As a visual historian, I am interested in film aesthetics in the context of the dense artistic and cultural exchanges across the Atlantic. In my first book in English, Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Landscape, and the Picturesque (2009), I followed the historical and geographic journeys of an aesthetic form, the picturesque, from 17th century paintings and 18th century prints to turn-of-the-20th-century films, and from the Italian to the North American racial culture. In the process, I also followed the picturesque’s original subjects, Southern Italians, as both protagonists and consumers of picturesque works. In the end, my research sought to recast established time-centered notions of cinematic modernity by mobilizing equally pressingly modern notions of geographic variance, racial difference, and migration.
In my current project, Divo/Duce: Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America, I am focusing on a historically narrower type of Atlantic exchange, the 1920s American popularity of Hollywood star Rudolph Valentino and dictator Benito Mussolini. Based again on a wide variety of sources and documents, Divo/Duce seeks to unearth the historical convergences of celebrity culture, charismatic leadership and national sovereignty and in the process identify the affinities between stardom and political theory. While the bulk of the research relates to the North American scene, for comparative purposes a substantial portion will also be devoted to the repercussions of the Divo/Duce’s transnational fame in Italy and Argentina—two Latin, predominantly Catholic, cultural settings.
Over the years, I have published essays in such scholarly journals as Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly, Film History, The Velvet Light Trap, Urban History, The Journal of Urban History, Agalma: Rivista di Cultura ed Estetica; Italian American Review; Italica; Kintop; Comunicazioni Sociali, and NEMLA Italian Studies. I have also edited volumes for both pedagogical and scholarly use, from Emir Kusturica (Rome, 1995), The Cinema of Italy (London: 2004; 2007), and Early Cinema and the National (London, 2008; with Richard Abel and Rob King) to the forthcoming Silent Italian Cinema: A Reader. More recently I have revised and expanded my 1996 monograph on Bosnian film director Emir Kusturica, for the series Il Castoro Cinema (Milan, 2011).
Recent and Selected Publications
“Silent Italian Cinema,” in Frank Burke ed., A Companion to Italian Cinema (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)
“Early Italian Cinema: An International Story,” in Peter Bondanella ed., The Italian Cinema Book (London: British Film Institute; New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2012)
“You Can Go Home Again (and Again): Santa Lucia Luntana (1931), the Film,” in Goffredo Plastino and Joseph Sciorra eds., Neapolitan Postcards: The Canzone Napoletana as Transnational Subject (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, forthcoming)
Emir Kusturica (Milan: Il Castoro, 2011),to appear in a revised, English version in the Contemporary Film Directors Series of the University of Illinois Press.
Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader (John Libbey, forthcoming)
Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Language, and the Picturesque (Indiana University Press, 2010)
Winner, 2010 American Association of Italian Studies Book Award
Winner, 2010 Robert K. Martin Prize for Best Book (Canadian Association for American Studies)
Finalist, 2010 American Studies Association/Lora Romero Book Prize
Finalist, 2010 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize
Interviews: rorotoko.com; America Oggi; Gazzetta di Mantova
Alias/Il Manifesto (Rome), Europa Quotidiano (Rome), Fra Noi (Chicago), Screening the Past (Melbourne, Australia), Film History (UK), Italica (US), Il Mestiere di Storico (Italy), Altreitalie(Italy), Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (US/UK), Times Literary Supplement (London)
Early Cinema and the “National”. Co-editor with Richard Abel and Rob King. London: John Libbey, 2008. Distributed by Indiana University Press.
24 Frames: The Cinema of Italy. Editor. London: Wallflower Press, 2004; 2007. Distributed by Columbia University Press.
Courses taught for the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures:
Screening Italian Fascism (in Italian)
Italian Cinema (in English)
Italian American Cinema (in English)
New Italian Media (in Italian)