New Europe Writers – Educational Initiative
Using the Anthologies in the Classroom
Due to mounting interest in our anthologies as a teaching tool, New Europe Writers has launched an educational initiative to help educators and students make best use of this entertaining and instructive material. Teachers and students alike have enjoyed the way the anthologies blend contemporary East European writing in translation with expat writing on the experience of Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest. No other anthologies do this. Indeed, rather than simply a series of books, New Europe Writers is a project in which students and teachers can themselves participate.
To remain current with out activities, we invite you to join our group on Facebook . To join, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We also seek the interest of academics who are interested in the literature of the expat writer— especially the longer-term resident immersed in the literary scene and language of his or her chosen second home and sometimes influencing it. Joyce the Dubliner in Trieste helped shape the careers of Italian authors like Italo Svevo and Cesare Pavese, and Czech poet Gustav Holub influenced the direction of much contemporary British poetry in the 1960’s.
On this site, the editors of New Europe Writers, contributing authors, and translators will report on how to use the anthologies as a teaching aid and resource in the classroom. By discussing their experiences and soliciting feedback, we intend to create an active forum that will be of interest to teachers and students in a wide range of disciplines. These include ELT, ESL, Literary and Cultural Studies, Translation Studies, Creative Writing, English Philology, East Europe Philologies, Language and Contemporary Literature, East European and Slavic Studies, and Comparative Literature.
Reports from the Field
In April of 2010, John a’Beckett and Andy Fincham conducted a workshop in Bucharest for Romanian Master’s degree candidates studying Translation Studies under Prof. Lidia Vianu. As a result of their visit, these students have committed to translating Warsaw Tales into Romanian. Here is some additional feedback on this experience:
“Andy and John came all the way to Bucharest to meet my students (the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text. We were thrilled and grateful to be included. It was a privilege to find out the meaning of the NEW project, and we have now a long list of MA students who want to be involved. This time Europe has been welcoming, making up for all those times when we found ourselves staring from the outside.”
-Prof. Lidia Vianu, Director of MTTLC
“Meeting John a’Beckett and Andrew Fincham meant finding out about an extremely interesting project. The presentation was very lively and entertaining, and it included the chance of being given just a taste of Warsaw Tales through the reading by Andrew Fincham. What the reading of Esprit d’escalier – one of my favourites – meant? A class full of laughter. The words were very few, yet the story said so much, and I could almost see an imaginary movie scene unfolding before my eyes. Polish Autumn, also part of the reading, was among my favourites as well. And these are just a few of the reasons why I’m really looking forward to seeing Bucharest Tales coming out and perhaps even having the opportunity of translating some of them.”
-Silvia Bratu, MTTLC student
“I was very excited when I heard about John a’Beckett and Andy Fincham’s visit. It was interesting to find out about how their project started and how they thought to include Bucharest in their new collection also, to actually hear Fincham read poems and short prose from Warsaw Tales. More importantly, I am eager to participate in the translation of the collection into Romanian.”
– Carmen Dumitru, MTTLAC student
Based on the success of this workshop, and with some advance notice, Editor’s of NEW would like to invite teachers to contact us, if you would like us to bring a similar workshop to your classroom.
Florida International University
Prof. Peter Hargitai has included Budapest Tales in the syllabus for his course in Contemporary Hungarian Literature, which is taken mostly by Cuban ESL students. He comments:
“I myself was so taken with the little green book and its dayglo red vignette showing a writer either sneezing or snorting Angel Dust or worse (anthrax comes to mind) that I ordered it for my ESL classes for students whose mastery of English is about par with the critics. ..”
Some seventy-five students were asked choose a piece they most enjoyed from Budapest Tales and write an 800 word essay explaining why. George Szirtes’s translation of Monika Mesterhazy’s poem “Journal” proved to be the most popular. Here is the poem:
Monika Mesterhazi – Journal
Two people are talking. Or at least their eyes are.
Their two boats are tied up to one another.
One is speaking a foreign language
In the city of the other, chatting away.
The waves are the same for both of them.
The boats are rocking to the same rhythm.
Later, their bodies. They are still strangers.
They melt away, they’re free.
They never meet again. In their letters
Questions about essays, answers from diaries.
The water shows their quite distinct reflections
Here is a summary of some of the students’ comments.
The students brought some of their Hispanic-American cultural background to the selection and interpretation of the pieces. Such themes as love, estrangement, sexuality, and a certain familiarity with the absurdities of post-Socialism were picked up. The more advanced tackled the satiric stories of Istvan Orkeny, especially “Ballad on the Magic of Poetry”, and then James G. Coon’s very short tale “Gramzaphat” and Sue Healey’s “I Am Not A Muse.” Students saw the narrators of these tales as protagonists, and thus posed and attempted to answer questions such as “Why this point of view? This take?” In general, their essays demonstrated a curiosity for what Hungarian writers perceive of Budapest in contrast to the resident expats.
Thanks Peter and students! The course was proof positive that The Tales can act as a stimulating and popular tool for the teaching of English As A Second Language.