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 Italian Cinema: A Reader (2013). Recently I have revised and expanded my 1996 monograph on Bosnian film director Emir Kusturica, for the series Il Castoro Cinema (Milan, 2011), to appear in English in late 2014 in the series "Contemporary Film Directors" of the University of Illinois Press.
Recent and Selected Publications
"The Earth Still Trembles: On Landscape Views in Contemporary Italian Cinema,” in Alan Wright, ed., Cine Tectonica: Film on the Faultine (Bristol: Intellect, 2015), first published in Italian Culture 30: 1 (March 2012): 37-49.
“Off-Screen Atrocities: Newsreels and Epics of Heroism of the Italian-Turkish War on American Screens, 1911-1912,” Early Popular Visual Culture vol.12, no.2 (Summer 2014), Special Issue on “Cross-National Encounters.”
“Sovereign Consumption: Italian Americans‘ Film Culture in 1920s New York City,” in Simone Cinotto ed., Making Italian America: Consumer Culture and the Production of Ethnic Identities (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014), 83-99; 270-273.
“Film, National Cinema, and Migration,” in Immanuel Ness and Marlou Schrover eds., Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), III: 1504-1509.
Emir Kusturica (University of Illinois Press, 2014)
Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader (John Libbey, 2013)
“Shortlisted and Highly recommended, All Readers” Choice (May 1, 2014)
Reviews: Choice; Journal of Modern Italian Studies; Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies; Screening the Past
Emir Kusturica (Milan: Il Castoro, 2011)
Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Language, and the Picturesque (Indiana University Press, 2010)
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), Quaderni Storici (Italy)
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:
MADE IN ITALY: History, Style, and Marketing (in English)
Screening Italian Fascism (in Italian)
Italian Cinema (in English)
Italian American Cinema (in English)
New Italian Media (in Italian)