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Some five hundred years ago, Sandro Botticelli, a painter of humble origin, created works of unearthly beauty. A star of Florence’s art world, he was commissioned by a member of the city’s powerful Medici family to execute a near-impossible project: to illustrate all one hundred cantos of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, the ultimate visual homage to that “divine” poet.  

A Westerly native, Joseph Luzzi (PhD Yale) is Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College.  He was recently a Wallace Fellow at Harvard’s Villa I Tatti, where he was writing a cultural history of Dante’s Divine Comedy that will appear with Princeton University Press.

Professor Luzzi is the author of Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy (Yale University Press, 2008), which received the MLA’s Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies; A Cinema of Poetry: Aesthetics of the Italian Art Film (Johns Hop-kins University Press, 2014), a finalist for the international prize “The Bridge Book” Award; 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).   His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, TLS, Bookforum, and American Scholar, among others, and his scholarly writing has appeared in PMLA, Modern Language Notes, Modern Language Quarterly, Raritan, Italica, and Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century.

The first American-born child in his Italian immigrant family, Professor Luzzi was named Cittadino Onorario (Honorary Citizen) of Acri, Calabria, in 2017.  Among his other honors are a Dante Society of America essay prize, Yale College teaching prize, and fellowships from the National Humanities Center and Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center.