Russia's Most Formidable Self-Translator: Elizaveta Kul'man and Her Multilingual Poetry

Adrian J. Wanner
Monday, October 12, 2020 -
12:30pm to 1:30pm
Virtual Lecture
Monday, October 12, 2020 -
12:30pm to 1:30pm

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Elizaveta Borisovna Kul’man (1808-1825) is a unique figure in the history of Russian literature.  A child prodigy fluent in eleven languages, Kul’man stands out both because of her polyglot prowess and outsized literary productivity.  Although her poetry was praised by Goethe and set to music by Robert Schumann, Kul’man is nowadays a more or less forgotten figure.  She wrote poems in multiple languages and created a vast corpus of linked texts in Russian, German and Italian through a process of “synchronous self-translation.”  By presenting her poems as translations from fictitious Greek sources, Kul’man combined pseudo-translation and self-translation into a unified whole.  This talk will explore Kul’man’s trilingual poetics by following the metamorphosis of one particular poem through its multiple linguistic incarnations.  Kul’man’s translingual creativity anticipates more recent developments in twentieth and twenty-first-century poetry written by global migrants.

Adrian Wanner is Liberal Arts Professor of Slavic Languages and Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University. Born and raised in Switzerland, he received his Ph.D. in Russian literature from Columbia University in 1992.  He is the author of Baudelaire in Russia (1996), Russian Minimalism: From the Prose Poem to the Anti-Story (2003), and Out of Russia: Fictions of a New Translingual Diaspora (2011). In addition he has published six editions of Russian, Romanian, and Ukrainian poetry in his German verse translation.  His most recent book, The Bilingual Muse: Self-Translation among Russian Poets, is forthcoming in Spring 2020 from Northwestern University Press.

Sponsored by
Program in Translation & Intercultural Communication