Archive for the ‘Recent Work’ Category

13659048_10105479182161833_7042778099053674245_nYikes, this will be the only post I make this month–and I only did one last month too. Plus, I’ve already posted about my translation of Ola Sigurdson’s Heavenly Bodies, though last time it hadn’t actually come out yet (and the release date I shared then ended up getting pushed back by almost a month). Well, it is out now, and you should all GO OUT AND BUY TEN COPIES RIGHT NOW!!!! Well, OK, not so much urgency, I guess, given that I’ve already been paid for my translation services and will not be getting royalties myself (which doesn’t surprise me with an academic translation like this–I believe the case is different with literary translations, which I confess I would like to move into eventually…). The list price of the book is $60 (actually not so bad for a rather erudite, and potentially obscure, book like this, though I hope the price will help it become less obscure), but Amazon has it for about $43. I’m waiting for it to show up at the UC Berkeley and GTU libraries here in Berkeley… may have to nudge someone about that.

The book is, in short, on the theology of the body, beginning with Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity’s scorn for the body, preferring the spiritual over the corporeal, and going on to both affirm this critique and then to place it in its proper historical situation in 19th century Protestantism–given the centrality of the Incarnation in Christianity, we have to suspect that the religion was not always so “body-denying.” The book then proceeds in three parts of several chapters each, covering first the Incarnation (both the development of the doctrine in the early Church and more recent theological contributions), the Gaze (covering philosophies thereof along with the Byzantine Iconoclasm and the particular Gaze embodied by Jesus in the Gospels), and, at most length, Embodiment (ranging from Merleau-Ponty to Foucault and Butler, from the “closed” Classical body to the open “grotesque” body, to torture, to S&M, to the Eucharist…) OK, look, you will just have to read it yourself. Only $43 on Amazon!!

Since I was (thankfully, given how little time I had finishing up) not asked to give any sort of “Translator’s Note” (I did not expect to write one–in fact, not all translators get to show up on the title page, so I’m very happy I made it to so prominent a place with my first such job), I did not have an opportunity to give the usual “Any reason you might find to dislike this book is clearly my (the translator’s) fault, and no one should blame Ola or the editors at all, because really, if there is a jackass here, it is me.” Or some such. Editors and author all seemed happy with the end result, but certainly there are plenty of places where I could wish for just one more pass of revisions, and here and there I see something where I think “I thought I’d changed that…” (and one place so far where the editors changed something without sticking to the phrasing Ola and I had agreed on, but it still works), but so far I haven’t caught any meaning-changing errors (nor, apparently, did Ola or Eerdmans), and I trust that there are not too many places (ideally very few, but it is my first time doing this…) where my clumsy prose gets in the way of Ola’s argumentation. My first drafts certainly had me thinking too much in Swedish while attempting to write in English. My many revisions (later on with Ola’s commentary) were very helpful in working this out and situating the text more firmly in the target language, but I fear there are still spots that held out till the end. I won’t share any thoughts here on particular translation choices (there were some tricky bits), but we’ll see, maybe that will be a post for the future.

13615127_10105479179038093_2631524740532332328_n.jpgThe project itself was a delight, if often challenging (certainly in scope–let me tell you, this book is a brick), and in spite of the additional stress of translating the last third or so while also filling in as a lecturer in the Scandinavian Section at UCLA (also a fun job, just, you know, more work–also more $$ tho, so that was nice). I’ve told friends and family that this project was like being paid to sit in on three or more graduate seminars in very different fields, which I note was part of the attraction for me. While the ultimate point of the book belongs to (Christian) systematic theology (itself of non-professional interest for my very [in this subject] amateur self), Heavenly Bodies also constitutes a very erudite work in both the history of religions and philosophy, in particular the more continental side of philosophy that owes so much to the later reception of phenomenology, and in particular with regard to two subjects I have long been interested in within the humanities: the gaze and embodiment (the former of which figured prominently in my dissertation on ekphrasis in Viking age poetry–but let the uninitiated beware, while treatments of the gaze and embodiment are ubiquitous from the early 20th century on, what is meant by and the significance of each can vary widely depending what school of thought you are looking at). Ola covers a lot of ground, and diligently and clearly (again, fingers crossed that damn translator did his job right) presents the thought of everyone from St Paul to Origen, Schleiermacher to Barth and beyond to various feminist theologians, laying out the relevant arguments in a sympathetic manner even if he will then go on to argue against, or beyond, them. The philosophers and theorists I am more familiar with are all on display here as well, and more, covering both hermeneutic and radical phenomenologies (ie, from Ricoeur and Merleau-Ponty to Derrida and Marion), as well as various “post-phenomenological” thinkers, from Foucault to Butler (and we also find many other disciplines represented, from psychoanalysis to cultural anthropology–but look, my fingers are getting tired so let’s stop there…). I find Ola’s presentations of these various, often very difficult, philosophies to be quite clear and helpful–well, OK, it is still philosophy and theory, and you will struggle to work through a tenth of the book if you don’t even have a reasonable sense of who Heidegger (for example) is, so I can’t recommend it as a gift for your ten year old niece–maybe wait till she’s finished college, though you will have to suggest she take Philosophy, or English, or Communications, Feminist Studies, something along those lines. Even better, I’m still looking for a teaching position for the Fall and would be happy to tutor the whole family. Look, we’ve already got a textbook…

Well, that was a bit of a ramble. I’ll close by thanking Mark Safstrom for sending Eerdmans my name when they were looking for a translator, former editor-in-chief at Eerdmans Jon Pott, who entrusted me with this job, James Ernest who took over for Jon as I was finishing up the translation, and especially Ola, who wrote this fine and fascinating book and who was so essential in his help with my revisions–I was very grateful for his willingness to spend so much time on a project that was otherwise almost a decade in his past, and I dearly hope the final result does some degree of justice to the original.


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What I’m Up To

OK, kind of a gratuitous, self-centered sort of post, but after posting about my friend Tiff’s recent short story, and with a new year coming up for me (ie, impending birthday), AND considering that this would be my ONE HUNDREDTH POST, I felt like going over my different projects the last 9 months or so. Maybe more for myself than anyone else, but you are welcome to listen in.

Grim Bunny 12

The last of my 12 The Grim Bunny pages–though hopefully I’ll be continuing this with a second series of 12 one of these days.

With this year off from academia, I was hoping I’d be working on my writing a lot more than I have, but between a family emergency and starting a super cool but super intense translation project (I’m a third of the way through the initial translation now), I haven’t gotten as much done as I’d like, and what I have done has in large part gone towards revising and adding to a novel draft that will probably never be published (because I started it as a naive, silly, childish undergraduate), and towards my art, the latter of which has turned into a decent internet presence/following, including a not-quite-webcomic of 12 installments, and about $60-80 or so of profits from my DeviantArt and Redbubble stores… hm, might need to pick up the pace if I want those to make a bit more of an impact on my financial situation…

IMG_2451I have had a bit of progress getting myself back in gear fiction-wise– I received an honorable mention a few months back for a short story that I submitted to the Writers of the Future contest, and I’ve currently got that on the submissions circuit. I’ve been slowly pulling together ideas for another short story that I’ve got high hopes for (have gone through a number of plot mutations at this point, but feel like I am progressing rather than spinning wheels–have also done some brainstorms for further stories, but am not really pursuing those ideas yet). Have started revising more of my poetry and fragments (have written mostly fragments the last couple years), and while I haven’t had much luck with the places I submitted them (OK, I was overly ambitious with a couple target journals), I got some great comments on two of them from the poetry editor at Ideomancer, where my poem “The Cabin and the Stars” was published in 2011. Her notes reinforced some of my own thoughts, and to be honest, I’m feeling pretty interested in going back over these and some other poem-sketches and revising them fairly thoroughly–something I have always hated doing, as poems seemed too tightly wound to meddle with, but right now it just feels like it would be nice to have some raw material to work with…

At the intersection of my academic specialty and my creative work, I took an hour or so this week to start a preliminary translation of a short Old Icelandic story that I have been wanting to turn into a picture book for a couple years (some preliminary sketches are here). We’ll see what happens–I think it will have to be a one-step-at-a-time process, as there are a few different stages to deal with in the drafting and the illustration, and I need to stay on top of ways to make money NOW rather than later.

Meanwhile, please feel free to share any of my blog posts you like, my poems, my art, my Grim Bunny almost-a-comic thing, etc. While I haven’t been as productive as I’d like (life happens… and so does procrastination, I guess), I’ve been really happy to share my work-thus-far with the world, and look forward to putting some more things out there.

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Honorable Mention

IMG_2451Hoping I’ll have better news eventually for this story (like getting it published), but for now I’m happy to have made it as far as an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Last time I entered the contest I was in… hm, Jr College I think. Didn’t get anything then, so I guess that’s progress? The winners of each year’s four quarters get published in the annual collection, which is generally pretty good (and includes illustrations by the winners of the parallel Illustrators of the Future contest), and, well, it’s a pretty nice thing to have on your writerly resume–as Patrick Rothfuss found. I grew up wanting to be a novelist, but when I started college took a course in short story writing and generally tried to develop my shorter-fiction skillz (even published a retelling of a Swedish folktale in 2002). To my shame it was only after I started thinking of writing short fiction that I started reading it (apart from school assignments), but I’ve enjoyed it ever since (even if I’ve done a lot more reading of it the last ten years than writing of it). I’ve only occasionally subscribed to short fiction magazines (generally genre, like Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, or Black Gate [speaking of which, the editor/founder of Black Gate gave me some really nice comments about my writing maybe 8 years back or so, and invited me to submit directly to him from then on…aaaannndddd when I was finally ready to they were no longer accepting submissions, and haven’t ever since. Gr.]), but every few months I will pick up a collection or journal–anything from Zoetrope (well, it’s been a while) to Analog. As far as genre fiction goes there are quite a few quality magazines online now–Daily Science Fiction (which also has super-short flash fiction), Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Ideomancer (where my poem The Cabin and the Stars was published a couple years ago), and more. Check them out! Short fiction was the heart of sci-fi and fantasy in the early 20th century! Support short fiction writers! It doesn’t take much, really. And OK, outside of genre fiction, I’ve been enjoying a collection of Alice Munro‘s short stories. So hey, if short stories are worth a Nobel Prize, they’re also worth reading! 😀

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Snorra Edda

The medieval copies of the Eddas are generally not illustrated (after all, shouldn’t a good Christian save the expensive pictures for the Bible or Kingly exploits?)–but here we have the frame of Gylfaginning (which, incidentally, highlights the nature of the myths recounted as “lies,” in case the medieval audience were to be tempted from orthodoxy), in the Codex Upsaliensis manuscript (c. 1300, if I remember correctly). I like this illustration as an example of the problems of Christian remembering of Pagan material in Medieval Iceland.

I recently had my review of Mikhael Gronas’ Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory published in Cultural Analysis, a journal on culture and folklore (in a fairly broad sense), covering all sorts of “expressive and everyday culture” (I’m a big fan of interdisciplinary efforts like this, and even more a fan of the fact that the journal is available for free online, and is supplied for free in print form to academic institutions–those of us who write the material for these journals don’t make any money, after all…)  You can find the review here, but you will have to scroll down a bit, as all the book reviews are on the same page (a PDF of the page can be downloaded here). The book takes Russian literature as its case-in-point for its larger theoretical argument, so I got to enjoy learning a bit about Russian lit and history while working through the theoretical material (the latter being my main interest in the book).

Cultural Memory‘s relevance as a theoretical framework for the study of Old Norse literature and Religion has been my main research interest (though not my only one) since filing my dissertation (if you want something more than the wikipedia explanation, check out the introduction to this book; I’ve also found this book to be an easy to read exercise in Cultural Memory studies). I mostly take the term Cultural Memory from the work of Jan and Aleida Assmann (especially this book), where it is roughly equated with concepts such as Derrida’s Archive, among others, and in particular is associated with the sort of collective remembering made possible by the technology of literacy, where, in contrast to oral cultures, the “out of the way” and peripheral (like, say, pagan myths in Christian society) may still be preserved (but yes, things are still a bit more complicated with the Old Norse myths, given that we have an apparent gap of 200+ years after the conversion before the pagan material was written down). I gave a paper with some of my thoughts on the relevance of Cultural Memory theory for the study of Old Norse lit (esp. the mythology) at the 2012 conference of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies, but there has been plenty of work by other (senior) scholars on related topics, so if you are interested in reading up on the topic (I still have some more reading to do myself), here are some of the works I referenced in my paper (or have found otherwise pertinent to my research–this is just a selection though, so please don’t treat it as a comprehensive bibliography!):

Assmann, Jan and John Czaplicka 1995: “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity.” New German Critique 65, 125-133.

Assmann, Jan 2006: Religion and Cultural Memory. Trans. Rodney Livingstone. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bauman, Richard and Charles Briggs 1990: “Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life.” Annual Review of Anthropology 19, 59-88.

Byock, Jesse 2004: “Social Memory and the Sagas: The Case of ‘Egils Saga.'” Scandinavian Studies 76:3, 299-316.

Derrida, Jacques 1998: Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Trans. Eric Prenowitz. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Fortier, Ted and Jeanette Rodríguez 2007: Cultural memory: Resistance, Faith, and Identity. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Gísli Sigurðsson 2004: The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition: A Discourse on Method. Trans. Nicholas Jones. Publications of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature no. 2. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

Glauser, Jürg 2000: “Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendinga sögur) and þættir as the literary representation of a new social space.” Old Icelandic Literature and Society. Ed. Margaret Clunies Ross. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 42. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 203-20.

Glauser, Jürg 2007: “The Speaking Bodies of Saga Texts.” Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World. Ed. Judy Quinn, Kate Heslop, and Tarrin Wills. Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe vol. 18. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 13-26.

Gronas, Mikhail 2010: Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory: Russian Literary Mnemonics. New York: Routledge.

Halbwachs, Maurice 1992: On Collective Memory. New York: Harper.

Hastrup, Kirsten 1985: Culture and History in Medieval Iceland: An anthropological analysis of structure and change. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hastrup, Kirsten 1990: Island of Anthropology: Studies in past and present Iceland. Viborg: Odense University Press.

Hastrup, Kirsten 2009: “Northern Barbarians: Icelandic Canons of Civilization.” Gripla 20, 109-136.

Hermann, Pernille 2010: “Founding Narratives and the Representation of Memory in Saga Literature.” ARV Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 66, 69-87.

Jesch, Judith 2008: “Myth and Cultural Memory in the Viking Diaspora.” Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 4, 221-226.

Kaplan, Merrill 2000: “Prefiguration and the Writing of History in ‘Þáttr Þiðranda ok Þórhalls.'” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 99:3, 379-394.

McKinnell, John 2007: “Why Did Christians Continue to Find Pagan Myths Useful?” Reflections on Old Norse Myths Ed. Pernille Hermann, Jens Peter Schjødt, and Rasmus Tranum Kristensen. Studies in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 1, 33-52.

Torfi Tulinius 2009: “The Self as Other: Iceland and the Culture of Southern Europe in the Middle Ages.” Gripla 20, 199-216.

Viðar Pálsson 2008: “Pagan Mythology in Christian Society.” Gripla 19, 123-159.

Ward, Elisabeth 2012: “Nested Narrative:Þórðar Saga Hreðu and Material Engagement.” UC Berkeley (dissertation)

Wellendorf, Jonas 2010: “The Interplay of Pagan and Christian Traditions in Icelandic Settlement Myths.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 109:1, 1-21.

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Hey folks, I’ve had four poems accepted for publication recently (1 at Ideomancer, 3 at Everyday Poets), and the first is up now at Everyday Poets.  The poem is a sonnet called “Amateur Astronomy” which I wrote several years ago–maybe way back in 2005, I can’t really remember any more.  In any case, it was shortly before I bought an Orion 4.5 inch reflecting telescope, which I unfortunately only get to use maybe 2-3 times a year.  What can I say, the conditions just aren’t so great in the Bay Area, and I don’t have time to go driving out to where it is clearer.  In any case, I hope you enjoy the poem.  If you like it, please rate it!  4-5 stars would be nice.  😉  Meanwhile, I’m even more excited about the other poems coming out.  Look for an announcement about my sonnet “The Cabin and the Stars” in Ideomancer sometime in December (yes, another astronomy sonnet–“Amateur Astronomy” was written first, “The Cabin and the Stars” shortly after–within a month of each other, I believe).

Taken at a farm/hostel in South-Eastern Iceland with a 15 second exposure. Not an amazing pic, I realize-- it's all my camera is capable of.

Taken in the same place, the same way. I've got some stories about that hostel, but they will have to wait...

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