 
  3. Le antichità germaniche nella cultura italiana da Machiavelli a Vico (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1977).
  4. Il sublime e la magia da Dante a Tasso (Napoli: Edizioni scientifiche italiane, 1994).
  5. Vico e l’Europa: Contro «la boria delle nazioni» (Milan: Guerini, 1996).
  6. Malebranche e Roma: Documenti dell’Archivio della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede (Florence: L.S. Olschki, 2003).
  7. Thomas Burnet e la censura pontificia (con documenti inediti) (Florence: L.S. Olschki, 2006)
  8. Celestino Galiani e la Sacra Scrittura: Alle radici del pensiero napolitano del Settecento, Pref. by Farizio Lomonaco. (Rome: Aracne, 2011).
  9. Epicureismo e pederastia: Il «Lucrezio» e l’ «Anacreonte» di Alessandro Marchetti secondo il Sant’Uffizio (Florence:L.S. Olschki, 2012).

 [Obituary by Albert R. Ascoli, University of California, Berkeley]


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