A Cup of Joe... with Francesco Guardiani
St. Michael's: Your course SMC219Y has always been extremely popular. What do you think draws students to it?
Francesco Guardiani: I don't think it's me but the subject, which is crossdisciplinary, so you have to work to make it interesting. I have an approach that caters to the students' needs. Marshall McLuhan said: "A good teacher saves you time." I truly believe that. McLuhan also said that in the year 2000, the teacher will be a "specialized generalist." To be too much of a specialist can be dangerous.
SM: What brought you to the University of Toronto's Italian Department?
FG: Northrop Frye is who drew me here. I earned a doctorate in comparative literature in Italy; Frye was the topic of my thesis. Then I came here and he was my teacher. I joined UofT in 1978 and never left.
SM: What keeps you coming back to teach year after year?
FG: When I first got my job here, I was asked if I wanted to retire early (so as to determine how much of my pay I would contribute annually to my retirement fund.) I said then I was going to retire at the earliest age possible. That age passed seven years ago. Now I feel as if I will never retire. Apart from teaching, I produce one scholarly work a year and that keeps me happy. Also, I have been a visiting professor at the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil.
SM: Where else have you taught abroad?
FG: Every year, I volunteer at a high school in Macerata, Italy. I lecture on a subject I gave the students the year before. For example, each student is assigned to transcribe a few pages of an old manuscript so they learn the abbreviations, characters and grammar of the time. Essentially, though, they are learning about Baroque culture. During the school year, their regular teacher sends me their work, and I lecture on it when I go back to see them.
SM: And when you're not teaching, what do you like to do?
FG: I run every day. Well, at least I try. I average 50 to 60 kilometers a week, and 100 km during marathon training. I've run seven marathons. If you run, you have license to eat, and I love food. I also play the guitar. On Sunday afternoons, I play for so many hours I stop counting, maybe five or six. I play until my fingers bleed. I have developed real calluses.
SM: Finally, how do you take your coffee?
FG: Black. This was a discovery from a friend. He said that you suffer a bit, but it's all coffee. I don't suffer at all any more. I will have espresso, but only after a meal.