The Valentine Giamatti Lecture and Dante Collection

Prof. Giamatti with his students

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.

Valentine Giamatti, Beloved Professor of Italian

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. 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.

The Dante Collection

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.

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:

The Giamatti Lecture Speakers

Since the late 1980s, the Italian Program has been host to a Giamatti Lecture. Past Giamatti speakers include authors Amara Lakhous (2017), Jhumpa Lahiri (2016) and Carmine Abate (2015), Dacia Maraini (2014), and journalist Lucia Annunziata (2012).

Amara Lakhous, Photo courtesy of Cornell University

Giamatti Lecture features Amara Lakous

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

Lahiri's book debut, In altre parole, is a provocative exploration of the power of language to transform—and reinvent—one's voice and sense of self.
Lucia Annunziata

Italian Journalist Annunziata to Speak at MHC

Lucia Annunziata made headlines in 2006 when her questions led Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to walk off set in protest.