Literary historian and linguist Carlo Dionisotti was born on 9 June 1908 in Turin. He received his secondary education at the Jesuit Istituto Sociale and read arts at the University of Turin, where he graduated in 1929. He taught Latin and history in secondary schools. In 1944, after the liberation of Rome, he was associated with progressive cultural initiatives including those of the Einaudi publishing firm.
A collection of his early political writings was later published as Scritti sul fascismo e sulla resistenza (2008). In 1947 he was offered a post as lecturer in Italian at the University of Oxford. Two years later he was elected to the Chair of Italian at Bedford College, University of London, which he held until 1970. Dionisotti is considered the greatest historian of Italian literature in the twentieth century in a tradition set by Benedetto Croce. He was sceptical of labels and trends such as ‘structuralism’ or ‘deconstruction’.
His collection of nine essays on the ‘geography and history of Italian literature’ made him internationally known. The title comes from his 1949 inaugural lecture published in Italian Studies (1951). He stressed the creative importance of the regional and fragmented nature of Italian culture. Dionisotti died in February 1998 at his home at no. 44 West Heath Drive, Hampstead.