In Memory of Luigi Monga (1941-2004): Teacher, Scholar, Traveler

Annali d'Italianistica, Annual 2004 | Go to article overview

In Memory of Luigi Monga (1941-2004): Teacher, Scholar, Traveler


Luigi Monga had just returned from a three-week visit to his beloved Italy on Monday, July 5, 2004. He spent Tuesday with his beloved wife Mary; then, following his decades-long routine, Wednesday morning he went out for his early jogging. He collapsed during his exercise just in front of the church where he had worshipped for many years. He died in the hospital on Saturday, July 10, 2004, in Nashville, TN. A religious service, with the Holy Mass, took place at his church on Wednesday, July 14. It was attended by his family and his many friends and colleagues. Luigi had just turned 63 on June 19.

Luigi was born in Milan, Italy, on June 19, 1941. After studying in Italy, he taught in England and Chad. In the late 1960s, he came to the United States, where he earned an MA and a PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University in 1976. He was fluent in English, French, Italian, and Spanish; he was also very knowledgeable of classical Greek and Latin. Time and again, however, he would resort to his native Milanese dialect, even with friends and colleagues who could not understand it, quoting centuries-old maxims and sayings, oftentimes echoing his beloved parents' preferred way of communicating with their three sons.

At Vanderbilt Luigi taught undergraduate and graduate students in French and Italian, advising doctoral students in several departments. He served as acting chair of the Department of French and Italian in 1995, as assistant to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and also as director of overseas study from 1995 to 1997.

Combining his passion for travel with his research on early-modern literature and culture, Luigi focused on the written records of the often arduous journeys of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europeans at all levels of society. Beginning in the 1980s, he became one of the first Italianists in North America to recognize travel literature as a viable field for scholarship. He coined the term "hodoeporics" to describe this field: from hodos, Greek for "a way, a path"; and poreuo, "to travel." His dream was to have this word added to the Oxford English Dictionary, as will certainly happen.

Author of well over seventeen books, seventy articles, and numerous translations, Luigi was a favorite among students during his twenty-eight years at Vanderbilt. He kept in touch with many of them years after their graduation and inspired his classes with a love of language, literature, and his field of specialization: hodoeporics.

Luigi nurtured a sincere passion for learning and scholarship throughout his life. He saw his latest publication just a few days before dying. In fact, his most recent book, The Journal of Aurelio Scetti: A Florentine Galley Slave at Lepanto (1565-1577), was published this past summer by the Arizona State University Press.

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