HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Joseph Luzzi

Cultural Commentator, Writer, Professor, and Speaker


  • Love and Death in Dante's Inferno
  • Five Books That Changed the World
  • From Twain to Toni Morrison: An American Literary Journal
  • Do Good Readers Make Good Leaders? The Books That Inspired Our Best Presidents


New York
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Joseph Luzzi is an award-winning author and widely sought after speaker whose recent books include My Two Italies, a New York Times “Editors’ Choice,” and In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, History, and the Mysteries of Love, a Vanity Fair “Must-Read” selection that has been translated into Italian, German, and Korean. He received his PhD from Yale and is Professor of Comparative Literature at Bard College. Luzzi’s honors and awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and fellowships at the National Humanities Center and Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. An active critic and cultural commentator, Luzzi’s essays and reviews appear frequently in the New York Times, Times Literary Supplement, and Chronicle of Higher Education, among many others. His recent speaking engagements include One Day University, the 92nd Street Y, IVY: The Social University, the Dante Society of America, the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, the University of Rome, Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Villa Il Palmerino in Florence, Italy.

Currently, Luzzi resides in New York.

Praise for Joseph Luzzi:

"At One Day University we work with over 200 different professors, and Joseph Luzzi is one of the very best. His ability to connect with any audience and explain complex material in an interesting and accessible way is quite remarkable. Plus, he has substantial expertise in so many areas (literature, film, history, language, etc.) that I can honestly say Professor Luzzi is a 'Renaissance Man' "
--Steven Schragis, Founder/Director, One Day University

Praise from Audience at One Day University:
From Audience Members:

“Prof. Luzzi’s presentation was brilliant and inspiring!...Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to keep learning!”

“Last night's presentation was just outstanding. It is no wonder that Professor Luzzi is a favorite at Bard; I would LOVE to hear another of his lectures. The lecture’s concept and content were so timely, but his presentation skills were what made it all-the-more fascinating.”

“Professor Luzzi certainly illustrated the theme that ‘good readers make good leaders’. He needs to take a permanent position as a cabinet member for every President!”

“Professor Luzzi was amazing. He offered us a great synthesis of history, literature, and politics.”

“I loved his energy, his knowledge and how he presented his material…I would sign up for other courses with Professor Luzzi!”

“Best Ever! Bring him back...”

“Perfect style and delivery.”

“Professor Luzzi was outstanding. Enjoyed every minute of it.”

“So informative. We would definitely take another of Luzzi 's courses. He is so passionate about his subject—and funny!”

“Prof Luzzi was outstanding. This was our first experience with One Day University, and it has whetted our appetite for mire. Joe Luzzi will be hard to beat!”

“Last night's presentation with Joseph Luzzi was OUTSTANDING! Please bring him back for more!”

“Absolutely wonderful. Could have listened for hours.”

“Dr. Luzzi was an excellent speaker and this was my favorite lecture of the 8-10 lectures I’ve heard through One Day University.”

"As an educator and author, Joseph Luzzi, represents brilliance, charm, elegance, and formidable knowledge.  His enthusiasm for literature, especially Dante, is intoxicating and awe-inspiring.  One has the feeling, whether hearing or reading him, of the deep passion and profound appreciation he possesses on a dazzling variety of subjects.  His felicity of language in conveying his insights and observations is exemplary!  RoundTable Cultural Seminars, an adult education organization, is honored to be one of the recipients of his extraordinary intellect. "
--Nancy Becker and Adriana Mnuchin, RoundTable Cultural Seminars

"Joseph is an excellent speaker, with great knowledge, insight, and enthusiasm about his topics.  During that particular presentation, attendees had a better understanding of Italian films, their directors, the purpose of particular scenes and how they relate to the story and its visual impact.  In addition, Joseph speaks and writes from the heart. He is able to relate to his audience and he is humble.  I think that comes from his upbringing and his experiences in life. I loved MY TWO ITALIES and I look forward to reading IN A DARK WOOD."
--Camille Spicola, President, Italian American Historical Society of Rhode Island

"Joseph is a natural speaker who connects well with audiences. He is personable and pleasant to work with and our attendees have always responded positively to him. His extensive knowledge of Italian history, literature, art and cinema infuses his presentations, yet he makes his subjects easily accessible to listeners who may not be familiar with them. In the Dante program, for example, he spoke of how difficult he initially found Dante's work, since understanding it depended dauntingly on knowing other literature and history of the era. He described the rewards of his perseverance with contagious enthusiasm. In the cinema talk, he illuminated several classic Italian movies, showing us pivotal scenes from each, and setting them all in historical context. Every event we have scheduled has been well received and I would happily recommend him as a speaker to any venue that might be considering him."
--Jessica Wilson, Program Librarian, South Kingstown Public Library/Peace Dale

“We had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Luzzi at the Casa Colombo Center for the Arts last year. He spoke about his wonderful book, My Two Italies and read passages as well. The audience thoroughly enjoyed not only what he said, but his presentation. There was an abundance of smiling, nodding heads throughout, and he was forced to remain quite late to answer questions, sign books, and speak personally to us all. His presentation was articulate, humorous, and moving. We are happy to know that he has a new book!"
--Fran DePalma, Program Chair, and Dr. Louis Iozzi, Chariman of the Board, Casa Colombo Center for the Arts

Praise for In a Dark Wood:

"Powerful and indispensable, Joseph Luzzi unites emotion and ideas in a work that defies categorization, except for the category marked 'brilliant'. If every academic wrote like this, the humanities would be prospering."
--Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Super Sad True Love Story

"Joseph Luzzi lived through something terrible, and has made something beautiful. In a Dark Wood is a memoir of love and loss; but more than that, it is a powerful testimony to the consolation---even salvation---than an engagement with great literature can supply."
--Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch

"Luzzi's story is intensely personal, but holds universal appeal for anyone who has experienced love and loss. As he grasps blindly for routes out of his personal underworld, both he and the reader discover that only a change of mind and heart can open the way to love and fulfillment."

"Luzzi honestly grapples with profound questions about being a man and father in this very literary and very personal work."
--Publisher's Weekly 

"A forthright chronicle of emergence from darkness."
--Kirkus Reviews

In a Dark Wood conveys an engrossing struggle to build a life after enormous personal loss and the luminous power of literature to transform sorrow’s exile into a kind of blessing.”
--The New York Journal of Books

“You say you’ve not read The Divine Comedy…. It doesn’t matter. Luzzi writes with the economy and flair of a novelist…[and] we travel deep inside the emotional process by which the poet [Dante] used his imagination to construct a narrative to deal with grief. …Luzzi makes it all personal when he twines his historical analysis…with his own dark emotional terrain.”