The UConn Literary Translation Program and Creative Writing Program present Pheobe Giannisi. Her event, HOMERICA, will consist of dramatic performances of poetry in Greek and English.
New American Writing compares Giannisi’s work to C.P. Cavafy and Jean Rhys describing it as “completely original […] a complete rethinking of the myths. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call Giannisi’s re-tellings ‘re-weavings’ because they alter the fabric of the stories.”
Giannisi is the author of five books of poetry, including Homerica (2009) which was recently translated into English by University of Connecticut PhD student, Brian Sneeden. She holds degrees from the University of Lyonn II- Lumière and the National Technical University of Athens, and is an associate professor at the University of Thessaly. She co-edits FRMK, a biannual journal of poetry, poetics, and visual arts.
Brian Sneeden, a PhD student in English and Literary Translation Studies, describes translating Giannisi’s work as “a transformative experience. Phoebe Giannisi’s poems require a certain capacity for surrender – both in terms of how one experiences language and its perceived boundaries, but also in regards to the boundaries of English, which does not draw quite as easily as Greek from a vocabulary steeped in so ancient a history.”
On Thursday September 29th Classicist-musician Joe Goodkin performed his original musical composition of the Homeric masterpiece, the Odyssey. During the event, hosted by Professor of Classics Roger Travis, Joe played his 30-minute continuous piece that deconstructs the story of the Odyssey in song.
Goodkin put together a solo acoustic guitar and voice recital made of 24 original songs, whose lyrics are inspired by the epic book. His music is a fusion of mellow melodies, open-beat tunes and blues rhythms. He studied Ancient Greek at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and decided to combine his passion for the classics with his musical expertise after having written and recorded his own rock music. He has received several ASCAP Composers’ awards.
His UConn concert captivated the audience and following his performance, Professor Travis briefly spoke about the relevance of the Odyssey within the context of modern digital media. During the discussion, students asked Goodkin about his thoughts on the Homeric story as well as his musical background. Goodkin explained that each of his songs are an interpretation of the Odyssey and represent the personal perspectives of its main characters. He added that his songs pay tribute to the characters’ universal human dimension by recreating their feelings and experiences. Although he admitted that a lot of narrative inevitably gets lost when the book is turned into a series of songs, he said that his lyrics attempts to capture the emotional charge of the experience of hearing the epic poem as it was originally performed.
Since 2003 Goodkin has been on a tour at high schools and colleges across the US and Canada, and his UConn’s recital marked his 200th performance. His songs are available for purchase on iTunes and Spotify.
For more information, go to his website, www.joesodyssey.com
Adriana Alcina Gómez
Jay Winter explores the geometry of memory
On Friday September 23rd Dr. Jay Winter visited the University of Connecticut to speak at a special event hosted by the English Department titled Behind the Lines, Across Boundaries: A Conference in Honor of Margaret Higonnet.
Winter, the Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University, specializes in World War I history and its impact on the 20th century. Winter has dedicated his life to studying the remembrance of war, specifically focusing on memorials and mourning sites. He has authored and edited countless books and even produced the Emmy Award winning PBS series, The Great War and Shaping the 20th Century. Despite an overwhelming list of accomplishments, Winter reiterates, “I would like to be known by two things: by my writing and by my students.”
Winter’s discussion of the spatial logic of war memorials and the geometry of remembrance asked the audience to ponder the idea that horizontality has become the language of mourning. Winter explained that the problem of violence is too big for any one set of scholars to address. He said, “People are influenced more by what they see than by what they read.” Winter’s presentation demonstrated this idea, illustrating it with a host of moving photos of war memorials, monuments, and cemeteries. He explained his concept of the geometry of remembrance by walking the audience through his own experience of aiding in the design the Historial de la Grande Guerre (The Museum of the Great War) in Peronne, France. The exhibits were designed on a horizontal axis, with the objects of war placed in dugouts in the ground, forcing viewers to look down, much as they would look have at a gravesite or a trench.
Winter also discussed the gendering of mourning, comparing the postures of the granite statues of Karl and Käthe Kollwitz at their son’s gravesite in Belgium (above). Winter noted that on a rainy day, it would appear as though the statue of Käthe Kollwitz were actually crying. Winter concluded his riveting talk with the idea that, since the First World War, horizontality has come to represent horror, as opposed to the “vertical normality” which was common prior to that period.
The award-winning novelist and lecturer Carmen-Francesca Banciu spoke on September 22nd about creative writing and the power of play and creativity. Banciu’s experiences as an immigrant are often echoed in her characters’ journeys. Banciu grew up close to the Hungarian border in a multicultural, multilingual environment, an aspect that is reflected in the way she handles language in her fiction. Her novels deal with the geographic, psychic and linguistic migrations of woman authors in Europe during and after the Communist era.
During her presentation, Banciu examined her complex relationship with languages. As, she explained, “each one has its own, unique sounds and words that evoke special meanings and images.” She often changes the meaning of words and plays with grammar in order to capture the diversity and uniqueness of life, languages, and cultures. The novelist argued that creativity and play have liberating effects on people since they serve as healing tools. Thus instead of fearing failure and avoiding mistakes, she allows them to play out and transforms them into art.
After receiving the prestigious International Short Story award of Arnsberg, Banciu was banned from publishing her work in Romania. As a result, she decided to move to Germany. She is the author of eight books, four novels, and four collections of short stories, which have been translated into many languages. Since 2013 she also serves as co-editor and deputy director of the multilingual e-magazine Levure Littéraire.
Adriana Alcina Gomes
photo credit: © Marijuana Georgia Gheorghiu.