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 http://kzsu.stanford.edu/ and following the link to "listen live."