People of Manhattan:Rocco Marinaccio

“Most broadly, my scholarly interests are 20th and 21st century American literature and culture. Within that, I am interested particularly in cities and urban experience, in food studies, and also in Italian American studies. That is really diverse and sometimes it makes for a chaotic research agenda, but what I often find is that two or three of those interests connect.

“I’ve written about Italian Americans and food, I’ve written about Italian American food in New York City, and I’ve written about foodways and modernity in New York City. What I’m working on right now is an essay about how immigrant foodways in early 20th century New York were often seen as problematic by the powers that be.

“I’m grateful that I am able to bring my personal passions–my ethnic heritage, the history of my hometown, and my love of food–into my professional life. I think it’s a particular benefit of being a scholar in the humanities or social sciences as opposed to, say, being a chemical engineer. I certainly think chemical engineers feel passionate about what they’re doing, but there’s likely to be more of an overlap between what we might call your personal life and your professional life if you’re a humanist or a social scientist. I think it’s how a lot of us in the School of Liberal Arts operate: it’s what keeps us passionate in the classroom and in our writing. We look to minimize boundaries between our personal passions and what we do professionally.”

Interview conducted by Megan Dreher