How Literature Can Change Your Life | Joseph Luzzi | TEDxAlbany

15 Views· 10/09/23
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In my talk, I hope to change the way people feel about literature. My aim is to show that literature is not just an elitist collection of “classics, something you are “supposed” to read or have to study in school, but which are difficult, remote, and otherwise disconnected from everyday life. Rather, I will propose that audience members can and should make literature a part of their everyday. I will go ever further and say that, when you are facing extraordinary difficulties and challenges, literature can save your life.
I will base my talk on a personal experience. On November 29, 2007, I left my home in upstate New York at 8:30am to teach a class at Bard College, where I am a professor. Around 10am, as I was settling into my classroom and joking with my students, a security guard showed up at the door and asked, “Are you Professor Luzzi?” The smile disappeared from my face, as I sensed something had gone horribly wrong; that intuition was confirmed when I saw a dean and vice president of the college come tearing up the stairs to fetch me and deliver the news: my wife, Katherine, had had a terrible car accident. I raced to the hospital, but it was too late: Katherine died that morning. She was 8 1/2 months pregnant. Forty-five minutes before her death, our daughter Isabel was miraculously delivered by emergency cesarian. I had left the house at 8:30am; by noon, I was both a widower and a father.

At noon, I had also entered what the poet Dante called “the dark wood,” that universal space of suffering that unfortunately all of us, at one point in our lives, must enter. For my TEDx Albany talk, I would like to speak of how literature in general, and Dante’s poetry in particular, helped save my life during the years of grief and mourning that followed Katherine’s death. Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) is Professor of Comparative Literature at Bard College. His books include “My Two Italies,” a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and “In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love,” which has been translated into Italian, German, and Korean. Luzzi is a frequent contributor to publications including the New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, Times Literary Supplement, and American Scholar. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookforum, and Times of London.

Dr. Luzzi is the founder of DeepRead, which offers a radically new approach to leadership and business education by basing its teaching and “test cases” on the great ideas of literature, history, and philosophy. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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