Karen Pinkus

Karen Pinkus

Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature

kep44@cornell.edukep44 Office: KLR K269 Phone: email only

Karen Pinkus is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature.  She is also a minor graduate field member in Studio Art. She currently chairs the Faculty Advisory Board of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Karen has published widely on Italian culture, literary theory, cinema, visual theory, and environmental theory.  Aside from Italian she also works with French, Latin, German, and Spanish and (beginning) Swedish.

She has several ongoing research projects:

1) on the Italian side, a book, tentatively titled Autonomia/Automata: Machines for Writing, Laboring and Thinking in 1960s Italy explores issues around labor, automation and repetition in Italian art, literature, design and film of the 60s.  In part, this work is in dialogue with contemporary Italian thought, especially as regards the question of the Autonomia movement, the refusal to work, and the question of wages.

2) She is also developing a digital project–between critical theory, geology and geography– that explores the relations of subsurface, surface and atmosphere in the time of climate change.

Karen is on the editorial boards of diacritics and World Picture Journal. For diacritics, she edited a special issue on climate change criticism (43.1), thirty years on from the influential issue on nuclear criticism.

Karen’s most recent book, Fuel, thinks about issues crucial to climate change by arguing for a separation of fuel (perhaps understood as potentiality, or dynamis, to use the Aristotelian term) from energy as a system of power (actuality, use).  Fuel follows a series of literary, filmic and critical texts through the form of a dictionary (from “air” to “zyklon D”).  Fuel engages with literature, art and critical theory as they are central to analogy and in turn, to fuel itself.

Recent Courses

Romance Studies

Rome on Film
The Cinematic Eye of Italy
Landscape in Italy, from the Dittamundo to cyberspace Technohistory of Italian Cinema
Technohistory of Italian Cinema

Comparative Literature

Art, Literature, and Environment
Humans and Climate Change

Selected Publications

  • Fuel. A Speculative Dictionary. (University of Minnesota Press, 2016)
  • Alchemical Mercury: A Theory of Ambivalence (Stanford University Press, 2009)
  • The Montesi Scandal: The Death of Wilma Montesi and the Birth of the Paparazzi in Fellini’s Rome (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
  • Picturing Silence: Emblem, Language, Counter-Reformation Materiality (University of Michigan Press, 1996)
  • Bodily Regimes: Italian Advertising Under Fascism (University of Minnesota Press, 1995)
  • Translation and edition of Francesco Adinolfi, Mondo Exotica: Sounds, Visions and Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation (Duke University Press, 2008)
  • Renato Barilli, A Course in Aesthetics (University of Minnesota Press, 1993)
  • Giorgio Agamben, Language and Death, with Michael Hardt (University of Minnesota Press, 1991)
Selected Recent Articles and Book Chapters
  • (2016) “Intermittent Grids,” forthcoming in South Atlantic Quarterly special issue on Autonomia and Anthropocene, edited by Bruce Braun and Sara Nelson
  • (2016) “Air,” (excerpt from Fuel) in Dominick Boyer and Imre Szeman, eds. The Energy Humanities Reader. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.
  • (2016) “Humans and Fuels, Bíos and Zōe,” chapter in A Cultural History of Climate Change, eds. Tom Ford and Tom Bristow. London: Routledge (environmental humanities series).
  • (2014), “Le missive precarie di Alighiero Boetti,” volume on precariousness edited by Monica Jansen and Silvia Contarini. Verona: OmbreCorte (forthcoming)
  • (2014) “Search for a Language: Response to Ian Baucom,” invited respondent to essay by Ian Baucom, “Postcolonial Method and Anthropocene Time,” in Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Studies, eds. Debjani Ganguly, Ato Quayson, Neil ten Kortenaar.
  • (2014), “Silent Running: Notes for The Remake,” special issue of Yearbook of Comparative Literature, edited by Paul North and Eyal Peretz on “Ideas of Nature.”
  • (2014) “Humans and Fuels, Bios and Zoe,” chapter in A Cultural History of Climate Change, eds. Tom Ford and Tom Bristow. Forthcoming, Routledge (environmental humanities series)
  • (2014) “Risk,” essay for Fueling Culture: Politics, History, Energy, Ed. Imre Szeman, et. al. forthcoming from Fordham University Press.
  • (2013)“Thinking Diverse Futures from a Carbon Present,” Symploke vol. 21, nos. 1-2 (special issue on Critical Climate).
  • (2012) “Hybrid Futures from a Carbon Present,” Symploke vol. 21, no. 1 (special issue on Critical Climate–forthcoming)
  • (2012) “Ambiguity, Ambience, Ambivalence, and the Environment,” Common Knowledge 19:1 (December) (Symposium: Fuzzy Studies, Part 4), pp. 88-95
  • (2012) “Nature (of Betrayal),” New Centennial Review 12.1 special issue on Betrayal, editors Richard Block and Michael du Plessis
  • (2012) “Selling Gasoline in Autarchic Italy,” in Figura umana. Normkonzepte der Menschendarstellung in der italienischen Kunst 1919-1939. Eckhard Leuschner, ed. Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag: 151-160
  • (2012) “Dematerialization from Arte Povera to Cybermoney through Italian Thought,” diacritics, vol. 39.3 (2009), 65-77
  • (2011)  “Antonioni, Cinematic Poet of Climate Change,” in Antonioni, Centenary Essays, edited by John David Rhodes and Laura Rascaroli.  London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011
  • (2011) “The Risks of Sustainability,” in Criticism, Crisis, and Contemporary Narrative. Textual Horizons in an Age of Global Risk, editor Paul Crosthwaite. London: Routledge, 2011, pp. 62-80
  • (2010) “Sustainability: a Dialogue with Images,” with Cameron Tonkinwise, World Picture Journal (December)
  • (2010) “Carbon Management: A Gift of Time?” Oxford Literary Review 32 (July), 51-70
  • (2010) “At the End: Cinema After Climate Change” (Udine Permanent Film Studies Conference Proceedings)
  • (2010) “The Rome of Pasolini’s Petrolio,” with Paolo Matteucci, Annali d’talianistica (special double issue on Rome)
  • (2008) “Nothing From Nothing: Alchemy and the Economic Crisis,” World Picture Journal (November)
  • (2008) “On Cars, Climate and Literary Theory,” Technology and Culture (October)