Literatures Across Borders: Armenians and Greeks. A Black Sea Networks Seminar

Thursday, February 16, 2017
4:00pm - 6:00pm
709 Hamilton Hall, Columbia University

Please join the Harriman Institute and the Black Sea Networks for a talk with Bella Grigoryan (Yale University) and Karen Van Dyck (Columbia University).

Bella Grigoryan on:
Romantic Prosaics and Modern Armenian Culture: How to Read Khachatur Abovyan’s Wounds of Armenia, and Why 
Although no sovereign Armenian state existed from the fourteenth century until the twentieth, “Armenia” figured quite prominently in Russian imperial public discourse, giving rise to a rhetorical formation that foregrounded the ordinary and the domestic. The Russo-Persian War of 1826-28 prompted a multi-lingual, multi-generic response that included historical and ethnographic writing, poetry and prose, and reportage. I propose to re-read Khachatur Abovyan’s chronicle of the Russo-Persian war, Wounds of Armenia (finished circa 1841), the first major novel in the Eastern Armenian vernacular, in an artistic, cultural and historical context, with attention to its reception in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and beyond. A not-quite-historical-novel produced by a self-styled and self-consciously stateless Eurasian cultural tradition that came to Romanticism rather late, Wounds of Armenia invites its reader to interrogate many of the familiar categories of Romantic nationalism and literary modernity while looking both east- and westward from the Ararat valley of the Armenian revivalist imagination.

Bella Grigoryan is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale. Her specific areas of research include the rise of the reading public and the periodical press, theory and history of the novel, the history and politics of social estates in Imperial Russia, and modern Armenian literature and culture from the late eighteenth century to the contemporary moment. Her first book, Noble Subjects: The Russian Novel and the Gentry, 1762-1861, will be published by Northern Illinois University Press in 2017.

Karen Van Dyck on:
Migration, Translingualism, Translation 
Increasingly, literature asks how to translate the foreign accents and translingual idioms of the migrant. Two contemporary Greek novellas create transliterative and homophonic spaces that are themselves translational. Thanasis Valtinos’s The Book of Andreas Kordopatis, Part One, America (1964), represents early migration with a story of a Greek making his way from his hometown in the Peloponnese to New Orleans, while Sotiris Dimitriou’s May Your Name be Blessed (1993), addresses the more recent migration of a boy, born in Albania to Greek parents, who returns to Greece when the communist regime ends. Both texts create shared linguistic spaces that resonate for two or more communities, helping readers to rethink concepts of cultural belonging. Existing English translations of these macaronic texts are contrasted with translations that introduce translingual sound patterning and intertextual references. Comparative studies of translingualism in literature and translations can offer new categories for understanding migration and enable fresh interventions into the debates on world literature, while also stimulating the development of inventive translation practices.

Karen Van Dyck is Kimon A. Doukas Professor of Modern Greek Literature in the Classics Department at Columbia University. Her books include Kassandra and the Censors: Greek Poetry since 1967The Rehearsal of Misunderstanding: Three Collections by Contemporary Greek Women PoetsThe Scattered Papers of Penelope: New and Selected Poems by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, and the bilingual anthology Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry. Her current research focuses on the literature of the Greek Diaspora and its lessons for translation.

The Black Sea Networks—the recipient of the President’s Global Innovation Fund grant for 2016-2018—is a new teaching, learning, and research initiative at Columbia University. Housed in Columbia’s Slavic Department and led by Professor Valentina Izmirlieva, the project aims to re-conceptualize existing multidisciplinary programs and initiatives within a larger Black Sea framework and to encourage undergraduate and graduate education in Black Sea Studies. Truly global in its scope, the initiative is developed by an international team of scholars in partnership with Yale University, NYU, Cambridge University, and Columbia’s Global Centers in Istanbul and Paris, and boasts the support of the Harriman Institute, the American Councils for International Education (Washington D.C.), the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, and a vast network of institutions across the Black Sea region. For more information, visit