Recipient of a Critical Theory Research Grant, 2018-2019
Philip Gerard is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. His dissertation, “A Translation including History: Ezra Pound, Paul Celan, and the Rhythms of the Past,” examines how modernist practices of translation critically engage literary canons and textual archives to make silenced histories newly audible. To this end, the dissertation compares two of the twentieth-century’s most influential poet-translators, Ezra Pound and Paul Celan. No two poets could be more different, and yet Gerard argues that Pound and Celan essentially agree that the task of translation lies in animating for the present the historical content embedded in linguistic and poetic forms of the past. His dissertation uses this surprising convergence not only to reframe Pound and Celan’s more manifest aesthetic and political divergences, but also to reinterpret the contradictions immanent to literary modernism’s understanding of history and use of tradition. The implications of this reassessment are double: on the one hand, Gerard shows that what allows modernist practices of translation to interrupt, deconstruct, and/or rearticulate received accounts of the past is also what makes these practices such potentially powerful instruments of historical disavowal. On the other hand, Gerard argues that what is at stake in modernist translation is nothing less than a critical version of cultural exchange and historical transmission—an emphatically “comparative” literature that contests both nationalist myth-making and the form of literary value traded on the global market.