As a visual historian, Bertellini is interested in film aesthetics in the context of the dense artistic and cultural exchanges across the Atlantic. In his first book in English, Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Landscape, and the Picturesque (2009), he 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, he also followed the picturesque’s original subjects, Southern Italians, as both protagonists and consumers of picturesque works. In the end, his research sought to recast established time-centered notions of cinematic modernity by mobilizing pressingly modern notions of geographic variance, racial difference, and migration.
In the next project he is 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 relationships between star studies and political science. 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, Bertellini has 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. Finding it difficult to stop writing in Italian, he has contributed articles and essays to daily newspapers and academic periodicals. More recently he has revised and expanded his 1996 monograph on Emir Kusturica, published in the series Il Castoro Cinema (Milan, 2011).
Recent Courses Taught
SAC 600: Introduction to Screen Cultures: Research and Materials
SAC 632: Stardom
SAC 601: Seminar in Film Historiography: Questions of Race in Silent American Cinema
SAC 441/ITA315: Italian Cinema
SAC 351: Film History, Origins to 1929
SAC 366/ITA359: Screening Italian-Americans