Elena Past joined the faculty at Wayne State University in 2006. She is currently Professor of Italian in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and the former Associate Chair of that department. She teaches a wide range of courses in Italian literature, film, and culture on topics including contemporary Italian literature and cinema, literary theory, and ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, and is honored to be a past recipient of the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. She also teaches a course for the Global Studies program and is a member of the program's advisory board.
Elena has taught frequently on location in Abruzzo, Italy, as part of Wayne State's study abroad program. In Detroit, she helps coordinate the annual Italian Film Festival and other cinematic and cultural events. She currently serves as a member of the President’s Standing Committee on Environmental Initiatives and is a core member of the new Detroit-Windsor United Nations Regional Centre for Expertise (RCE) in Education for Sustainable Development.
Elena's publications include the books Italian Cinema Beyond the Human (2019), winner of the Modern Language Association’s Howard R. Marraro Prize; Methods of Murder: Beccarian Introspection and Lombrosian Vivisection in Italian Crime Fiction (2012); and the co-edited collections Landscapes, Natures, Ecologies: Italy and the Environmental Humanities (with Serenella Iovino and Enrico Cesaretti, 2018) and Thinking Italian Animals: Human and Posthuman in Modern Italian Literature and Film (with Deborah Amberson, 2014).
In 2021-2022, Elena spent the year conducting research in Italy on a project about Ferrania film, Italy's iconic producer of celluloid film stock, thanks to support from a Rome Prize Fellowship in Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy in Rome, a Fulbright fellowship, and Wayne State's Research Enhancement Program in the Arts and Humanities.
A graduate of the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin, she is excited to join the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University.