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Personal profile

Personal profile

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.


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

Research Interests

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.

Professional Information

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.


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