Professor Giovanna Brogi (Milan): Lecture on Shevchenko

Professor Giovanna Brogi Bercoff
Professor Giovanna Brogi Bercoff

2014 marks the bicentenary of the birth of the poet and painter Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), celebrated as the central figure in the shaping of modern Ukraine’s national identity.

On 18 September 2014, as part of the celebration of this anniversary, Professor Giovanna Brogi Bercoff of the University of Milan, Italy, delivered Monash University’s 2014 Louis Green Memorial Lecture at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne.

Taras Shevchenko’s Italy: Religion and Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Ukraine

The title of the Lecture was “Taras Shevchenko’s Italy: Religion and Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Ukraine.”

Professor Brogi Bercoff delivered the Lecture at the State Library of Victoria Village Roadshow Theatrette, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne. She addressed an audience in Sydney on the same theme on Sunday 21 September 2014.

The Louis Green Lecture

Monash University’s Louis Green Memorial Lecture Series was endowed by Professor Wallace Kirsop in honour of Louis Green, a notable Monash University historian of medieval and Renaissance Italy. The Lecture is delivered annually at the State Library of Victoria by a distinguished scholar in the discipline of the history of ideas.

The Louis Green Memorial Lecture Series is under the aegis of the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies and the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University.


Professor Brogi’s visit to Australia wass generously sponsored by

USFA featuredthe Ukrainian Studies Foundation in Australia Ltd.;

Adjunct Professor Wallace Kirsop; and

dnister logo square cmyk eng

Dnister Ukrainian Credit Co-operative Ltd.


Taras Shevchenko’s Italy: Religion and Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Ukraine

The poet and painter Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), celebrated as the central figure in the shaping of modern Ukraine’s national identity, was never in Italy, but many echoes of Italian literature and art are to be found in his works – from allusions to Dante’s Divine Comedy to more general attributes reflecting participation in the European Zeitgeist. A pupil of Karl Briullov, the doyen of Russian neo-classicist painters, Shevchenko was well acquainted with Italian Renaissance and Baroque art.

However, Shevchenko’s mental landscape of Italy is connected mainly with his conception of religion and his elaboration of evangelical values. The conflict between Roman Catholicism and what Shevchenko presented as the true message of the Gospels is one of the main themes of The Heretic, a poem devoted to the Czech reformer Jan Hus. The action takes place in Germany, but the representatives of the institutionalized Church who condemn Jan Hus to the stake are Roman Catholic hierarchs; their representation evokes Italian culture and the Roman ambience. Hus and the Czech revolutionary Jan Žižka are hypostases, on the one hand, of human dignity, freedom of conscience and Christian love, and on the other – of every nation’s right to freedom and independence. The connection with Italy is even stronger in the The Neophytes, a work set in ancient Rome and Sicily. There the Roman Empire is a transparent metaphor of the empire of the tsars, with its pagan ritualization of power and its worship of the emperor as a god.

Shevchenko’s images of Rome – a grotesque Nero with his court of servile nobles, the Appian Way with its luxurious villas, St Peter preaching to their dissolute pagan owners, wild beasts devouring Christians in the arenas, and the Colosseum in the moonlight – are rather stereotypical. In Shevchenko’s verse, however, they are transformed, taking their place within powerful allegories that condemn imperial despotism and the hypocritical religiosity that neglects Christian mercy and evangelical truth.

Giovanna Brogi Bercoff

Giovanna Brogi Bercoff is a professor of Slavic philology and Ukrainian literature in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Milan. She is the author and co-author of many articles and chapters on the medieval literature of Kyivan Rusʹ, the literary Baroque in Slavic countries, the phenomenon of multilingualism in Eastern Europe, the connections between Western Europe and the Slavic countries in Early Modern times, the history of Slavic Studies, and Taras Shevchenko in the context of Polish, Russian and European Romanticism. Professor Brogi Bercoff has also edited and co-edited numerous scholarly collections on these topics.

Professor Brogi Bercoff has held the post of director of the Institute of Languages and Literatures of Eastern Europe at the University of Milan. She has been President of the Italian Association of Slavic Studies. She has been a member of the presidium of the International Committee of Slavists (ICS) and president of the ICS International Commission on the history of Slavic Studies. She was a member of the International Association of Medievalists. Since 2000, Professor Brogi Bercoff has been president of the Italian Association of Ukrainian Studies. She has also been the European Vice-President of the International Association for Ukrainian Studies. Professor Brogi Bercoff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.