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Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies pres.

CREES Noon Lecture. Epic Proportions: Translating Poland’s National Epic for the 21st Century

Bill Johnston, professor of comparative literature, Indiana University

Pan Tadeusz cover Pan Tadeusz cover
Pan Tadeusz cover
This talk will offer a practitioner’s reflections on what it means to translate an epic poem in the twenty-first century. What can epic poems of the past mean to us today, and how specifically is that meaning transmuted in the crossing of linguistic, cultural, and temporal borders? Using the experience of translating Adam Mickiewicz’s 1834 Polish-language epic narrative poem "Pan Tadeusz" as both starting point and finish line, Johnston will consider such underconceptualized aspects of translation as imagined and actual readership; the role of aesthetic pleasure in the reading experience; and translation as trespass.

Bill Johnston translates from Polish, working in a wide range of genres and historical periods. His awards include the PEN Translation Prize and the Best Translated Book Award, both for Wiesław Myśliwski’s novel "Stone Upon Stone" (2012); the Found in Translation Prize for Tomasz Różycki’s mock-epic poem "Twelve Stations" (2016); the National Translation Award for Adam Mickiewicz’s epic in verse "Pan Tadeusz" (2019); fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities; and, for his overall contributions to promoting Polish literature and culture, the Transatlantyk Prize (2014) and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (2012). He teaches literary translation at Indiana University.

If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to crees@umich.edu at least 2 weeks in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
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