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Robert Harrison has written four books on a diverse array of topics, ranging from Italian lyric poetry to man and his relationship with the environment.

Harrison received his doctorate in romance studies from Cornell University in 1984, with a dissertation on Dante. In 1985, he accepted a visiting assistant professorship in the Department of French and Italian at Stanford. In 1986, he joined the faculty as an assistant professor. He was granted tenure in 1992, and was promoted to full professor in 1995. In 1997, Stanford offered him the Rosina Pierotti Chair. In 2002, he was named chair of the Department of French and Italian. In 2007, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Harrison's first book, The Body of Beatrice, deals with medieval Italian lyric poetry, with special emphasis on Dante's early work La Vita Nuova. The Body of Beatrice was translated into Japanese in 1994. Over the next few years, Harrison worked on his next book, Forests: The Shadow of Civilization, which appeared in 1992. This book deals with the multiple and complex ways in which the Western imagination has symbolized, represented, and conceived of forests, primarily in literature, religion, and mythology. It offers a select history that begins in antiquity and ends in our own time. Forests appeared simultaneously in English, French, Italian, and German. It subsequently appeared in Japanese and Korean as well. In 1994, his book, Rome, la Pluie: A Quoi Bon Littérature?, appeared in France, Italy, and Germany. This book is written in the form of dialogues between two characters and deals with various topics such as art restoration, the vocation of literature, and the place of the dead in contemporary society. In 2003, he published The Dominion of the Dead, which deals with the relations the living have with the dead in diverse secular realms. His most recent work, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, was published in 2008.

Harrison is also the host of weekly radio talk show, Entitled Opinions (about Life and Literature), which airs on Stanford’s radio station KZSU FM 90.1. All the programs are available free at Stanford on iTunes U and on the Entitled Opinions website. You can listen online by going to and following the link to "listen live."

Key works

Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition. University of Chicago Press, 2008

The Dominion of the Dead. University of Chicago Press, 2003

Forests: The Shadow of Civilization. University of Chicago Press, 1992

The Body of Beatrice. John Hopkins University Press, 1988

Prof. Harrison in the News

November 10, 2015
René Girard was a professor emeritus of French and Italian. Robert Harrison, also a professor of...
July 17, 2015
In an article on cryonics, tech and the quest for eternal youth, Stanford literary scholar Robert...
December 10, 2014
"Inside Higher Ed" reviews "Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age," a book by Robert Harrison...
November 11, 2014
Robert Harrison, professor of French and Italian, discusses his new book "Juvenescence," on how...
July 21, 2014
Stanford scholar Robert Harrison Pogue posits in "The New York Review of Books" that Silicon Valley...
August 2, 2010
A team of undergraduate students from Stanford’s Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (...
May 27, 2010
San Jose Mercury News
May 14, 2010
When Stanford profs and students jam with their band, classics get a soulful spin.
May 5, 2010
Department of French and Italian professor Robert Harrison, assistant professor Daniel Edelstein,...
December 29, 2009
Washington Post, December 15, 2009
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, April 30, 2007
New York Times, December 10, 2008

Audio and Video

The Forum on BBC, July 20, 2008

On Point with Tom Ashbrook, June 20, 2008

Forum with Michael Krasny (KQED), September 20, 2005

Odyssey (Chicago Public Radio Talk Show), October 7, 2004

The Connection (WBUR Talk Show), October 31, 2003


  • Italian Literature
  • Mythology
  • Nature and Mortality in Western Culture
  • Dante
  • Renaissance Humanism
  • Michelangelo
  • Vico and the Baroque
  • Phenomenology
  • Romance Studies

Contact information


B.A., University of Santa Clara, 1976
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1984