Marginal Man: Life of Emilio Goggio

Paul Redvers Brown

Publisher: Paul Redvers Brown Pages: 408 Price: (ebook) $1.99 ISBN: Reviewed: February, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Marginal Man, Paul Redvers Brown traces the life of his grandfather, Emilio Goggio, an Italian immigrant who became a prominent Italian studies professor at the University of Toronto (UT) in the early 20th century.

At age 14, Goggio emigrated from Italy in1899 to join his father in Boston. His father had preceded him there to seek economic opportunity. His brother and mother soon followed, and Goggio flourished academically. Steeped with pride in his heritage, he embarked on a career devoted to “spreading the study of Italian culture and civilization” after graduating Harvard, where he later earned his doctorate.

Goggio spent the bulk of his career teaching Italian at UT, beginning in 1910. As Italy veered toward fascism in the 1920s, Goggio found Mussolini’s showmanship and ideology intriguing. By praising Italy’s political and economic achievements to Toronto’s Italian community, he assisted emissaries of Italy’s fascist government with their efforts to establish credibility abroad. In 1931, Italy knighted him in recognition of his contribution to Italian studies in North America.

After WWII broke out, Canada cracked down on alleged enemy aliens, and Goggio was arrested and held for a month in 1940. He returned to his UT position but avoided political discourse and never spoke of his detainment. Over time, he rebuilt the Italian department after it suffered setbacks due to fascist Italy’s pariah status.

Brown’s meticulous research documents each part of Goggio’s life. While intent on securing his grandfather’s legacy as a significant advocate of Italian studies, Brown does not shy away from raising Goggio’s character flaws or acknowledging that he never explicitly condemned fascism. Although the narrative occasionally runs dry and includes unnecessary information on ancillary figures, Brown provides an engaging look at an individual who saw education as a means “to blunt bigotry using the evidence of cultural achievement.”

In all, this is a comprehensive biography of a prominent Italian studies professor that sheds light on the immigrant experience.

BlueInk Heads-Up: This book will be of particular interest to Toronto’s Italian community and students of Italian studies.

Author's Current Residence
Encinitas, California
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