About Eugenia paulicelli

 

I am Professor of Italian, Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies at Queens College and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. I am the founder and director of Fashion Studies in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and PhD Concentration at The Graduate Center, CUNY. My writings on Italy have inevitably being shaped and transformed by my experience of living and working in the US and by the ongoing intersections of language, visual sensibility and memory.

I first came to the US to teach Italian at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville. I left Italy because I wanted to explore the world, especially the US. I had never been before and did not know anybody here. One April evening, out of the blue, I received a phone call from a professor from Tennessee informing me that the University was ready to offer me the job I had applied for but that he had to have a conversation with me first. That phone call changed the course of my life forever, and for the better. I was given a one-year lectureship contract. A few months later, on September 3rd, 1987 I left Italy. Sometime magic things happen. One day I will write a memoir about this.

Coming to the US enabled me to live abroad for a long time and to think and study Italy from afar. It was an eye opening experience.  I then continued my US adventure when I decided to go to graduate school.  I completed my PhD at the University of Wisconsin in Madison; took up my second teaching position in the US at Wellesley College; and then accepted an offer from the City University of New York to teach at Queens College and later at The Graduate Center. In my writing, I have been particularly interested in exploring the intersections between word and image (literature, cinema, fashion and media); the impact of technology in shaping these encounters and the history and role of women in relation to fashion, the visual arts and writing (literature and journalism).To understand these processes as craft and labor implies touching and unraveling the emotional, the aesthetic and the political dimensions of how and what we do and think.

Out of my interest in word and image came my subsequent work on fashion that has occupied me for the last twenty-five years of my research, publication, teaching (including designing the program in Fashion Studies at the City University of New York). As an Italianist I have always been engaged in the study of Italian culture in broad interdisciplinary contexts. In my writings, fashion and the made in Italy intersect with literature, film, media and the arts and the history of women. I also always have had a strong sensibility for issues of social justice, human and women’s rights.  My engagement with fashion has also been informed by this thinking and practice. To unpack the choices and the meaning of dress and behavior, the making and crafting of dress in different historical epochs, the uses individuals and groups make of clothing and the way they fashion identity, are my constant concerns.

The fashion programs I am involved in are the result of my longstanding belief that fashion is an important manifestation of our everyday habits, gestures and perfomances as well as being an economic and social force. Fashion deserves recognition as a fully-fledged interdisciplinary field of study. Because of its inherent interdisciplinarity, fashion can occupy different locations in higher education. This will depend on the culture and identity of the institution itself as well as the expertise, research and teaching of the scholars focusing on fashion. In this variety of offerings I see the opportunity for dialogue and enrichment and not the establishment of ownership and hierarchy among disciplines and domains. I have been working since the beginning of my career on building this dialogue among colleagues, museum curators, scholars and journalists and designers in and outside New York. These contacts have resulted in several co-organized conferences and events and as well as in scholarly publications and exhibitions held at CUNY Galleries and museum spaces, all aiming at the advancement of fashion as an important field of study.

Fashion challenges the boundaries of traditional methods and specialized knowledges and languages; it is a field that opens up and brings into contact several domains and languages usually kept separate (the writer and the conservator, the artist and the scientist, the technologist and the archivist, the historian and the poet; the actor/dancer and the architect). It cannot be understood in its complexity if theory is separated from praxis. The critical lens of fashion can open up new ways of approaching and understanding culture, identity, art, gender and the body.

These concerns are the backbone of my research, teaching and writing that bridge and connect my professional and personal life in a harmonic evolving whole.

 

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