Laura Di Bianco is an Assistant Professor of Italian Studies, whose research and teaching lie at the intersection of twenty-first century Italian cinema, literature, and culture; Women’s and Gender Studies; and Environmental Humanities.
She is Director of Undergraduate Studies in Italian, affiliated faculty member at the Center for Advanced Media Studies (CAMS), and collaborator with the Programs for the Study of Women’s Gender and Sexuality (WGS), and Environmental Science and Studies. Her research on Italian cinema and ecology has been supported by the Lauro De Bosis Fellowship at Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award, and the Bogliasco Fellowship in the Humanities (2020).
After earning her laurea at the University of “Roma Tre” in Film History and Criticism, Professor Di Bianco worked at Italy’s national film school, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, as an iconographic researcher and curator for photo exhibitions and publications, and as production coordinator for numerous film projects including the documentary film series Ritratti italiani – Archivio della memoria (Italian Portraits: Memory Archive) and Mestieri del cinema (Cinema Ars and Craft).
Prior to joining the Hopkins faculty in 2016, she taught classes in film, Italian literature, and language at different institutions such as CUNY Hunter College, Fordham University, and The New School.
She is co-editor for Modern Language Notes: Italian Issue and has collaborated with the online journal Gender| Sexuality| Italy.
Her first monograph—Wandering Women. Urban Ecologies of Italian Feminist Filmmaking (Indiana University Press, forthcoming, December 2022) explores the work of contemporary Italian women directors from feminist and ecological perspectives. Mostly relegated to the margins of the cultural scene, and themselves concerned with women’s marginality, the compelling films her book sheds light on tell stories of displacement and liminality that unfold through the act of walking in the city. The unusual emptiness of the cities these nomadic female protagonists traverse highlights the absence of, and their wish for, life-sustaining communities. While articulating a claim for belonging, and asserting cinematic and social agency, women’s urban filmmaking brings into view landscapes of the ecological crises, in which urban decay and the erasure of nature intersects with human alienation. This is admittedly a minor cinema, yet it is also a powerful movement of resistance against the dominant male narratives about the world we inhabit. Based on interviews of the directors Dr. Di Bianco conducted, Wandering Women deepens the understanding of contemporary Italian cinema, while enriching the field of feminist ecocritical literature.
Professor Di Bianco is currently developing a second book project: Crumbling Beauty. Italian Cinema in the Anthropocene. This study asks several questions: Can films teach us to protect fragile nature-cultural beauties? How does an environmentally conscious cinema, transform our perception of the world we inhabit and its unpredictable changes? Can films disrupt binary thinking such as human/nature, nature/culture, and mind/matter? Adopting material ecocritical and post-human perspectives, and bringing film criticism into dialogue with environmental and cultural history, Crumbing Beauty traces a genealogy of Italian eco-cinema from the silent era to the present. Engaging with the classics, the forgotten, and the emergent, this study sheds light upon a contemporary cinema that addresses Italy's environmental conflicts, while also retrieving prophetic films from the archive that in their time, when the Anthropocene had not yet been named, exposed social inequalities and abusive environmental practices, but also imagined the world and told stories from non-anthropocentric perspectives. Crumbling Beauty explores how film can help us grapple with global ecological crises and foster a culture of care and change.
At Hopkins, Professor Di Bianco teaches surveys of Italian cinema, classes about women’s filmmaking, courses on modern and contemporary Italian literature with a focus on the interplay of humans, non-humans, and the environment, and freshmen seminars like Great Books.
Committed to expanding the body of Italian films that can be experienced by non-Italian speakers, she directs translation projects with graduate and undergraduate students. She completed English subtitles for films by pioneer silent film director Elvira Notari that were presented at the 2018 edition of Festival del Cinema Ritrovato, in Bologna, has started new collaborative translation projects for other silent films.