The Quest for the Great American Novel with Dr. Joseph Luzzi

The Quest for the Great American Novel with Dr. Joseph Luzzi


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In 1869, as the American nation was recovering from the devastations of the Civil War, the critic John William DeForest described the quest for "the Great American Novel," suggesting how difficult it was to capture the complexity and diversity of the American experience in a single book. The past century and a half has seen many remarkable attempts by a wide range of authors to meet this challenge and distill the essence of U.S. history into the pages of unforgettable writing. This seminar will explore the books that best represent this quest to tell the American story.

What does it mean to be "American"? What books have had the greatest impact on U.S. history and culture? How can fiction illuminate the hard truths of American life? This conversation seeks to answer those questions. We will explore how masterpieces ranging from William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Toni Morrison's Beloved to Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Philip Roth's American Pastoral reveal the characters and conflicts of the American spirit, as we also consider contributions from writers as varied (and essential) as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, and contemporaries Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Franzen.

Led by an expert on literature, Professor Joseph Luzzi, this interactive seminar will explore an array of great American novels. Designed to inform curiosity as well as educate, participants will come away with an increased understanding of some of America’s finest works of literature.

Joseph Luzzi received his PhD from Yale University and is Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, where he has taught since 2002 after being a visiting faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. A frequent contributor to publications including the New York Times, TLS, and Chronicle of Higher Education, he is the author of 5 books, including My Two Italies, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection and In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love, a Vanity Fair “Must-Read” selection. His work has been translated into multiple languages and his many awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. In 2017 he was named Cittadino Onorario/Honorary Citizen in Acri, Calabria, his Italian parents’ birthplace. His next book is Botticelli’s Secret: The Lost Drawings and the Rediscovery of the Renaissance, which will be published by W. W. Norton. Professor Luzzi is the founder of the Virtual Book Club, an online community of readers dedicated to exploring some of the best books ever written. Learn more at JosephLuzzi.com.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 2 reviews
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M
M.R.
A Big Idea made accessible

I LOVED this Conversation! Very thought provoking. Made me want to go back and reread Melville, Faulkner and Hawthorne. Prof. Luzzi has impressive breadth and deep intellectual understanding of his subject matter, poses provocative questions and enlarges our thinking about this interesting question: what is The Great American Novel?

M
M.R.
A Big Idea made accessible

I LOVED this Conversation! Very thought provoking. Made me want to go back and reread Melville, Faulkner and Hawthorne. Prof. Luzzi has impressive breadth and deep intellectual understanding of his subject matter, poses provocative questions and enlarges our thinking about this interesting question: what is The Great American Novel?

Customer Reviews

Based on 2 reviews
100%
(2)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
M
M.R.
A Big Idea made accessible

I LOVED this Conversation! Very thought provoking. Made me want to go back and reread Melville, Faulkner and Hawthorne. Prof. Luzzi has impressive breadth and deep intellectual understanding of his subject matter, poses provocative questions and enlarges our thinking about this interesting question: what is The Great American Novel?

M
M.R.
A Big Idea made accessible

I LOVED this Conversation! Very thought provoking. Made me want to go back and reread Melville, Faulkner and Hawthorne. Prof. Luzzi has impressive breadth and deep intellectual understanding of his subject matter, poses provocative questions and enlarges our thinking about this interesting question: what is The Great American Novel?