Aula Inaugural dos Programas de Doutoramento CES-UC

Doubletalking the Homophonic Sublime: Comedy, Appropriation, and the Sounds of One Hand Clapping

Charles Bernstein (University of Pennsylvania)

10 de outubro de 2019, 15h00

Teatro Paulo Quintela, Faculdade de Letras da UC (Coimbra)


Homophonic translations create poems that foreground the sound of the original more than the lexical meaning. I begin by discussing the concept of “sound writing,” referencing Haroldo de Campos’s concept of “transcration,” Pound’s “transduction,” and the concept behind calques. I then consider my homophonic translation of Finnish poet Leevi Lehto follows and Ulises Carrión’s isophonic translation. After noting Basil Bunting idea that meaning is carried by sound more than lexical content, I discuss Khelbnikov’s approach to zaum (transense), and sound-alike works based on bird song and animal sounds. The essay then takes up several specific examples: David Melnick’s homophonic translation of Homer, Pierre Joris’s voice recognition translation of Magenetic Fields, and Jean Donneley’s version of Ponge. The essay concludes with a discussion of Caroline Bergvall’s Drift, her version of “The Seafarer” as well as her Chaucer transcreations. A central part of the essay references “homophonic” translation in popular culture, in particular the “doubletalking” of Sid Caesar,” the most popular TV comedian of the early 1950s. A discussion o his work in the context of American Jewish comedy is central to the lecture. But other more recent popular example of the homophonic are discussed with special reference to cultural appropriation.

Nota biográfica

Charles Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He received his B.A. from Harvard College. Among his more than twenty books of poetry are Girly Man(University of Chicago Press , 2006), With Strings (2001), Republics of Reality: 1975-1995 (2000), Dark City (1994), Rough Trades (1991), The Nude Formalism (1989), Stigma (1981), Legend (with Bruce Andrews, Steve McCaffery, Ron Silliman, Ray DiPalma, 1980), and Parsing (1976).

He is also the author of three books of essays, My Way: Speeches and Poems (1999), A Poetics (1992), and Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984 (1986). He has edited many anthologies of poetry and poetics including Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (1998) and The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (1984, with Bruce Andrews).

Among his translations from the French are Red, Green, and Black (1990, by Olivier Cadiot) and The Maternal Drape (1984, by Claude Royed-Journoud). In the 1970s, Bernstein co-founded the influential journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. He has also written the librettos for a number of operas with composers such as Ben Yarmolinsky, Brian Ferneyhough, and Dean Drummond.

Bernstein serves as the Executive Editor, and co-founder, of The Electronic Poetry Center at SUNY-Buffalo. His honors and awards include Yale University's 2019 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently, he is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. [Fonte:]