Study Guide

Franco Moretti Biography

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Basic Information


Franco Moretti


F-Mo, Moretti the Steady, The Literary Lab Rat, The Encyclopedist, Stanford's Favorite Radical, Bloom's Gloom


Male. It's that simple.

Home town

Sondrio, Italy—a beautiful little town nestled in the foothills of the Italian Alps. Bellissima.

Work & Education


My first gig was at Columbia University, where I taught comparative literature. I then set out for the territories—the West Coast, that is—where I got a plum appointment as the Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell Professor in the Humanities at Stanford. That's a pretty rock 'n' roll position. Here's my department page.

Sure, I teach important and even really esoteric courses, but I also run the
Stanford Literary Lab. I have earned a raft of honors like endowed lectures and literary critic awards.


Because I'm still alive, you're not going to find a bunch of biographical information about me floating around. Plus, I'm busy talking about my work, not myself. But here's what I will tell you: I got my Ph.D. from the University of Rome. I know it's not Harvard, but look how much that mattered.


Political views

Power to the people!

Oh, hello there—I'm just pumping my fist as I head over to hang with my homies at the monthly Retort meeting. At Retort, we talk about everything from the cover of
W magazine, to outrage over the U.S.'s compulsive need to invade other countries, to the atrocities of capitalism. Yeah, we're a pretty wide-ranging group.

You may have gleaned by now that I'm a Marxist, and my politics come out big time in my literary criticism—especially my early stuff. In one of my aptly named critical works (
The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature), I trawl through a bunch of 19th-century European novels for certain signal words ("useful," "comfort," "serious," "influence," "efficiency," and so forth) that describe the bourgeois class—or in non-Marxist terms, "the middle class."

Each word provides a big wide window into the era's bourgeois world. Basically, each word tells us what
those people valued most: domestic comfort, relaxation, a life of leisure, social mobility, and accessories that signal money—like the Tory Burch bag today. Yeah, that's the kind of conspicuous consumption that makes a Marxist's skin crawl.

Religious views

I'm going to treat this one as a yes or no question and just go ahead and say no. I'm a Marxist, for crying out loud. (You know—religion is the opiate of the masses, and all that jazz.) I do briefly touch on issues of religion in my criticism of that horror classic Dracula, but just as an excuse to talk about the unholy alliance of money and religion that started to crop up in the 19th century. Now we have mega-churches. Thanks a lot, 19th century.

Activities & Interests


Elaborate plans


Tons of reading
Accepting the status quo
Close reading (zzzzz)
Wasting time
All that palaver about aesthetics
The middle class
Traditional literary scholarship (zzzzz)
Binaries and binary thinking
Individualism (vs. the collective)


Making crazy lines in all directions on butcher paper
Connecting the dots
Working in groups
Going to high-octane Marxist meetings
Skimming and/or speed reading
Adding things up
Taking a nap while my computer collects data from 2,000 novels
Transforming great works of literature into networks
Quantifying stuff and things
Taxonomizing (if that's a word)
Being revolutionary


American Academy of Arts and Sciences (for reals)
The Antinomians
Literary Critics Who Speak with a Smooth Italian Cadence
Literary Geographers
The Cartography Cartel
Maverick Scholars Unite
Literary Labrats
Long Distance Runners and Readers Support Group
CACR-Critics Against Close Reading

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