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2023-24 Old Dominion Public Lecture Series – Reading (like a translator?): The War-time Poetry of René Char

Sandra Bermann, Comparative Literature

Wed, 2/28 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 010 East Pyne

Humanities Council

Feuillets d’Hypnos (Leaves of Hypnos) was written by the poet René Char during the French Resistance.  It reflects particularly on his years as a leader on the Maquis. The text won immediate praise from critics, from philosophers such as Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, and Hannah Arendt, from painters such as Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso.  Though often considered a particularly difficult text in French, it was soon translated into some thirty languages, and several artistic forms–and is currently the subject of a collaborative scholarly project.  Drawing on Princeton’s “Char archives,” as well as recent translation theory, we ask:  How might we better understand Char’s poetry of resistance and its cultural diffusion?  What new insights might these offer about translation, resistance, and the reading of poetry?

Sandra L. Bermann is Cotsen Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature.  She served as Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature (1998-2010) and co-founded the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication (2007). During her career at Princeton, Bermann served in various university capacities, including Head of Whitman College (2011-19).  Above all, she has contributed to international learning within the university, as Chair of the President’s Bridge Year Program planning group (2008), as Founder and Director of the PIIRS Migration Research Community (2016-19); and Director of the Fung Global Fellows Program (2020-21).  Within the field of comparative literature, she has pursued these goals as President of the American Comparative Literature Association (2007-09) and later, as President of the International Comparative Literature Association (2019-2022).  In addition to numerous essays in the fields of lyric poetry, history and theory of literature, as well as in translation studies, her books include The Sonnet Over Time: A Study in the Sonnets of Petrarch, Shakespeare and Baudelaire, (1988); Manzoni’s ‘On the Historical Novel,’ A Translation and Critical Introduction, (1984; 1996); Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation, co-edited with Michael Wood (2005); and The Wiley -Blackwell Companion to Translation Studies, co-edited with Catherine Porter (2014).

Old Dominion Research Professors contribute to the Council’s programs and events and engage the campus community in sustained discussions about their research. This cohort of senior faculty join a yearlong program designed to provide additional research time and to enhance the humanities community more broadly. They also serve as faculty fellows in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. Old Dominion Professors are full professors in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

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