Michael J Subialka


Position Title
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian
Italian Faculty Advisor
Director of Graduate Study for Comparative Literature
Faculty Graduate Advisor

502 Sproul Hall
Office Hours
W23: Thursdays, 1-3pm (502 Sproul), and by appointment (email to schedule)

Education and Degree(s)

  • Ph.D., University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought and Romance Languages and Literatures
  • M.A., University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought and Romance Languages and Literatures
  • B.A., Italian and Philosophy, University of Notre Dame - Phi Beta Kappa

Research Interest(s)

  • The intersection of literature and philosophy
  • Comparative modernisms (focus on Italian in relation to German, English, French)
  • German Idealist and post-Idealist thought (Schopenhauer, German Romanticism, Nietzsche, etc.)
  • 20th-century Italian literature (especially Pirandello, d’Annunzio, the Futurists, Svevo, and Malerba)
  • Italian and European theatre (especially avant-garde theatre, the theatre of the grotesque/teatro grottesco)
  • Early cinema/silent film
  • Translation and translation studies
  • Decadentism and aestheticism (d’Annunzio, Wilde, Huysmans, Pater, Kierkegaard)
  • Early-modern Italian literature and philosophy, especially legacies of Platonism/Neoplatonism (including Campanella, Ficino, Della Porta, Marinella, and the genre of the courtly love treatise)

Course(s) Taught

  • COM 007: Literature of Fantasy and the Supernatural
  • COM 022: Literature of the Abnormal Psyche
  • COM 141: Introduction to Critical Theory
  • COM 146: The Avant-Garde
  • COM 210: Comparative Modernisms
  • COM 210: Literature and Philosophy
  • ITA 104: Italian Translation and Style
  • ITA 105: Introduction to Italian Literature
  • ITA 113: Dante Alighieri Divina Commedia
  • ITA 115A: Cinquecento (Renaissance Literature and Culture)
  • ITA 120B: Modern Italian Drama (Pirandello and the Avant-Garde)
  • ITA 128: Italian Fascism (Topics in Italian Culture)
  • ITA 145: Love, Italian Style: Early Modern Poetry, Prose, and Art
  • ITA 145: Rome in Literature and Film
  • FRS 002: Futurisms
  • FRS 002: Avant-Garde!
  • FRS 002: Modern Enchantresses


Before joining the faculty at UC Davis, I taught at the University of Oxford, where I was the Powys Roberts Research Fellow in European Literature at St Hugh’s College, and as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Program in Cultures, Civilizations, and Ideas at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. I received my PhD from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

My work focuses on the rich interplay of literature and philosophy – how philosophy informs and shapes literature and how literary form in turn shapes philosophy. My approach to these topics is to explore their mutual interaction as well as to ask how that interaction shapes the way that we imagine ourselves, both as individuals and as societies. My first monograph, Modernist Idealism: Ambivalent Legacies of German Philosophy in Italian Literature (University of Toronto Press, 2021) examines this interplay, arguing that the artistic form of Italian modernism realizes philosophical concepts elaborated in German idealism and rearticulated in various guises of spiritualist and vitalist thought across the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. I thus connect modernist figures and movements spanning from decadence/decadentismo and Futurism (with focus on an under-studied figure, Bruno Corra) to Luigi Capuana, Grazia Deledda, Eugenio Montale, Luigi Pirandello, Italo Svevo, and others, also considering the development and theorization of early silent cinema. These artistic minds are situated in relation to philosophers and thinkers including Schopenhauer, Hegel, Nietzsche, Bergson, De Sanctis, Croce, and Papini. I argue that this Italian-German case study provides a paradigm for the broader, transnational modernist rearticulation of idealist thought. 

I also work on modern performance and film studies, focusing especially on the avant-garde period of the early 20th century in Italy and with an interest in critical theory responding to that period. My research in this area is coupled with practical involvement in theatre. At Oxford, I co-directed two Italian plays, Serata Futurista! (Futurist Soiree!) and Fiabe Italiane (Italian Fairy Tales). When I was a student at the University of Notre Dame, I also acted in foreign-language theatre in plays by writers like Dario Fo. I continue to be interested in how practical involvement in making art relates to research on the meaning of artistic production.

While my primary research focus is on 19th- and 20th-century culture (literature, philosophy, theatre, and film), I have a strong additional interest in early modern thought and culture. I have published on Italian thinkers and writers from the Renaissance and Baroque, including Tommaso Campanella and Lucrezia Marinella. I am particularly interested in how political thought and culture intersect with philosophy and early science in this period’s creative imagination. Early modern mysticism, magic, the occult, and their links to Neoplatonism are particularly fascinating in this regard.

My research engages translation theory and practice, which I also teach in the classroom, spanning both literary and philosophical texts. In addition to co-translating the postmodern novel Roman Ghosts (Fantasmi romani) by Luigi Malerba, I have also translated Francesco De Sanctis' important essay "Schopenhauer and Leopardi: A Dialogue between A and D," which is included as an appendix in my monograph on Modernist Idealism

I have a strong interest in collaborative work – from co-translating a contemporary novel to co-editing volumes and co-directing theatre. My co-authored book, Scrittura d'immagini: Pirandello e la visualità tra arte, filosofia e psicoanalisi (Rubbettino, 2021), written with Carlo Di Lieto and Lisa Sarti, offers the first sustained examination of Pirandello's theory and practice of visual writing. I am currently working with Elisa Segnini on a collaborative project to produce a new study of D'Annunzio as World Literature. I look forward to creating new connections that cross disciplinary boundaries in a similarly collaborative way.

My newest collaborative project is a shared undertaking with co-editor Lisa Sarti, a digital edition of Luigi Pirandello's complete collection of 244 short stories, Stories for a Year (Novelle per un anno). Our digital edition will be the first-ever complete translation of Pirandello's stories into English, making them available to readers and scholars with new editorial apparatus. The project is ongoing, but dozens of stories are already online: https://www.pirandellointranslation.org/ 

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Selected Publications


Modernist Idealism: Ambivalent Legacies of German Philosophy in Italian Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021.

Co-author. Scrittura d’immagini: Pirandello e la visualità tra arte, filosofia e psicoanalisi. With Carlo Di Lieto and Lisa Sarti. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino, 2021.

Co-Edited Volumes

Pirandello’s Visual Philosophy: Imagination and Thought across Media. With Lisa Sarti. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017.

L’innamorato, by Brunoro Zampeschi. With Sarah Christopher-Faggioli, Armando Maggi, and Chiara Montanari. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2010.

Journals Edited

Co-editor. “Reawakening Beauty: Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Seduction of the Senses.” With Lara Raffaelli. Forum Italicum. LI, 2 (August 2017).

Editor. PSA: The Journal of the Pirandello Society of America, XXVII - XXXIII (2014 - 2021).

Co-editor. “Reimagining Transnationalism in the Global Academy.” With Jennifer Reimer. New Global Studies, IX, 3 (December 2015).

Digital Humanities Publication Projects:

Co-editor and Co-PI. Stories for a Year. Online Scholarly Edition of the First English Translation of Luigi Pirandello’s Novelle per un anno. www.pirandellointranslation.org (2021-Present).

Articles and Book Chapters:

“Pirandello and Germany.” In Pirandello in Context. Ed. Patricia Gaborik. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (accepted, forthcoming).

“Pirandello and Modernity.” In Pirandello in Context. Ed. Patricia Gaborik. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (accepted, forthcoming).

“Meta-theatrical Comedy: Pirandello’s Existential Humour and the Italian Avant-Garde.” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 58:3 (2022; accepted, forthcoming).

“Dehumanized Affect: Modernist Performance and the Cultivation of Aesthetic Sensibility.” European Drama and Performance Studies, XVII, 2 (2021): 339-360.

“Digital Pirandello: The Edizione Nazionale dell’Opera Omnia di Luigi Pirandello, Online.” Pirandello Studies, XLI (2021): 146-153.

“Acting Aestheticism, Performing Decadence: The Cinematic Fusion of Art and Life.” Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies, II, 2 (2019): 1-20.

Co-author. “Tradurre Luigi Malerba: ‘romanità’ e mercato internazionale.” With Miriam Aloisio. Avanguardia, LXVII (2018): 65-85.

“L’isola come ritmo della vita: adattamenti postmoderni della creazione pirandelliana.” In Luigi Pirandello e un mondo da ridisegnare. Eds. Gabriella Caponi, Fausto De Michele, and Alessandra Sorrentino. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2017; pp. 181-214.

“Diva Decadence: Conflicted Modernity from Death to Regeneration.” In The Poetics of Decadence in Fin de Siècle Italy. Eds. Stefano Evangelista, Valeria Giannantonio, and Elisabetta Selmi. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2017; pp. 273-298.

“Introduction: D’Annunzio’s Beauty, Reawakened.” With Lara Gochin Raffaelli. Forum Italicum, LI, 2 (August 2017): pp. 311-334.

“Introduction.” With Lisa Sarti. In Pirandello’s Visual Philosophy: Imagination and Thought across Media. Eds. Lisa Sarti and Michael Subialka. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017; pp. ix-xxvi.

“The Seduction of Innocence: Erotic Aesthetics from Kierkegaard to Decadentism.” In Innocence Uncovered: Literary and Theological Perspectives. Eds. Beth Dodd and Carl E. Findley. Farnham: Ashgate, 2017.

“The Meaning of Acting in the Age of Cinema: Benjamin, Pirandello, and the Italian Diva from Stage to Screen.” Comparative Literature, LXVIII, 3 (Fall 2016).

“Modernism at War: Pirandello and the Crisis of (German) Cultural Identity.” Annali d’Italianistica, XXXIV (2015).

“Grotesque Critique and Salutary Humour: Pirandello against the teatro grottesco?” Pirandello Studies, XXXV (2015).

“Pirandello’s Mother: Feminine Perception and Double Vision.” PSA: The Journal of the Pirandello Society of America, XXVI (2013) pp. 71-95.

“Heroic Sainthood: Lucrezia Marinella’s Genealogy of the Medici Aristocracy and Saint Catherine’s ‘gesti eroici’ as a Rewriting of the Gender of Virtue.” In De’ gesti eroici e della vita maravigliosa della serafica S. Caterina da Siena, by Lucrezia Marinella. Ed. Armando Maggi. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2011; pp. 165-194.

“Transforming Plato: Tommaso Campanella’s La città del sole, the Republic, and Socrates as Natural Philosopher.” Bruniana & Campanelliana, XVII, 2 (2011); pp. 417-434.

“From Philosophical Theory to Literary Praxis: The Question of Love in L’innamorato.” In L’innamorato, by Brunoro Zampeschi. Eds. Armando Maggi, et. al. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2010; pp. 221-238.

“Vital Theater: Pirandello, Marinetti, and Lebensphilosophie.” PSA: The Journal of the Pirandello Society of America, XXIII (2010); pp. 11-43.

Translations (Selected)

Roman Ghosts. Translation of Luigi Malerba’s novel, Fantasmi romani. With Miriam Aloisio. New York: Italica Press, 2017.

“Image of the ‘Grotesque’,” by Luigi Pirandello. Pirandello Studies, XXXV (2015).

“Italian Philosophy in Relation to European Philosophy,” by Bertrando Spaventa. In The Renaissance from an Italian Perspective: An Anthology of Essays 1860-1968. Ed. Rocco Rubini. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2014; pp. 45-110.

“The Italian Crisis of the 1500s and the Link between the Renaissance and the Risorgimento,” by Benedetto Croce. In The Renaissance from an Italian Perspective: An Anthology of Essays 1860-1968. Ed. Rocco Rubini. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2014; pp. 161-170.

“A Conversation with My Mother,” by Luigi Pirandello. Translated with Miriam Aloisio. PSA: The Journal of the Pirandello Society of America, XXVI (2013); pp. 97-107.


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