NABOKV-L post 0011990, Sat, 5 Nov 2005 18:44:02 -0800

Brian Boyd lectures at UCLA

November 10: UCLA, 10-11; 1:00-3:00, Hershey Hall: Odyssey? or

The Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures, in cooperation with the Center for European and Eurasian Studies,
the Departments of Comparative Literature and Communication Studies and the Graduate Student Association
Lecture # 1: "Nabokov, Or What Could Be Verse"
Thursday, November 10, 2005
10:00 a.m.
1648 Hershey Hall

Abstract: Nabokov is famous, even notorious, for his robust rejection of rhymed translations of rhymed verse during and after his monumental translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. But for many years he translated verse into rhyme in various directions, from English, French and German (Shakespeare, Baudelaire and Goethe, for example) into Russian, and from Russian (all the way from Lomonosov to Okudzhava) into English and French. Many of these translations have never been published, and the one collection, with less than half his output, has been out of print for almost half a century. With UCLA PhD student in Slavic, Stanislav Shvabrin, I have collected all Nabokov's verse translations, and his essays on translation, to be published by Harcourt in 2006 as Verses and Versions.

I will consider Nabokov's changing theory and practice of verse translation, and the problems of any attempt to offer access to a foreign poetic tradition. Much of the interest of the volume derives from the breadth of Nabokov's translation of Russian poetry over two centuries. Much of it derives also from his particular concentration on the greatest and least translatable of Russian poets, Pushkin, of whom Flaubert famously said to his friend Turgenev: "He is flat, your poet." I will focus especially on the example of one of Pushkin's most famous short lyrics, "Ya vas lyubil" ("I loved you once"), which Nabokov attempted three times to translate. I think a non-Russian reader can be made to enjoy Pushkin's genius-but did Nabokov himself succeed?

Talk #2: "Evolution and Fiction: The Odyssey"
Thursday, November 10, 2005
1 pm
1648 Hershey Hall
Reception to follow lecture
Abstract: Can evolution help explain why we tell invented stories, how we tell them, what we tell them about? I argue that it can, and that the special place of sharing attention with others in our ultrasocial species lies at the root of art, including the art of fiction.??Criticism often focuses primarily on meaning, but works of art need to attract and hold audiences before they "mean." Every detail of a work will have an effect on the kind and quality of attention it receives, but not necessarily on meaning. To be able to attract and hold attention, in a world of competing demands on the limited capacity of human working memory, an author needs to be a prodigiously inventive intuitive psychologist. Yet criticism has tended to underplay the "mere" ability to attract attention and evoke response. How has the Odyssey managed to earn the attention and admiration of audiences and readers for nearly three thousand years, in cultures with radically different assumptions, technologies and arts? Aristotle singled out Homer's unity of action as exemplary, and Joyce thought Odysseus the most many-sided character in literature. How can an evolutionary perspective on literature explain the importance of character and plot, and the decisions Homer makes about them in The Odyssey? And beyond its singular hero and stirring story, how has the Odyssey been shaped in detail to win the attention of Homer's original audience and audiences down the millennia, and to engage both those encountering it for the first time and those ready for repeat encounters???To focus on attention does not require that we ignore meaning, only that we do not overlook what makes us interested enough and moved enough to linger, sometimes, over meanings. An evolutionary perspective can also explain the breadth and depth of literary meaning. I will show how the Odyssey throws light on the evolution of human intelligence and the evolution of?cooperation.