Joseph Buttigieg, 1947-2019

Tributes paid to ‘greater scholar of the old school’ who was a renowned expert on Antonio Gramsci

February 14, 2019
Joseph Buttigieg

An internationally acclaimed scholar of literature and political thought has died.

Joseph Buttigieg was born in 1947 and grew up in Malta. He gained bachelor’s and then master’s degrees at the University of Malta, as well as another BA at Heythrop College in London and a doctorate from the State University of New York. In 1980, he joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where he was a fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, eventually retiring as William R. Kenan Jr professor emeritus of English.

An expert on modern literature and the relationship between culture and politics, Professor Buttigieg was close to leading post-colonial theorists such as Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak, and published a book on James Joyce’s aesthetics, A Portrait of the Artist in Different Perspective (1987). Yet his central scholarly interest was the Italian philosopher and political thinker Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). He edited and translated the first three of five proposed volumes of Gramsci’s complete Prison Notebooks for Columbia University Press (1992-2007) – a vast project that secured funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A founding member and then president of the International Gramsci Society, Professor Buttigieg co-edited, with Carmel Borg and Peter Mayo, Gramsci and Education (2002), which brought together many of the major names in the field. He was also asked by the Italian minister of culture to form part of the expert team overseeing the official national edition of Gramsci’s writings.

While at Notre Dame, Professor Buttigieg was the director of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, from its inauguration in 2010 until 2017. This offers merit awards of $25,000 (£19,200) per annum over four years to young scholars chosen for their leadership ability, academic accomplishment, commitment to service and moral character.

Peter Mayo, professor of sociology of education and adult education at the University of Malta, described Professor Buttigieg as “a great scholar of the old school” and “a great commentator on current American politics” who possessed “a strong sense of social justice” and “never threw professorial airs”.

In him, added Professor Mayo, “the Left has lost a great scholar of genuinely international acclaim”.

Professor Buttigieg died on 27 January. He is survived by his wife, Anne Montgomery, herself a faculty member at Notre Dame for 29 years, and his son, Pete, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who recently announced plans to run for president of the US in 2020 – the youngest and first openly gay person ever to do so.

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