Paola Iovene, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations | On research leave 2021-22
Wieboldt 301K
Research Interests: Twentieth and twenty-first century Chinese literature and film; concepts of realism, modernism, and avant-garde; translation; Chinese opera film; documentary; literary history; media studies.


How do writers and filmmakers think about the relationship between the exploration of the possibilities of their medium and some form of responsibility—toward other beings, the world, and themselves—is the basic question that drives my work.

My first book, Tales of Futures Past: Literature and Anticipation in Contemporary China (Stanford University Press, 2014), explores how normative visions and intimate feelings about the future have shaped literary institutions, editorial practices, and diverse genres and texts (science fiction, children’s literature, translation of foreign literature, experimental fiction, and environmental literature) in socialist and postsocialist China.

I am now working on a book tentatively titled “Happy Together: Love and/on Location in Chinese-language Cinema,” which examines imbrications of landscape and romantic love in 1970s-1980s films that were mostly shot on location. The project investigates the technological conditions and notions of cinematic realism shaping these films as well as the fantasies of happiness that they helped normalize in the post-Mao era. For a new project called “Politics and Poetics of Air” I have begun to explore how coal, clouds and fog make their appearance in Chinese literature, film, and visual culture.

I am drawn to the moments in which literature and cinema engage the line between fact and fiction, and have an abiding interest in documentary literature and film, especially in works that attempt to account for traumatic experiences and contentious situations or events.

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

Selected Publications


From Chinese into Italian

  • Qiu Huadong, “Cloudbox,” Caratteri: Letteratura Cinese Contemporanea (2017)

  • Han Shaogong, “Le radici della letteratura” [Wenxue de gen/The Roots of Literature], Caratteri: Letteratura Cinese Contemporanea (2016.2, Bilingual issue).
  • 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.


Winter 2020

Topics in EALC: Poets/Teachers/Fighters:Writing Women in China and Beyond (undergraduate)

Keywords in Chinese Literary and Cultural Criticism: Nongcun, Nongmin, Xiangtu (graduate)


Spring 2020

 Chinese Independent Documentary Film (grad/undergrad)




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

Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Literature and film

Problems in Contemporary Chinese Literary Studies

Culture Fever: Chinese Literature in the 1980s



Inequalities in Chinese Literature and Media

Revolutionary Romance in Socialist China 

Modern Chinese Literature: Communities, Media, and Selves

The Writer and the People in Modern Chinese Literature

Contemporary Chinese Literature: Writers, Critics, and Institutions

Contemporary Chinese Writers and the Literary Field

Voices from the Iron House: Lu Xun’s Works


Undergraduate Core:

Beijing in Literature and Visual Culture (Autumn quarter, University of Chicago Center in Beijing)

Media Aesthetics: Image

Reading Cultures II: Travel