Your Seminar Leader
I have been teaching the “great books” ever since I received my PhD from Yale in 2000 and became a professor, first at the University of Pennsylvania (2001-2002) and now at Bard College (2002-present), where I am a Professor of Comparative Literature. From 2009 to 2013 I co-directed Bard’s First-Year Seminar, a mandatory course for all 500 of our freshman that immerses students in the foundational works of the humanities, from Plato and the Bible to Nietzsche and Virginia Woolf. I am the author of the audio course The Art of Reading and an active public speaker on the power of literature, especially for One Day University, where my talks have included “The Genius of Shakespeare,” “How to Understand and Appreciate Great Literature,” and “Eight Books That Changed the World.” I have been invited to speak about literature at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cambridge, Rome’s La Sapienza, the Dante Society of America, the Italian Cultural Institutes of Chicago and New York, and many other universities and organizations throughout the world.
I am the author of four books, including My Two Italies (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing and the Mysteries of Love (HarperCollins, 2015). My essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Times of London, Los Angeles Times, Times Literary Supplement, Bookforum, American Scholar, ParisReview.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Time.com, among many others..
My awards include the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies,, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, a Yale College Teaching Prize, the Grandgent Essay Award from the Dante Society of America, and a Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.. The first American-born child in my Italian family, I live with my wife, a violinist, and three children in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley.