Elena Bellina

Assistant Professor of Italian


Elena Bellina holds a Ph.D. from New York University, an MA in English from Youngstown State University, and a Laurea in Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University of Bergamo (Italy). She has always been passionate about music, and earned degrees from the Conservatory of Music of Verona (Italy).

She works on autobiographical writing in confinement, focusing on unpublished diaries and memoirs written by Italian prisoners of war in British military camps in Africa during WWII. In her book Creativity on Stage Behind Barbed Wire: Italian POWs in Africa, she is investigating how Italian prisoners in Africa escaped the trauma of captivity through the performing arts, by building theaters and staging opera productions, musical theater, and plays, as they narrate in their autobiographies. She is also completing African Adventures: Palmiro Forzini in East Africa (1936–1946), a critical edition and translation of Forzini’s memoir about his decade in Africa as a soldier and as a POW. Her areas of expertise include modern and contemporary Italian literature, poetry, literary theory, gender studies, cinema, and theater. During her years at the University of Bergamo, she developed an interdisciplinary approach to literature, musical semiotics and self-construction. She has continued to explore the relationships between Renaissance and Baroque music, literature, and cinema over the years. She also works on issues related to the representation of violence, war literature and documentary films.

At Eastman, she has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum in Italian language and cultural studies with courses on cinema, music, theater, literature, and theories of adaptation. In 2013, she organized Recitar cantando: Conversations on Italian Music and Literature, a series of lectures on Florence Renaissance Music and Culture, the castrato tradition, and comic opera. The events featured leading scholars in the field and students performing a number of works, including the premiere US performance of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s reconstructed carnival songs. The events took place at NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò as the first collaboration ever between Eastman and NYU. The series continued in 2014 with a project on Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the New Millennium in collaboration with the Benson Forum on Creativity and the Composition Department. For April 2016, she is organizing Experiencing Devotion in Medieval and Renaissance Europe: Sights, Sounds, Objects, a two-day conference in collaboration with the Memorial Art Gallery and the University of Cambridge, UK. The conference will capture the sensory experience of religious devotion and practices in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance through a series of papers, panel discussions, and musical demonstrations by the Eastman School of Music performers in the University of Rochester’s MAG.

She has always been interested in investigating the way people recount their lives and the epistemic problems that life telling involves. This interest took her to South America in 2004 to shoot a documentary film on the lives of three Italian men who have played a central role in the socio-political development of Bolivia in the last fifty years.


Works / Publications


Edited Books

Elena Bellina, Lindsay Eufusia and Paola Ugolini (eds.) About Face: Depicting the Self in the Written and Visual Arts. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Elena Bellina and Paola Bonifazio (eds.) State of Exception: Cultural Responses to the Rhetoric of Fear, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006.

Book Chapters, Journal Articles and Translations

With Martin Daughtry, Crystal Parikh, Arvind Rajagopal (eds.) “Thinking Through Violence.” Social Text (May 2011, online edition).

“Sinan Antoon. Lessico di un poeta iracheno fra Baghdad e New York.” Poesia: Mensile internazionale di cultura poetica 264 (October 2011): 40-44.

Sinan Antoon. “The Baghdad Blues e altri inediti.” Translated by Elena Bellina. Poesia: Mensile internazionale di cultura poetica 264 (October 2011): 44-52.

“Introduction.” In Elena Bellina, Lindsay Eufusia and Paola Ugolini (eds.) About Face: Depicting the Self in the Written and Visual Arts. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. 1-11.

“Introduction.” In Elena Bellina and Paola Bonifazio (eds.) State of Exception: Cultural Responses to the Rhetoric of Fear, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006. v-xi.

“Letti da lontano. La Frantumaglia di Elena Ferrante.” La Rivista dei libri (The New York Review of Books, Italian edition), May 2005: 31-34.

“Il clarinetto postmoderno di Thea Musgrave e il movimento narrativo in The Passion of New Eve.” [“The Postmodern Clarinet of Thea Musgrave and the Narrative Movement in The Passion of New Eve.”] Il Confronto Letterario  XVI.31  (May 1999): 231-50.


Associate Director, New York University Summer Program in Florence (Italy).

Responsibilities include: coordinate admissions, student participants, facilities, transportation, finances and academic activities including advising  students on academic and life abroad issues, planning and organizing excursions and cultural visits, film screenings, conferences and orientation.

Documentary Film Ciudad de los niños (Bolivia) 87 minutes

Producer, writer, researcher.
It is a documentary film on the socio-political problems of Bolivia, particularly on the problem of abandoned and abused children in the region of Cochabamba (Bolivia) and the rehabilitating foster houses built and run by three Italian priests who have had a central role in Bolivian socio-political life since 1957. The documentary was shown at several international documentary festivals, where it received positive reviews.

New customized edition of the documentary film Ciudad de los niños (Bolivia) in honor of one the founders of the foster centers in Bolivia who passed away in February 2006.



IT101 & IT101G    Elementary Italian I

This two-semester sequence is an introduction to Italian language with an emphasis on all four skills—speaking, reading, writing, listening comprehension—for students with no previous knowledge of the language. The course will focus on building a basic vocabulary, grammar structures and syntax. Students with prior study of Italian must contact the instructor for a placement test.

IT102 & IT102G    Elementary Italian II

Same two-semester sequence as IT 101 and IT 102 with a separate “G” designation for graduate students who may take it for one credit.

IT201 & IT201G    Intermediate Italian I

This is a two-semester sequence that reinforces and systematizes Italian grammar and syntax. The courses aim at an intensive review of elementary grammatical structures and the study of grammar exceptions, at lexical enrichment through special uses of language, and at the improvement of speaking and writing ability. Students will be exposed to a variety of genres (literature, poetry, comics, films, newsreels, documentaries, music blogs) to better grasp language through cultural material. Prerequisite IT102 or equivalent.

IT202 & IT202G    Intermediate Italian II

Same two-semester sequence as IT 111 and IT 112 with a separate “G” designation for graduate students who may take it for one credit.

IT221     Italian Conversation and Composition

Advanced Italian course designed to improve students speaking and writing skills. The course aims at an intense review of Italian grammar, syntax, and vocabulary through a full immersion journey in contemporary Italian culture in Italy and in the US. Students will develop their language and writing skills while reading blogs, newspapers articles, novels, watching Italian TV shows and documentaries, travelling through the Italian peninsula and the US with journalist Beppe Severgnini’s video journal and online material. Students should have completed two or more semesters of college level Italian courses.

IT223     Italian through Theater

Advanced Italian course designed to improve and consolidate students’ ability to speak and write in Italian, as well as increase listening and reading comprehension through the Italian theater and its characters, from la commedia dell’arte up to contemporary theater. Grammar and vocabulary will be reviewed in relation to the topics of the plays analyzed in class. The course offers an overview of commedia dell’arte, 19th and 20th century Italian theater up to contemporary teatro di narrazione. The course will include the final staging of a short play. The course will be taught in Italian.

IT224     Italian through Cinema

Advanced Italian course designed to improve and consolidate students’ ability to speak and write in Italian, as well as increase listening and reading comprehension. Grammar and vocabulary will be reviewed in relation to the topic of the movies analyzed in class. The course offers an overview of contemporary Italian cinema or it may focus on a particular period and / or genre. The course will be taught in Italian and will include video assignments.


IT231/FS231   Introduction to Italian Cinema (in English) I

Course designed to provide an overview of Italian cinema from the ear (1914) by Giovanni Pastrone, to the present. The course will explore early Italian cinema from the 1910s -1930s, Fascist cinema, Neorealism, and Italian auteurs from the 1960s to the beginning of the twenty-first century to examine the role played by cinema in building Italian history and culture. We will examine, among others, films by Giovanni Pastrone, Carmine Gallone, Roberto de Sica, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ettore Scola, Ermanno Olmi, Marco Bellocchio, Gianni Amelio, Marco Tullio Giordana. Films will be in Italian with English subtitles. All readings and class discussions will be in English. No previous knowledge of Italian language/culture is necessary.

IT232/FS232    Italian Neorealism: Cinema and Culture (in English)

How did films like Rome Open CityPaisà, or Bicycle Thieves move the world with iconic images of 1945 Italy’s liberation? How was the attempt to portray ordinary people’s lives in Rome so successful to change the history of Cinema? How were Neorealist directors able to invent a new artistic language to capture reality? In this course we analyze the evolution of the Italian Neorealist movement in cinema and culture though its major directors (Rossellini, De Sica, Fellini, Visconti) and the writers that defined its spirit (Calvino, Vittorini, Silone, Zavattini).

IT233         History of Italian Theater (in Italian)

English description:

The course explores the history of Italian Theater from the 1500s to the present. It starts from the analysis of the most successful authors of contemprorary “teatro di narrazione” and focuses on the practice of theater as socio-cultural commentary on Italian history. From there, it moves Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo, tracing down its orgins in Carlo Goldoni and the commedia dell’arte tradition, to Luigi Pirandello’s theater and the Neapolitan tradition with Eduardo De Filippo and Eduardo Scarpetta. It examines 19th century theater (Giovanni Verga and Versim) up to 16th century theater (Niccolò Machiavelli and Pietro Aretino).

Italian description:

In questo corso analizzeremo la storia del teatro italiano dal Rinascimento al primo decennio degli anni 200 con particolare attenzione al modo in cui l’importante tradizione teatrale italiana—che vanta ben due Premi Nobel nel solo XX secolo (Luigi Pirandello e Dario Fo)—si è spesso manifestata come riflessione sulla società italiana e come critica sociale. Il corso partirà dall’analisi dell’interessante corrente del cosiddetto “teatro di narrazione” contemporaneo come strumento per esplorare la cultura e la storia italiana del XX e del XXI secolo. Da qui faremo un percorso a ritroso per ritrovare le origini della funzione del teatro come strumento di riflessione e critica nei secoli precedenti, dal Rinascimento con Niccolò Machiavelli, al Sei e Settecento con, tra gli altri Carlo Goldoni e la commedia dell’arte e l’Ottocento con Giovanni Verga e il verismo.

IT234/FS234   Theories of Adaptation: Literature, Cinema, and Opera (in English)

In this course we will be studying how Italian legendary cinema and opera directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Franco Zefirelli, Liliana Cavani, and Ermanno Olmi have adapted into film, theater production, and ballet literary masterpieces that span from Petronius’s Satyricon and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, to Boito’s Senso, and to Verga’s Cavalleria Rusticana. We will also analyze how they have adapted into cinema historical events such as the 16th wars between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines and witch hunting in Europe, paying particular attention to how they have used opera music, particularly Verdi’s music.

 IT235   Viva V.E.R.D.I! The Birth of Italy through Literature, Opera, and Popular Culture (in English)

The course explores how music and literature fostered the creation of the Italian myth starting from the 1815-1820 Italian insurrections that led to Risorgimento, the unification process through which Italy became a modern united country in 1861. We will examine how opera, operetta, popular songs, and literature had such a key role in this process that Giuseppe Verdi’s last name epitomized through the popular revolutionary motto Viva VERDI! the acronym standing for Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re D’Italia (Long Live Victor Emmanuel King of Italy!).

IT282/FS282 Modern Italy: Cities and Landscapes through Cinema, Music, and Literature

How have Italy’s diversified cities and regions shaped the Italians from the 1850s up to present day? How have the Italians interacted with them? This course focuses on how Italian history and geography has crafted Italian culture, music, and cinema, giving Italy its unique character on the European scene. We will examine how some well-known musicians (Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni), filmmakers (Visconti, Fellini, Olmi, Garrone, Sorrentino) writers (Verga, Manzoni, Serao, Calvino, Ferrante, Saviano), photographers, and artists have represented cities like Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice, and Milan and regions like Sicily, the Po Valley and Tuscany in relation to their rich historical, cultural, social and culinary traditions.