The Valentine Giamatti Lecture and Dante Collection

Prof. Giamatti with his students

Valentine Giamatti and the Dante Collection

Italian has been part of the Mount Holyoke curriculum at least since 1893. But it was in 1940, when Valentine Giamatti joined the Mount Holyoke College faculty, that Italian language and culture became a vital part of the College.

Professor Giamatti was born in 1911 and received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and a laurea from the University of Florence, Italy. A beloved professor, he taught at Mount Holyoke until 1973, when he retired. He died in 1982 at the age of 71.

Professor Giamatti and his wife Mary Walton (1914-2006), a graduate of Smith College, had three children. Their son Angelo Bartlett “Bart” Giamatti (1938-1989) became President of Yale University in 1978 and Baseball Commissioner in 1989, only months before his sudden death. Angelo is the father of actor Paul Giamatti.

Professor Giamatti was a collector of antiques and over 200 editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy (view some selected book covers). His collection survives in the Mount Holyoke Archives.

The Giamatti Lecture Speakers

The Valentine Giamatti Lecture has been given since the late-1980s in honor of Dante scholar Valentine Giamatti, a professor of Italian at Mount Holyoke for more than 30 years. Past Giamatti speakers include authors Amara Lakhous (2017), Jhumpa Lahiri (2016) and Carmine Abate (2015), Dacia Maraini (2014), and journalist Lucia Annunziata (2012).

A painting: Dantes afterlife

Dante's Afterlife in 2021

The 2021 Giamatti lecture featured Guy Raffa from The University of Texas at Austin. Watch the video.
Image of Jhumpa Lahiri

2019 Valentine Giamatti Lecture

Author Jhumpa Lahiri was the speaker.
Photo of a crumbled building after the earthquake in L'Aquila

The 2018 Giamatti Lecture and Event

2018 Giamatti speaker, Laura Benedetti, Georgetown University: "Cultural Response to Natural Disasters: The Case of L’Aquila."
Profile photo of Amir Issaa with event information below

Amir Issaa: "Vivo per Questo"

2018 Giamatti speaker, Amir Issaa gave a book presentation and mini-concert: "Vivo per Questo (This is What I Live For)"
Amara Lakous, 2017 Giamatti Speaker

Watch the 2017 Giamatti speaker:Amara Lakhous

2017 Giamatti Speaker Lakous describes his experience as a multilingual novelist exploring identity in the immigrant experience.
Jhumpa Lahiri in Conversation with Ombretta Frau

Video interview with Jhumpa Lahiri

Ombretta Frau interviews Lahiri about her provocative exploration of the power of language to transform—and reinvent—one's voice and sense of self.
Lucia Annunziata

Italian Journalist Annunziata

2012 Giamatti speaker Lucia Annunziata made headlines when her questions led Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to walk off set in protest.
The Divine Comedy Flyer

2021-22 Valentine Giamatti Lecture

A complete reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy with a talk by Neil Proto, author, and an intro to the Valentine Giamatti Dante collection by Leslie Fields.

To honor Valentine Giamatti’s memory, in 1984 and 1986 Mount Holyoke hosted a Giamatti Festival of Italian Culture. Speakers included Dante Della Terza (Harvard), Teresa de Lauretis (Wisconsin) and Peter Bondanella (Indiana). Italo Calvino and Susanna Agnelli received honorary degrees in 1984, and conductor Riccardo Muti in 1986.

LIsten to Italo Calvino' and President Liz Kennan's remarks in Abby Chapel on that occasion: