“Chekhov the Immigrant: Translating a Cultural Icon”
Symposium Co-Organizers: Julie de Sherbinin, Michael Finke
Ellen Beckerman is the artistic director of LightBox, a company that presents physically heightened, ensemble-driven productions of classic and contemporary plays and also creates original work. For LightBox, she has directed Charles Mee’s Orestes, Gull, Fanatics, Hamlet, Embarkation, and the upcoming The End of the Game. Other directing credits include The Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Soho Rep, New Dramatists, and The Playwrights Center. Beckerman is a recipient of the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors (2003-2005), a Drama League Fellow and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She has spent eight months in Thailand working with a Thai acting ensemble. She has an AB in History from Princeton University.
Sharon Marie Carnicke (School of Theatre, University of Southern California) has made landmark contributions to the study of Russian theater. Her books on theater directors Nikolai Evreinov (The Theatrical Instinct, Peter Lang, 1989) and Konstantin Stanislavsky (Stanislavsky in Focus, Harwood 1999; Routledge 2000) discuss the ways that Chekhov performance has been shaped and canonized by early twentieth-century Russian theater practice. She has written numerous articles and presented dozens of talks on Russian theater, nationally and internationally. Her translations of Chekhov’s The Seagull, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard have received performances nationwide.
Dr. Robert Coles (Department of Psychiatry, Harvard University; editor of DoubleTake Magazine), multiple Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the first MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship awardees, has had an illustrious career in interdisciplinary fields—largely of his own invention—that involve work in psychiatry, psychoanalysis, anthropology, sociology, history, and literary and cultural criticism. Among his many published books are biographies of Anna Freud and Erik Erikson; books of poetry; the five-volume series, Children in Crisis; several childrens’ books; and many volumes of essays of astounding range in subject-matter. He is the most prominent living American example of a medical doctor who is also an active player in the field of humanities, most broadly conceived, a towering cultural figure and social activist.
Peter Constantine is a freelance translator in New York City; he spent 2002-2003 as a writer-in-residence at Princeton University. Constantine brought literary sketches from Chekhov’s early prose to an English-speaking audience with translations published first in Harpers’ Magazine (November 1997), then as The Undiscovered Chekhov: Thirty-Eight New Stories (Seven Stories Press, 1998). Constantine’s volume was awarded the National Translation Prize for 1999 by the American Literary Translators Association. Selected vignettes were performed by Vanessa Redgrave in 1998. The volume has since come out in paperback (2000). Constantine has produced acclaimed translations of Isaac Babel, Nikolai Gogol, Ismail Kadare, Felix Morisseau Leroy, Thomas Mann, Alexandros Papadiamantis, and the Hannah Arendt-Heinrich Blucher correspondence.
Julie de Sherbinin (Department of German and Russian, Colby College) was the co-founder of the North American Chekhov Society and served as editor of the NACS Bulletin, a biannual scholarly newsletter, from 1992-2000. She edited issues on Chekhov and film (1999) and Chekhov in translation (2000) that have become reference points for Chekhov scholars. She has delivered papers at seven international Chekhov conferences and published five articles on Chekhov. In her monograph Chekhov and Russian Religious Culture: The Poetics of the Marian Paradiam (Northwestern UP, 1997), she identifies Chekhov as a literary ethnographer with profound understanding of the cultural psychology behind Russian Orthodoxy, who makes subtle and systematic use of its constructs in his narratives.
Andrew Durkin (Department of Slavic Languages, Indiana University), author of a book on Sergei Aksakov (Sergei Aksakov and Russian Pastoral [Rutgers 1983]) and specialist in nature-writing and the pastoral in nineteenth-century Russian literature, has presented on Chekhov at numerous conferences and published six articles on Chekhov. His articles tend to be close readings of individual stories; besides the theme of nature, in several he also explore that of art in Chekhov. He is currently completing a monograph on Chekhov.
Svetlana Evdokimova (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Brown University) is the author of Pushkin’s Historical Imagination (Yale UP, 1999) and an editor of Alexander Pushkin’s Little Tragedies: The Poetics of Brevity (WUP, 2003). She has written a range of book chapters on topics in nineteenth-century Russian literature and six articles devoted to Chekhov. She has presented eight conference papers on Chekhov’s prose and drama. Evdokimova is currently working on a monograph titled The Creation of Anton Chekhov that explores Chekhov’s enterprise of fashioning himself as a short story writer and a modern playwright. She has taught seminars on Chekhov on the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Michael Finke (Associate Professor of Russian, International and Area Studies, Washington University in St. Louis) has opened new perspectives on Chekhov in metapoetic and psychoanalytic readings linking Chekhov’s writings and his biography. He is author of Metapoesis: The Russian Tradition from Pushkin to Chekhov (Duke UP, 1995); his Seeing Chekhov: Life and Art (slated for publication by Cornell University Press in spring 2005) explores the complications of Chekhov’s multiple identities as physician, author, and patient. He also co-edited and introduced a volume of essays issuing from an NEH summer seminar on literature and psychoanalysis, One Hundred Years of Masochism: Literary Texts, Social and Cultural Contexts (Rodopi, 2000).
Carol Flath (Slavic Department, Duke University) has an accomplished record as a Russian interpreter, a translator of Russian and Japanese, and a Chekhov scholar. She interpreted for the U.S. Department of State during arms control negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. She has translated two books and several articles from Russian, and two books from Japanese, to English. Her translation of Kizaki Satoko’s The Phoenix Tree won the 1988 Japan-US Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. Her article “Anna Karenina: Translation, Literalism, and the Life of Art” (Tolstoy Studies Journal XIV, 2002) analyzes translations of Tolstoy’s novel, including the recent translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky. She teaches courses on the theory and practice of translation. Flath has authored seven articles on Chekhov’s prose and drama, all published in major Slavics journals.
Spencer Golub (Departments of Theatre, Speech and Dance, Comparative Literature, Slavic Languages, Brown University) is a prolific theater scholar with a history as a script consultant and as a member of an artistic directorate for New York theaters. He has directed Chekhov’s four major plays. His scholarly work on Russian theater includes a score of essays and two books, Evreinov: The Theatre of Paradox and Transformation (U. of Michigan Research Press, 1984) and The Recurrence of Fate: Theatre and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia (U. of Iowa Press, 1994). The interdisciplinary foundation of Golub’s work—which combines art and film criticism, theater, literary theory and aesthetics—is manifest in Infinity (Stage) (U. of Michigan Press, 1999) and in a work in progress, The Innocence Show, a post-surrealist blend of theory and fictionalized memoir about the anxieties of innocence and desire filtered through film, literature, and performance.
Michael Henry Heim (U.C.L.A.) has had a distinguished career as a scholar and a translator. He has produced professional translations from many languages. His Chekhov work includes the translation of Henri Troyat’s well-known biography Chekhov from the French, and renderings of all of Chekhov’s major plays—translations that have been performed in theaters across the U.S., in Canada, and in England, and were published last year by Random House in the Modern Library series as Chekhov: The Essential Plays. In Chekhov studies, he is best known for his translation of Chekhov’s letters in Anton Chekhov’s Life and Thought (U of California Press), a volume edited by Simon Karlinsky. It has undergone many reprintings and is widely regarded as a key source on Chekhov for non-Russian speakers in anglophone countries.
Robert Louis Jackson (Slavic Department, Yale University, emeritus), a preeminent American Slavist and scholar of Dostoevsky, organized the The Third International Chekhov Symposium at Yale University in April, 1990, from which issued the volume Reading Chekhov’s Texts (Northwestern UP, 1993). Here, and in an earlier edited volume—Chekhov: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice Hall, 1967)—Jackson assembles some of the most influential voices in Chekhov studies. Jackson, a pioneer of symbolic readings of Chekhov, champions humanistic-moral interpretations, a view evident in his in-depth analyses of individual stories and plays in some fifteen articles. He is currently assembling his own work on Chekhov into a book. Jackson co-founded The North American Chekhov Society in 1992.
Richard J. Kahn, M.D. practices internal medicine in Rockport, Maine, and is on the clinical faculty of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth Medical Schools. He was founder of the Maine Society for the History of Medicine; he belongs to one of the Maine Humanities Hospital Reading Groups and for over three decades has organized other medical humanities and ethics groups; and he has served on the Executive Committee of the Maine Humanities Council. His historical writings on American medicine have appeared in the Journal of the History of Medicine (Oxford), Bulletin of the History of Medicine (Hopkins), American National Biography (Oxford UP, 1999), and the New England Journal of Medicine. Current projects include a paper on Noah Webster’s efforts in the field of epidemiology, publication of an annotated transcription of the manuscript, Diseases of the District of Maine by Jeremiah Barker (1752-1835), and the forthcoming article “William Withering’s Wonderful Weed.”
James McConkey is Goldwin Smith Professor of English Literature Emeritus, Cornell University. His writing as a literary scholar, fiction writer, memoirist, essayist and teacher of creative writing openly acknowledges Chekhov’s considerable influence, most recently in the essay “On Being Human” (American Scholar [winter 2003]. He organized the Chekhov Festival at Cornell University (1977-78) and edited the volume issuing from it (Chekhov and Our Age: Responses to Chekhov by American Writers and Scholars [Ithaca, 1984]), and he has published two other books whose titles proclaim a deep involvement with Chekhov: the novel A Journey to Sahalin (Coward, 1971) and an account of Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin, To a Distant Island (Dutton, 1984). In this last work McConkey very literally makes Chekhov his own, incorporating Chekhov’s biography into a narrative about his own life. McConkey’s “Happy Trails to All” won the 2001 American Scholar Award for Best Essay.
Claire Messud (Writer and Critic, Boston) has published two widely acclaimed novels and a volume of novellas, as well as book reviews for such periodicals as The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. She has also held teaching appointments at a variety of American colleges and universities, including Amherst College and, most recently, Kenyon College, where she has taught fiction writing. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady (London: Granta, 1994; New York: Granta, 1995) and her novellas, The Hunters (New York: Harcourt, 2001) were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The Last Life (New York & London: Harcourt Brace, 1999) has been translated into at least seven languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Academy’s Straus Living Award. She is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for 2004-05.
Gary Saul Morson (Department of Slavic Languages, Northwestern University) figures among the best known Slavists in the United States, both within and outside the Slavic field. Along with Caryl Emerson, he has done much to bring the work of Mikhail Bakhtin to the English-speaking world. Their co-authored Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics (Stanford UP, 1990) and Morson’s Prosaic Bakhtin: Landmarks, Anti-Intelligentsialism, and the Russian Countertradition (Northwestern UP, 1995) elaborate a theory of prosaics that Morson brings to readings of nineteenth-century Russian authors, among them Chekhov. His readings of Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters—the latter in Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time (Yale UP, 1994)— pursue the idea of Chekhov’s investment in prosaic virtues, in the everyday decencies of life. Recent books by Morson include Philosophy in the Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel (Cambridge UP, 1998) and Contingency and the Literature of Process (Northwestern UP, 2002)
Katherine Tiernan O'Connor (Department of Modern Languages, Boston University) has delivered many talks on Chekhov and has broken new ground in a number of essays. She was one of the first to read Chekhov's letters as an integral part of his art. She has also offered a reading of Chekhov's death as "his textual past recaptured" and has explored the ways in which Chekhov's correspondence illuminate his relationship with Alexei Suvorin, his literary patron and friend. Her interest in Chekhov's letters on sickness and mortality took a comparative form in her study of the "discourse of mortality" found in the letters of Chekhov and D.H. Lawrence (both of whom died of tuberculosis at age forty-four). Before concentrating on Chekhov, she wrote articles on Leskov and Nabokov, a book on Pasternak's My Sister Life, and translations (with Diana Lewis Burgin) of Chukovsky, Dovlatov, and most recently of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. She hopes to write a book on the art of Chekhov's letters.
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are today’s leading translators of Russian fiction into English. A husband and wife team living in Paris, they have translated all of Dostoevsky’s major novels and two volumes of his shorter fiction, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and What Is Art?, Gogol’s Dead Souls as well as a volume of his short fiction, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, and most recently, two volumes of Chekhov’s fiction (Stories [New York: Bantam Books, 2000], and a forthcoming volume of Chekhov’s five longest stories (Complete Short Novels [Knopf/Everyman's Library, 2004]). Their translations have won two PEN awards, and they have both received honorary doctorates. Pevear has also published translations from French and Italian, and two volumes of his own poetry. He has received numerous grants and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris.
Cathy Popkin (Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University) has in recent years published a series of studies on Chekhov’s epistemologies as author and physician, on his staging of the epistemological insufficiencies of the medical gaze, and of the complementary way of knowing that is represented by narrative art. A summation of this work will soon be appearing in Bodies of Knowledge: Chekhov’s Corpus, under contract to Stanford University Press. She has also published on Chekhov’s narrative poetics, to which is devoted a section of her The Pragmatics of Insignifiance (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993). Popkin is currently editing a new Norton Critical Edition of Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories.
Francine Prose is the author of ten novels, including Blue Angel, which was nominated for a 2000 National Book Award. Her most recent books are After, Sicilian Odyssey, The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired; and Gluttony. Other books include Hunters and Gatherers, Bigfoot Dreams and Primitive People, two story collections, and a collection of novellas, Guided Tours of Hell. Her stories, reviews and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Best American Short Stories, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Yale Review, The New Republic; she is a contributing editor of Harper’s and Bomb, and writes regularly on art for The Wall Street Journal. Prose is the author of several essays on Chekhov, including “Learning from Chekhov” and “On Details.” Prose has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, two NEA grants, and a PEN translation prize.
Carol Rocamora (Department of Dramatic Writing, Tisch School of the
Arts, New York University) is a translator, playwright, director and teacher.
Her three volumes of the complete translated dramatic works of Anton Chekhov
have been published by Smith & Kraus (1996-1999). Her new play, “I
take your hand in mine …” based on the correspondence between Chekhov
and Olga Knipper, also published by Smith & Kraus, premiered in September
2001 at the Almeida Theatre in London with Paul Scofield and Irene
Worth, and opened in Paris in October 2003 at Peter Brook’s Theatre des Bouffes du Nord under his direction. Her new biography on Vaclav Havel's life in the theatre will be published in the fall of 2004, also by Smith & Kraus. Rocamora is also the founder of the Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays at Annenberg Center, where she has directed all of Chekhov's major plays. She has written about theatre for The Nation, The New York Times and The Guardian.
Savely Senderovich(Department of Russian Literature, Medieval Studies, Cornell University), a wide-ranging scholar of Russian literature, is author of the influential and iconoclastic monograph on Chekhov, Chekhov s glazu na gla (St. Petersburg, 1994). Senderovich has also co-edited another volume and published at least eight articles on Chekhov; among the latter, “A Fragment of Semiotic Theory of Poetic Prose” (Essays in Poetics 14.2, 1989) develops a new methodology for analyzing the semantic structure of Chekhov’s narratives. He has written on Chekhov and impressionism, Chekhov and Pasternak, and on the comedic nature of The Cherry Orchard. Senderovich’s scholarship includes studies of the beginning of Russian historiography in the eleventh century, The Lay of Igor’s Campaign, the Russian folk riddle, Pushkin, and Pasternak; most recently he has been publishing on Nabokov.
Laurence Senelick (Fletcher Professor of Drama and Oratory, Tufts University), is an eminent American scholar of Chekhov theater. He authored the seminal The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of the Plays in Performance (Cambridge UP, 1997)—one of twenty books on theater that he has written or edited in the last twenty-five years. His most recent book is The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre (Routledge, 2000). Senelick is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about the history of Chekhov international theater and about the translation of Chekhov’s drama into English. He is currently working on The Norton Critical Edition of Chekhov’s Select Plays and Chekhov’s Complete Plays (Norton), as well as A Documentary History of Soviet Theatre (Yale University Press).
Conevery Bolton Valencius (Senior Fellow, Dibner Institute, M.I.T.) is an environmental historian and historian of medicine currently researching a book on the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12. She recently published Health of the Country (Basic Books, 2002), a study of the rhetorical homologies between understandings of health problems and solutions for homesteaders and the land they were pioneering in the westward expansion of the United States. She has also published studies of American and Western European medical geographies. This summer she left her teaching position at Washington University in St. Louis, where she co-organized the Medical Humanities and Social Sciences Working Group, to continue her research and writing with her family in the Boston area. She is currently Senior Fellow at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
James Wood (The New Republic) is an editor and book review author for The New Republic, where he has published several commentaries on Chekhov, including “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “The Unwinding Stair: Can literature be simple?” His major essay on Chekhov, “Why We Like Chekhov,” appears in his collection The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (London: Jonathan Cape, 1999). Recently he has published a novel, The Book against God (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), and a book of essays, The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2004). He is the recipient of an Academy Award in Literature form the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001).