Roberto Pesce

What was your background and experience before joining the faculty at OU?

I graduated from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy, my hometown, with a degree in Italian and a specialization in medieval literature. In Venice I also completed a Ph.D. in Classical and Medieval Philology before I moved to the US for a second Ph.D. in Italian at Rutgers University. I then worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Tulane University and as a Lecturer at Baylor University. I joined OU in the fall of 2017 as an Assistant Professor.

What topics are you most passionate about and what projects are you working on right now?

As a specialist with an extensive background in medieval literature and culture, I love to teach the allegorical journey of a soul toward God in Dante’s Comedy, the merchant world of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and the self-exploration in Petrarch’s Canzoniere. I also love interdisciplinary courses that combine literature, history and art history, emphasizing the links between medieval literature and our own age. I am currently working on the critical edition of Paulinus of Venice’s Tractatus de diis gentium et fabulis poetarum, a treatise in Latin on the allegorical Christian reading of classical mythology in the Middle Ages. I am also working on another critical edition of a Franco-Italian work on Attila the Hun’s descent into Italy and his legendary battles against Italian lords and kings that brought to the foundation of the city of Venice.

What do you most enjoy about teaching at OU?

OU is a beautiful environment, with outstanding colleagues and great students. OU is a research university that constantly challenges its community to improve and to go beyond expectations, and I am constantly learning from both my colleagues and my students.

What would you tell a student who is thinking about studying Italian at OU but who may be on the fence?

I believe that studying any foreign language is an essential step in the education of our students to become better people. Learning a foreign language is not just about studying grammar, but being exposed to a different culture, and learning how to look at things with a different perspective. Foreign language learning will change the way you think, literally! Why Italian specifically? Because of our rich and incomparable tradition. From history (the Roman empire) to literature (Dante and much more), from political science (Machiavelli) to science (Galileo Galilei), from painting (Leonardo da Vinci) to sculpture (Michelangelo), from music (Verdi) to education (Montessori), Italy has had and still has a key role in world culture. Italy has one of the strongest economies in the world and when you think of fashion, food, or excellence (Ferrari), you think of Italy.

Students should not be nervous about learning a foreign language. Here at OU we have a group of incredible instructors who will make you fall in love with Italian from the very first semester. Students can also take advantage of our study abroad programs in Arezzo and Bologna: what a better way to know more about the culture of another country than learning the language before you go there? Joining a study abroad program will change your life forever!

What is your teaching motto or favorite piece of advice for students in your classes?

“Il più grande pericolo per noi non è che miriamo troppo in alto e non risuciamo a raggiungere il nostro obiettivo, ma che miriamo troppo in basso e lo raggiungiamo.” Michelangelo

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss the target, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

How do you like to spend your free time?

In the rare occasions in which I’m not working, I love to spend time with my family, playing with my kids, cooking, reading and watching sci-fi, and hang out with friends.