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Robert A Rushing

Associate Professor of French and Italian

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Contact Information:

Office Hours:

  • Spring 2016: WR 11-12


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

  • Descended from Hercules: A Peplum Century. A book-length study of the “peplum” genre—fantastic films set in antiquity focusing on the spectacular bodies of male heroes. The project aims to reveal the historical and geographical scope of the genre (100 years of peplum films, moving from Italy to transnational production), and bring together four theoretical perspectives: slowed and stopped time in the moving image (the peplum's focus on the male body demands a lingering time for admiration and wonder); psychoanalysis (the curious sexuality constructed by peplum films); the “haptic” (how film activates the sense of touch, the ideology of that activation), and the biopolitical (how the peplum links the health and vitality of the state and that of the male body).


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

Distinctions / Awards

  • 2008: Humanities Council Teaching Excellence Award
  • 2008: Nominated, National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis Gradiva Award: Best Theoretical Book, for Resisting Arrest
  • 2016: Winner, American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS) Media/Film Prize, for Descended from Hercules

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

  • "Trains, Planes, Automobiles, Bicycles, Spaceships and an Elephant: Images of Movement in the commedia all’italiana." California Italian Studies 7.1 (2017):
  • "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.