On November 7th, I (Delaney) had the opportunity to chat with Lorenzo Fabbri, the newest faculty member for the Italian program. This is Dr. Fabbri’s first semester at the U of M, so many of you probably haven’t met him yet. But no worries! Check out this interview to learn more about him, or even better, sign up for one of his classes next semester: ITAL 3201 (“Carving the Nation: Pinocchio and the Italian Literary Canon”) or ITAL 3502 (“Italian Remakes, Italians Remade”).
DC: Where are you from?
LF: I’m from Rome, in Italy.
Do you speak any other languages besides Italian and English?
I speak some French. I spent a couple of years in Paris in different periods of my life; so yes, I speak French.
So, you went to grad school at Cornell, right?
I went to grad school in Italy first, and I did a PhD in philosophy. And then I did a PhD at Cornell in Romance studies.
What made you decide to do a PhD in the U.S.?
I went to [the University of California]-Irvine to teach Italian for one year and to do some research; and I decided that I wanted to stay in the States. From California I applied to grad school, moved to upstate New York, and I’m still in the States now.
Had you visited the U.S. before you came for Irvine?
Yes. I visited some times. I lived in Chicago for a while.
Why did you live in Chicago?
My dad used to work there—not in Chicago, but close by. So we lived there when I was… twelve?—twelve, thirteen, fourteen.
So you were young when you first visited the U.S., but what surprised you most about it?
Everything is so big. Everything is big, and this also implies there is a lot of space between people and things. It’s not really like that in Rome, so that was one of the things that captivated me about the U.S.
What is your favorite thing about Rome?
My favorite things about Rome are my friends—from college, high school— my family, and my dog… And I like pizza from Rome as well.
Did you say your dog?
Yes, my dog.
What kind of dog?
It’s a small dog, mixed race…or however you say it in English.
What is the dog’s name?
My sister named him Mike. I don’t know why, but… That’s the name of the dog.
So upon moving to Minnesota, what do you have to say about it?
I like Minnesota. I like Minneapolis; I think it’s a great city. People are nice; there are a lot of things to do. And I’m really excited because—do you know the NPR program, This American Life? The creator of the show, Ira Glass, is coming to town on Sunday and doing a performance at the Hennepin Theater. It’s going to be a fun day.
And how do you feel about the cold, of course?
(Dr. Fabbri gestures at the window) This is good. I like this; I like 30s. I’m not sure how I will feel when it gets colder.
What was a difficult adjustment for you of living in the United States?
Relationships with people are different in the States than they are in Italy; it takes a little bit of time getting adjusted to a different way of socializing.
In the future, do you hope to stay in the U.S. or do you want to move back to Italy or move somewhere else?
No, I don’t want to move back to Italy. I’m good here. I like going there for vacation and Christmas, those sorts of things, but I like being in the States.
Well, first of all, because I have a job. That’s an important thing. But besides this, the fact that there is more space also means that there are more opportunities. There’s a different dimension to life in the States than there is in Italy or in other European countries.
You did your PhD in Romance studies…and what did you write your dissertation on?
I wrote my dissertation on 1930s Italian cinema—specifically on the role that cinema played during the fascist regime and then in the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
What interests you about film? Why did you choose to write about it?
I choose to write about film because I love movies. I really like films, and one of the things that really makes me happy is going to the cinema. Basically, when I was in Paris the only thing that I was doing was going to the movies every day— five, six times a week.
Cinema is the reason to be in Paris. You can get this subscription where you pay twenty Euros a month and then you go to the cinema how many times you want. If you like movies, Paris is the city for you.
When you’re watching a film, what are you most looking at?
I like the stories and the characters. I think a good film tells a story in a nice, honest way.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I have a lot of favorite movies. There are some Italian films that I’ve been enjoying lately. Especially those by Emanuele Crialese. One of his films is called Respiro and it’s one of my favorite films.
Do you have a favorite American film?
I like new Hollywood films from the 1990s, so De Palma, Scorsese, the films that everybody likes. And I also like horror films—American horror films—especially, for instance, the movies by Sam Raimi and John Carpenter… One of my favorite films is called the Dark Star. It’s a low budget sci-fi film made by John Carpenter. I think he shot it when he was a grad school student at USC; it’s sort of a cheesy remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it was made with 50,000 dollars and it’s really cheap and funny.
Do you have a favorite food?
I like tacos.
Do you have a favorite Italian food?
Pizza from Rome.
What is special about pizza from Rome?
It’s very thin and crispy, and not “spongy” like pizza from Naples.
What is your least favorite food?
I don’t like parsley and I don’t like chicken.
Why not parsley?
You know the saying? In Italy, we say that someone is like parsley because parsley is everywhere and it’s sort of sneaky. So I don’t think it has any function besides being green and pretty.
I didn’t know that was a saying.
You say, “Sei come il prezzemolo.” So, if a person shows up in every TV show, in every movie, or whatever, you can say she or he is like parsley.
What do you like to do outside of academics?
I like going to warm places. So when I have time, I try to go somewhere where I can be outside on the beach. That’s what I try to do during the summer. Besides that—watch movies, read books, play soccer. Those things.
So you play soccer. Do you have a favorite team?
Yes. My team is Juventus.
What are some of your academic interests or current research that you might be doing?
Well, I’m finishing the book that’s based on my dissertation on cinema in 1930s Italy. Besides that, what I’m doing now is bridging Italian studies and postcolonial studies. So, I try to engage with Italian contemporary culture in a more interdisciplinary framework and tackle it from a global perspective. For instance, in the course I am teaching this semester on the “Southern Question,” my students and I are trying to create links between the Italian “meridione” and what has been defined the “global south.”
What are you enjoying about the U of M so far?
I enjoy the students. Students here are really nice, engaged, serious, hardworking. I’m enjoying teaching the courses that I am.
What is one thing or possible talent that you hope to contribute to the U of M?
As you know, Susanna [Ferlito] has been the only faculty in Italian for a number of years. One of the things I am excited about is to work with her and with all the people teaching lower division courses —with Kathy [Rider], Carlotta [Dradi-Bower], and all the lecturers—to make the U of M even a better place to study Italian. It is not that they really need any help: they have been doing a fantastic job. But I will be happy to contribute to the “cause” in any way I can.
Do you have any advice for students?
Try to absorb as much Italian culture as you can; so, if you have the opportunity to watch movies in Italian or listen to songs in Italian, that’s something that really makes you improve, especially pronunciation and vocabulary. Always challenge yourself and you’re going to do great.