Paola Iovene

Paola Iovene, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations. On Leave Autumn 2016 and Winter 2017
Wieboldt 301K
Teaching and Research Interests: 

My work focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century Chinese literature and film. Areas of research include contemporary Chinese fiction and criticism; popular science; conceptions of Chinese realism, modernism, and avant-garde; the translation of foreign literature in socialist China; narrative temporality in fiction and film; late 1940s cinema; opera film; and post-1989 Chinese independent documentary film. I am drawn to the moments in which literature and cinema engage with the tension between truth and fiction. I am especially interested in how specific conceptions of historical time are tied to structures of power, and in the ways in which such conceptions have been both contested and supported by literary and artistic practices.

My first book, Tales of Futures Past: Literature and Anticipation in Contemporary China (Stanford University Press, 2014), explores the ways in which normative visions and intimate feelings about the future have shaped literary institutions, editorial practices, and diverse genres and texts (science fiction, children’s literature, experimental fiction; environmental literature) in socialist and postsocialist China. I am currently working on several projects, including a book tentatively titled Precarious Testimony: The Poetics of Presence in Chinese Independent Documentary Film, which examines the tension between claims to immediacy and documentary film practices that rely on other media such as photography, televisual images, and painting. In a new project on The Politics and Poetics of Air I am trying to combine a cultural history of climate modification in China since the late 1950s with a conceptualization of weather as a lens through which to read literature.

I enjoy translating fiction and am experimenting with different ways to integrate translation in my research and teaching.

Selected Publications: 

Translations (from Chinese into Italian):

  • Han Shaogong, “Le radici della letteratura” [Wenxue de gen/The Roots of Literature], Caratteri: Letteratura Cinese Contemporanea (Bilingual issue 2016).
  • Xu Kun, “Cucina” [Chufang/Kitchen], Caratteri: Letteratura Cinese Contemporanea (2016): 4-17.
  • Ji Wenjun, “La stracciona” [Huar/The Tramp], Caratteri: Letteratura Cinese Contemporanea (2015): 53-63.
  • Fan Xiaoqing, “Breve storia della città e della campagna” [Chengxiang jianshi/Brief History of Country and City] Caratteri (2014): 22-35.
  • (with Silvia Pozzi) Cui Zi’en, “Il cinema digitale: le prime immagini libere” [Digital Film: The First Free Images], in Ombre Elettriche: Cento Anni di Cinema Cinese 1905-2005, edited by Marco Müller and Elena Pollacchi, 168–175. Milano: Mondadori Electa, 2005.
  • Han Shaogong, “Seduzione” [Youhuo/Seduction], A Oriente! (Spring 2003): 66–77.
  • Ge Fei, La Cetra Intarsiata [Jinse/The Patterned Lute]. Rome: Fahrenheit 451, 2000.
  • Ge Fei, “Primo Amore” [Chulian/First Love], in Un’Altra Cina. Poeti e Narratori degli Anni Novanta: A Special Issue of In Forma di Parole, no. 1 (1999): 287–292.
  • Han Shaogong, “La Profezia della Porta Nord” [Beimenkou yuyan/The Prophecy of the Northern Gate], in Un’Altra Cina. Poeti e Narratori degli Anni Novanta: A Special Issue of In Forma di Parole, no.1 (1999): 297–309.
  • Lu Xun, “Ajin” [Ajin], L’immaginazione, no. 134 (1996): 2–4.

Spring 2017

  • Voices from the Iron House: Lu Xun’s Works (undergrad/grad)
  • Problems in Contemporary Chinese Literary Studies (grad)

Previously Taught Courses

Graduate seminars:

  • Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction in Context
  • Uprooting and Displacement in Chinese Literature and Film
  • Tales of the Future in China and Elsewhere
  • Keywords in Chinese Literary and Cultural Criticism: Socialist Realism
  • The Contemporary Chinese Novel
  • Same-Sex Love in Modern Sinophone Cultures
  • Culture Fever: Chinese Literature in the 1980s
  • Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Literature and film


  • Chinese Independent Documentary Film
  • The Writer and the People in Modern Chinese Literature
  • Modern Chinese Literature: Communities, Media, and Selves
  • Contemporary Chinese Literature: Writers, Critics, and Institutions
  • Contemporary Chinese Writers and the Literary Field

Undergraduate Core:

  • Beijing in Literature and Visual Culture (Autumn quarter, University of Chicago Center in Beijing)
  • Media Aesthetics: Image

Reading Cultures II: Travel