On December 14, Comp Lit alum Caroline Godart returned to Rutgers to discuss the publication of her new book The Dimension of Difference: Space, Time and Bodies in Women’s Cinema and Continental Philosophy. She provided a brief overview of her project, connecting the analysis of space, time, and bodies in cinema with the work of philosophers Luce Irigaray, Henri Bergson, and Gilles Deleuze, and explaining her approach to theory-based feminist film criticism. She described the chapters, each of which focuses on the relationship between a theoretical concept and a film. In particular, she discussed two films by Claire Denis, Beau Travail and Trouble Every Day, at length, explaining why she chose to write about Denis’ most popular and least popular films side by side. She also explained the process of revising her dissertation for publication. An engaged discussion followed the presentation. Participants talked about Bergson’s concept of intuition and the relationship between intuition and identification as modes of approaching Hollywood or art films.
On Wednesday October 14, Ryan Kernan, Assistant Professor of English and Affiliate Faculty in Comparative Literature, presented his research at a Brown Bag lunch. Professor Kernan approached the recurring question of the relationship between Langston Hughes and Nicolás Guillén through the figure of Cuban writer, translator, and political activist José Antonio Fernández de Castro. By focusing on Fernández de Castro, Kernan argued for a comparative reading that does not fetishize difference by promoting untranslatability but rather uses intertextuality to read the political resonances of translated texts.
The presentation began with a reading of a political cartoon that established the terms of racial debate in Cuba in the period before Hughes’ Spanish translations. Then, Kernan focused on Fernández de Castro’s pseudonymous translation of Hughes’ “Brass Spittoons.” Kernan close read the poem in English and Spanish translation in order to identify the places where Fernández de Castro deliberately chose words that diverged from Hughes’ version in order to recast the poem with an explicitly proletariat political orientation. By considering the importance of Fernández de Castro’s work on this translation as well as his larger orchestration of the poetic relationship between Guillén and Hughes, Kernan’s comparative reading traces the way that black internationalism was formulated in a specific local context. Kernan argued that when critics claim that something is untranslatable or incomparable, this claim often reveals a lack of imagination. In contrast, his reading of the differences that emerge in Hughes’ Spanish translations offer fertile sites of comparative work on black internationalism.