Literature’s Nobel Prize: Who Won, Who Didn’t, and Why It All Matters

Bard College

Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) is the Asher B. Edelman Professor of Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, and he taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in The New York Times, TLS, The London Times, the Guardian, Chronicle of Higher Education, and on National Public Radio. Dr. Luzzi’s 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. He is the author of five books and recently created The Virtual Book Club: an international community of readers dedicated to exploring major literary works past and present.



Each year, passionate readers throughout the world wait for that October day when the greatest award in the world of books is announced: the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since 1901, the Swedish Academy has awarded the prize to an author from any country who has produced “the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction.” These subjective words have led to choices that have been alternately celebrated and criticized for more than a century.

This presentation will share with audiences the fascinating history and controversial decisions by the Nobel Prize committee, as we discover why some unexpected writers won (Bob Dylan!) and other legendary authors did not (Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and many others). We’ll also consider those cases where the Nobel Prize committee seemed to “get it right,” and why these choices have been celebrated. Finally, we’ll discuss why the Nobel Prize is such an important institution worldwide and how it continues to impact the lives of readers.



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Gladwyn Leiman

Nobel in Literature, Luzzi

An interesting and even provocative talk.
One real concern: Prof Luzzi does not give enough time for Q and A. In this instance, he finished his talk at 4:58 and never got to the bulk of the questions, which were varied and insightful.
Prof Luzzi could have omitted much in the way of repetition and tangential thinking, to allow for real interchange in the Q and A.

1 year ago
Steven Levine

Passionate about Literature

Prof Luzzi is incredibly passionate about literature. He speaks with animation and excitement about the subject material. While I chose science for my direction, my favorite professor in college taught ancient literature, and it was his passion for the art of literature that intrigued me. Sit back and enjoy the warmth and enthusiasm of a gifted speaker. Grazia mille Prof Luzzi.

1 year ago
Shelley Harrison

Thoughtful & well presented

Well organized and thought out presentation. I not only better understand the Nobel Prize through history, but it made me think more about its place in culture.

1 year ago
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