Dean of Faculty Report, March 2007

At every monthly faculty meeting during the school year, the Dean of Faculty presents brief overviews of recent publications and other achievements by the Mount Holyoke faculty. Here are excerpts from the March 2007 report of Donal O'Shea, Dean of Faculty


William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies Roberto Marquez’s book Puerto Rican Poetry: An Anthology from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times has appeared with University of Massachusetts Press. This is a labor of years, and represents scholarship and artistry at the highest levels. You have to get it (I cannot stay out of it) for at least three reasons. First, the poems themselves. They range from 1500 to modern times, and some of them are simply stunning. They run a huge gamut of genres and dialects. Some are whimsical, some highly charged. Some seem to tap the sacred, others the profane. Some are deeply romantic and loving, others highly erotic, and some both. And they are in an incredibly different range of voices. The translations are stunning. The second reason you have to have this book is for the notes, the analysis of the periods and trends. It is essentially a social and literary history of Puerto Rico through its poetry, and it is only $29. The third reason you have to have it is because of what it says about Bob. I’ll say more about this at faculty meeting, but we all think we know and love him. He has a huge vocabulary, and talks and writes with long words and even longer sentences that demand, and reward, close attention. But what you realize when you look at this book is that you don’t know him at all. Bob has translated nearly every one of these poems, and they are in hundreds of different voices. He has translated centuries-old Creole into modern-day dialect, and catches formally educated poets carefully mimicking the Joual/Creole/patois in use. See, for example, his rendering of Miguel Cabrero’s “The Jibaro’s Verses.” He catches the languid desire of long-time lovers, the light, joyful lilt of pre-adolescents, the high-minded calls to nationhood, and the demagogic patriotism of times past. It is clear that we don’t know Bob at all—there is not just one of him, there are hundreds. Bob talks a bit about the translator’s art in his introduction, borrowing Haroldo Campos’s term transcreation to highlight the role of collaboration, creation anew, and ear. It brings to mind Peter Viereck’s “Transplanter Credo,” the short piece in which our late faculty member informed us that he spent over 60 years trying to render a set of poems correctly into colloquial English. Viereck, along with Richard Wilbur of Smith College and Seamus Heaney of Dublin, was one of a handful of the greatest translators of modern times. With this book, it is clear that Bob has joined those rarefied ranks.

Keti Kintsurashvili’s book on David Kakabadze has been translated into English from Russian and has just appeared with Saari publishing house in Tbilisi. Keti had been here on a Fulbright fellowship some years ago and was with us again this January teaching a J-Term course. The book, entitled David Kakabadze: A Twentieth Century Classic, is wonderful, and it is great to have it in English. As I wrote about the original, “It is about the life and work of the early twentieth-century Georgian artist David Kakabadze (1889–1952). Multitalented, Kakabadze became interested in photography at an early age and painted in a wide variety of styles. The book traces Kakabadze’s life and work, organizing the account into five different periods: early, 1889–1913; Saint Petersburg, 1913–1918; Tbilisi, 1918–1919; Paris, 1920–1927; and Tbilisi, 1927–1952. In each period, Keti covers Kakabadze’s work and what and who influenced it. If, like me, you had never heard of Kakabadze, the book will be a revelation: his early sketches are lovely, the painting entitled My Mother Imeretia from his early Tbilisi period is amazing (I’m sure I’ve seen reproductions, but now would love to see the original), and the sheer range of his work and his willingness to experiment is stunning. Keti’s account of the Paris period is fascinating. Kakabadze worked with an incredible collection of Georgian artists who lived there in the early 1920’s, among them Lado Gudiashvili (also a dancer) and Elene Akhvlediani, persons whose acquaintance I first met in this book. On returning to Tbilisi, Kakabadze fused abstract techniques with folk elements to create some unforgettable landscapes. The book itself is a joy. It is filled with photographs, many taken by Kakabadze himself, many in margins. It functions as a biography, as a critical outline of the artist’s work, and as an account of the extraordinary creative scene in early twentieth-century Georgia, of which Kakabadze was a crucial part.” I’ll put it in the library.

Shahrukh Khan, visiting Professor of Economics, has just had a book come out with Oxford University Press. More next month, when I have had a chance to read it.

Grants and Awards

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum director Marianne Doezema and her colleagues secured a grant to Museums10 from the John and Abigail Adams Arts Program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This program seeks projects that will advance cultural tourism. They got $75,000 for the first year and expect to receive the same amount next year (in which case the grant would total $150,000). With Marianne’s collaboration, Museums10 has put together a number of “themed collaborative initiatives.” The grant will help them market the second of these in fall 2007. Entitled BookMarks, it will celebrate the art of the book, literature, bookmaking, and literacy. Next year, they will start work on a third collaborative initiative: exhibitions and programming about food/gastronomy in 2010.

Donna Van Handle, senior lecturer in German studies and dean of international students, has been awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz (the Federal Cross of Merit). This award is made by the Federal Republic of Germany to honor people who have contributed to increasing knowledge and understanding of German culture. It is a big honor, analogous to France’s Legion of Honor, and it is the only general state decoration in Germany.

Please keep sending papers, books, grants, etc.

Don O’Shea