Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Do We Need Another Book on Taras Shevchenko?

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Please join the Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute for a talk by writer, translator, and literary critic Volodymyr Dibrova, moderated by Mark Andryczyk (Harriman Institute).

Given the pivotal position of T. Shevchenko in forging Ukrainian identity, it is important that his legacy as an artist (and first and foremost, as a poet) should not be the exclusive property of Shevchenko scholars and, worst of all, ideologues of different shapes and stripes. To turn a poet into an icon or a monument would have a very detrimental effect on anything he stands for, and on the whole Ukrainian national project. And that is why each generation of Ukrainians should have a fresh look at his life and his works. It is not only their right, it is their duty. And the basic questions they have to address are: Is he really a good poet? Does his life and work justify his status as a father figure of a modern nation? Does his writing still resonate with us? The book “Свіжим оком. Шевченко для сучасного читача” (Rereading Taras Shevchenko) tries to tackle all these issues.

The book is written from a perspective of a contemporary Ukrainian reader, properly educated, open-minded and neither politically, nor ideologically motivated. Thematically, the book discusses such issues as Ukrainian romanticism, the role of folklore, the predominance of emotions in the Bard’s poetry, Christianity and Paganism, the theme of Empire, his attitude towards Cossacks, his nearly metaphysical loneliness, the absence of Ukrainian literary infrastructure, as well as Shevchenko’s messianic aspirations.


Volodymyr Dibrova, PhD was born in 1951. He is a writer, translator, and literary critic, currently affiliated with the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. Dibrova is the author of six books of prose and collections of short fiction, three books of plays, and one book of literary criticism. His novel Andrew’s Way won the 2007 BBC Ukrainian Service Book of the Year award. English-language translations of his writing include Peltse, Pentameron (1996, Northwestern University Press) and On the Phone (a play), Ukrainian Literature: A Journal of Translations (Shevchenko Scientific Society of Canada, 2018). He has translated E. Ionesco, S. Beckett, H. D. Thoreau, E. Lear, K. Vonnegut and others into Ukrainian (and received the Mykola Lukash 1991 Prize for the translation of Samuel Beckett’s Watt into Ukrainian). He is  media content specialist and preceptor at the Harvard University Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, where he is responsible for teaching various aspects of Ukrainian. He has taught at Kyiv Linguistic University (Ukraine), Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Ukraine), Indiana University, Penn State University (Fulbright scholarship) and Harvard University. Dibrova’s research interests are Ukrainian and world literatures and cultural studies. His most recent publications are Kulish, a play (Kyiv, Ukrajinskyj Priorytet , 2019),  Nove, syve, rizne, a collection of short stories, (Kyiv, Smoloskyp, 2018) and Svizhym okom. Shevchenko dlia suchasnoho chytacha, a collection of essays on T. Shevchenko (Kyiv, Bilka, 2021). His most recent translation into Ukrainian (with Lidia Dibrova) is Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, (Lviv, Vydavnytstvo Staroho Leva, 2015).


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