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Robert A Rushing

Professor, Professor of French and Italian

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Contact Information:

Office Hours:

  • Spring 2018: by appointment only


Professor Rushing was an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz (B.A., 1991), where he majored in both Literature and Philosophy. He has an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan (1994), and finished his Ph.D. in Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1998 with a thesis on Italo Calvino and Carlo Emilio Gadda.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • 19th and 20th century Italian literature and culture; contemporary Italian fiction; Italian film; critical and interpretive theory; popular culture; comparative literary and cultural studies; genre.

Research Description

  • Biopolitical Fantasy: There has been surprisingly little work on biopolitics and cinema, that is, the study of how biopolitical interventions are mediated by the media. In this book, I aim to show two ways in which biopolitics and cinema are intertwined. Missing from most existing accounts of biopolitics are the cinematic and the televisual. In other words, the exercise of biopolitical power is often presented as unmediated—my goal in this project is to call attention to the role of the media, especially cinema, in the fantasy that sustains biopolitics. This role is double, or better, moves simultaneously in two directions. On the one hand, the biopolitical disciplining of the subject repeatedly relies on cinema, its genres and its conventions. To be effective as ideology, there must be a certain amount of affect—the melodramatic tears for the daughter who died on graduation night in a drunk driving PSA, or the fear of nicotine as a serial killer in an anti-smoking ad—and cinema is a superb vehicle for delivering emotion. This aspect of the relationship between biopolitical initiatives and film is relatively visible, even if it has not always been fully appreciated. At the same time, however, we can also detect a counter current: film can also draw on those same biopolitical initiatives, or may itself be a biopolitical intervention. Biopolitical Fantasy aims to continue the work I began in Descended from Hercules by exploring the role of cinema and television in mediating state initiatives to control and manage life, health and vitality. In Biopolitical Fantasy, I hope to examine film more broadly (multiple genres over a broad range of historical time, from the silent era to the present), while still remaining focused on the transnational connections between Italy and the English-speaking world. 


  • Ph.D.: U.C. Berkeley (1998) M.A.: U. of Michigan (1994) B.A.: U.C. Santa Cruz (1991)

Distinctions / Awards

External URLs



  • Rushing, Robert A. Descended from Hercules: Biopolitics, the Male Body and Peplum Cinema. . Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2016.
  • Rushing, Robert A. Resisting Arrest: Detective Fiction and Popular Culture. . New York: Other Press, 2007.

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Book Contributions

  • "Cabiria." The Total Art: Italian Cinema from Silent Screen to Digital Image. . Ed. Joseph Luzzi. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

  • "Descended from Hercules: Masculine Anxiety in the Peplum." Cycles, Sequels, Spin-offs, Remakes and Reboots: Multiplicities in Film and Television. . Ed. Amanda A. Klein and Barton Palmer. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 41-59.

  • "Calvino and Readerly Expectations: Identification and Fantasy in the Cosmicomics." Approaches to Teaching Italo Calvino. . MLA, 2013.

Edited Books

  • Rushing, Robert A., and Andrea Goulet. Orphan Black: Performance, Gender, Biopolitics. . Bristol, UK: Intellect Books, 2018.

  • Goodlad, Lauren, Lilya Kaganovsky, and Robert A. Rushing. Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style and the 1960s. . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.

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Journal Articles

  • Rushing, Robert A. "Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Bicycles, Spaceships and an Elephant: Images of Movement from Neorealism to the commedia all’italiana." California Italian Studies 7.1 (2018): 1-24. 20 Feb. 2018. <>.
  • "Contemporary Italian Science Fiction Film: The Future of Italy." Luci e ombre: trimestrale di informazione cinematografica e culturale 4.2 (2016): 32-46.
  • Rushing, Robert A. "Skin Flicks: Haptic Ideology in the Peplum Film." Cinema Journal 56.2 (2016): forthcoming.
  • Rushing, Robert A. "The Weight of History: Immunity and the Nation in Italian Science Fiction Cinema." Science Fiction Studies 42.2 (2015): 339-52.
  • Rushing, Robert A. "Nostalgia | Utopia | Spaghetti: Utopian and anti-nostalgic time in the Italian Western." Studies in European Cinema 11.2 (2014): 79-91.
  • "Sirens without Us: The Future after Humanity." California Italian Studies 2.1 (2011): 6 Sep. 2011. <>.
  • "Blink: The Material Real in Caché, Mulholland Dr. and Dr. Who." Post Script 29.3 (2010): 18-31.
  • "De Sica’s 'The Children Are Watching Us': Neorealist Cinema and Sexual Difference." Studies in European Cinema (2009):
  • "'Tutto è zuppa!’ Making the Superego Enjoy in Calvino’s Il cavaliere inesistente." Romanic Review (2009):
  • "Gentlemen Prefer Hercules: Desire | Identification | Beefcake." Camera Obscura 23.1 (2008):
  • "Italo Svevo and Charlie Chaplin: Dramatic Irony and the Psychoanalytic Stance." American Imago 63.2 (2006): 183-200.
  • "‘What We Desire, We Shall Never Have’: Calvino, Zizek, Ovid." Comparative Literature 58.1 (2006): 44-58.