Francesco Erspamer, a scholar with broad expertise in Italian literature, culture, and history from the Renaissance to the present, has been named professor of Romance languages and literatures in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, effective July 1.
Erspamer, 51, is currently associate professor of Italian studies at New York University (NYU), where he has taught since 1993.
“Professor Erspamer is a prolific scholar who brings unusually deep expertise in both Renaissance and 20th century Italy and a mastery of contemporary debates in literary theory and cultural studies,” says William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “He has also proven a successful teacher of graduate and undergraduate students and an enterprising administrator as chair of NYU’s Department of Italian Studies. I am pleased to welcome him to our faculty, and I look forward to his contributions.”
Erspamer’s first book, an examination of dueling and honor in Renaissance Italy titled La biblioteca di don Ferrante: Duello e onore nella cultura del Cinquecento (1982), created a sensation not only in scholarly circles but also in the mainstream Italian media. Now a classic in its genre and a mainstay among students of the Renaissance, the volume has earned Erspamer ample praise for his knowledge of various European literatures, his ability to mix literary, political, and cultural history, and his elegant and engaging writing.
Erspamer is author or editor of four other books, including editions on the Renaissance letters of Pietro Aretino that have contributed fundamentally to scholarly understanding of the culture of the Italian Renaissance. He has also compiled, annotated, and published the Renaissance writings of Iacopo Sannazaro and Lorenzino de Medici.
Over the past two decades, Erspamer has also built a reputation for his analysis of 20th century Italian culture. His forthcoming book L’invenzione del passato: Sul tempo della cultura (2005) proposes a new definition of culture and of the relationship between modernity and the past, vigorously confronting many of the most challenging and innovative theories that have occupied Western intellectuals for the past 50 years.
During his tenure as chair of NYU’s Department of Italian Studies from 1996 to 2001, Erspamer devoted considerable energy to building that department. He spearheaded initiatives including student exchanges with Italian universities and the organization of academic conferences that augmented NYU’s visibility and reputation among Italian scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.
Erspamer holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Università di Roma, awarded in 1979 and 1982, respectively. Prior to joining the NYU faculty as an associate professor, he was an assistant professor of comparative language and literature at Seconda Università di Roma from 1984 to 1993. He was a visiting professor at Harvard in the fall of 2004, and has also been a visiting faculty member at McGill University, the University of California, Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Toronto, and Arizona State University.
Erspamer is currently a member of the editorial board of the journal Italian Studies in Southern Africa, a regular contributor to the Italian edition of the New York Review of Books, and a member of the executive board for the Zerilli-Marimò Prize for Italian Fiction. He has previously served on the executive board of the Renaissance Society of America and the executive committee of Italica, a virtual campus of Italian language and culture.