Humans of UD: Dr. Anthony Nussmeier

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Photo courtesy of the University of Dallas

If you visit Dr. Anthony Nussmeier in his office, you’ll find him in the constant company of Dante Alighieri himself. This cardboard cutout of Dante is just the first indication of Nussmeier’s passion for anything Dantean.

“As for Dante, he has long been my lodestar, even more so in times of crisis,” Nussmeier, an associate professor of Italian and the Italian program director at the University of Dallas, said in an email interview. 

While in graduate school at Indiana University, Nussmeier found his passion for Dante when he discovered the beauty of the “Commedia,” all three books of the Divine Comedy. As he continued to foster this love of Dante, Nussmeier celebrated the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth. 

At the time of the anniversary in 2015, he was teaching at Kansas State University. There, he organized a marathon reading of the Divine Comedy, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m.  “I rented a tent, and recruited some 70 different readers in nearly 10 languages . . . [it took] 17 hours!”

Nussmeier has not kept his pursuits of Dante limited to the schools in which he has taught. His list of editorships and authorships on Dante is impressive – so impressive that you cannot help but deem him a professional in Dantean studies. 

Nussmeier’s book, “Dante and the Politics of Literary Script,” an examination of Dante’s Latin prose treatise “De vulgari eloquentia,” or, translated to English, “On eloquence in the vernacular” is currently under contract with the University of Toronto Press.

While Dante’s writings may be beautiful to read in English, Nussmeier appreciates the original Italian even more.  

“In Italian, we say, ‘Traduttore, traditore’ (Translator, traitor)” he wrote. “To read Dante in the original Italian is a quasi-mystical experience.”

Nussmeier’s love of Dante ultimately came from this original love of Italian, a passion he rediscovered in his undergraduate studies. Coming from a family who was Italian on his mother’s side, Nussmeier had a fascination with the culture from a young age. 

As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Nussmeier initially enrolled in Italian classes, but law and politics were his focus. All that changed when he decided to spend his entire junior year abroad at the University of Bologna. There, he fell in love with the Italian culture and language. 

“While living in Bologna I immersed myself in italianità,” he wrote. “For example, even with my American or English-speaking friends, I spoke only Italian, a habit we continue to this day.”

Having immersed himself in the language, Nussmeier also immersed himself in the culture. “Two American friends and I made it a habit to attend a Circolo – basically a social club for the elderly – whose reason for being was to keep alive the Bolognese language.”

Nussmeier returned to the states with a new focus: Italy, but more specifically Italian politics, Italian history and the Bolognese dialect.

As a professor of Italian Language and Literature, Nussmeier taught at Pennsylvania State University and Kansas State University before coming to the University of Dallas. 

“When the job came open at UD, I wasn’t [looking] to move,” Nussmeier explained. “I had only been at K-State for about 7 months and had just bought a house, but UD was a place that had been on my mind for quite some time… For someone like me – Italianist, Dantist, medievalist – who is also Catholic and enjoys what is criticized from the outside as hidebound but is what I consider serious intellectual inquiry, deciding to come to UD was a no-brainer.”

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