I am a Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard. I like to teach and for this reason I’ve never been able to fully enjoy my sabbatical leaves. In fact most if not all my ideas and critical insights have come to my mind while teaching or preparing a class. On the other hand, I dislike administrative bureaucracy, including meetings, committees, and reports. I think that their recent multiplication is a deliberate, consistent attempt to put education under the direct control of managers rather than teachers, with the purpose of governing creativity and undermining critical thinking. I don’t like very much conferences either, and although I praise intellectual exchange and communication, I believe that many academics produce excessive carbon footprints, like watermelons in Boston supermarkets during the winter. Both administrative “duties” and conferences are too often an excuse not to read books, which I still consider a fundamental tool not for acquiring knowledge (which can be obtained in other ways) but for resisting homogenization.
I am interested in the history of ideas, in politics, and in cultural change. I have worked on the Renaissance, Italy during the 19th and 20th century, and contemporary issues. My most recent books are La creazione del passato. Sulla modernità culturale (Sellerio, 2009), and Paura di cambiare. Crisi e critica del concetto di cultura (Donzelli, 2010). From 2007 to 2011 I wrote weekly reviews for Italica, the online site of Rai Internazionale that at the beginning of 2012 was shut down by the Monti government in order to save the Italian economy. I am the editor of Romance Sphere, the online magazine of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard. I regularly teach courses on aesthetics, fiction, the Renaissance, soccer (with Mariano Siskind), the concept of time, and cultural agency (with Doris Sommer). I write Controanalisi/Counter-analysis and Inelegant Thoughts, two blogs about culture as counter-hegemonic discourse of ordinary life. My other blogs are Italians 101 and Soccers studies.