Antonio Gramsci’s prison notebooks to go on display in London for the first time

Thursday 26 October 2017

The prison notebooks of the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) are to go on display for the first time ever outside of Italy. They will be exhibited at the Italian Cultural Institute, Belgrave Square, London, from 30 October to 10 November.

‘Antonio Gramsci: Prison Notebooks’ marks the 80th anniversary of Gramsci’s death and is curated by Silvio Pons and Francesco Giasi, the president and director, respectively, of the Fondazione Gramsci Onlus in Rome. It is produced in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory based at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Additional support is provided by Fondazione di Sardegna.

Gramsci, a Marxist theorist and politician, was imprisoned by the Italian Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini in 1926. He compiled the notebooks, in 33 volumes, between 1929 and 1935, the year he was released. They are an important contribution to twentieth-century political theory and philosophy, ranging widely over Italian history, the role of the intellectual in society, popular literature, and other philosophical, historiographic, and political ‘quistioni’ (themes), including the philosophy of Benedetto Croce and the politics of Niccolò Machiavelli. Gramsci is perhaps best known for his theory of hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling class use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies.

'We are delighted to partner with the Italian Cultural Institute, the Gramsci Foundation and the Fondazione di Sardegna to bring Antonio Gramsci's prison notebooks to London for the first time’, says Katia Pizzi, director of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory. ‘Gramsci's thought is immensely generative and its influence is far from waning. Notions such as hegemony, the subaltern, and passive revolution bear significantly on disciplines as diverse as anthropology, cultural studies, geography, international relations, translation studies, and language to name but a few. This is a unique opportunity to view the original Quaderni.' 

The exhibition aims at renewing the relationship between Gramsci’s thought and the British cultural landscape, a relationship kindled by the publication of the first English anthology of the Notebooks, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, edited by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith in 1971.  

Through a series of related events, the exhibition will stimulate discussion of the current influence of Gramsci’s theories in the United Kingdom. 

Related events

Monday, 30 October, 7pm
Opening talk

Silvio Pons

Silvio Pons, curator of the exhibition, president of the Fondazione Gramsci, and professor of contemporary history at the Universitá di Roma Tor Vergata, has written several works on communism, the Cold War, and contemporary Italy. He was editor of A Dictionary of 20th Century Communism, published in the United States by Princeton University Press. His latest book is The Global Revolution: A History of International Communism, 1917-1991 (Oxford University Press). He is general editor of The Cambridge History of Communism, published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press.

Monday, 6 November, 7pm
Talk with the author of Gramsci in Gran Bretagna

Giuseppe Vacca

Giusepe Vacca is an Italian politician and historian, and president, since January 1988, of the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci di Roma, which has acquired several documents from the Comintern and PCUS archives in Moscow and the entire historical archive of the Italian Communist Party. Professor Vacca is an expert on Idealism in 1900 and Italian Hegelism in the second half of the twentieth century, with special reference to the genesis of Marxism in Italy.

Thursday, 9 November, 7pm
‘The Modern Gramsci, Theorist of the Time of Defeat’

Donald Sassoon
Emeritus Professor of Comparative European History
Queen Mary University of London

Thursday, 7 December, 7pm
‘Gramsci and the History of the Subordinate Classes in Italy’

David Forgacs
Guido and Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò Chair in Contemporary Italian Studies; Professor of Italian; Chair, Department of Italian Studies, New York University

All events take place at the Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8NX, and are free and open to the public.

For further details, please visit the Italian Cultural Institute website.