Preceptor in Modern Greek at Harvard University, Chair of Ludics Seminar at Mahindra Humanities Center, Founder of The Advanced Training in Greek Poetry Translation and Performance Workshop
TNH. Can you tell us about yourself? Where were you raised and how did you build this extremely successful career? V.R Thank you for your kind words. I do not know if my career is extremely successful, but it certainly is an “extremely passionate path” that makes me feel always engaged and alert, always on the move, or to use Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s words from his poem “Ulysses”, always with a strong will “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”! For, “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees”. There was always in me a natural curiosity and an innate exalted imagination that sought to find a channel in order to be voiced out, whether through nature (I was born in a small corner of Thessaly in Greece endowed with a myriad of mythic allusions and vivid folklore) or through books, or simply through the play of imagination. The latter was kindled by my desire to reach out to my absent (yet affectively present) father who was a Gastarbeiter in Munich for ten years that coincided with my early childhood. When he returned, I used to be an avid listener of his turbulent yet appealing stories, and I was encouraged by him “to learn letters” in order to succeed in life.
TNH Could you describe some of your teaching experiences at Harvard and the teaching methods that you use?
You can find more details about my teaching experiences at Harvard in this article: http://www.darthcrimson.org/darth-limelight-vassiliki-rapti/ which talks about my innovative teaching that pushes the boundaries of digital humanities. Simply put, I would say that I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to work in the course of eight years with extremely motivated students and make ample use of the extraordinary recourses of the university. Furthermore, I have benefited from the emphasis of the university on the integration of the arts and technology in the curriculum and my teaching methods found a great ally in with these principles. My teaching method is student-centered and advocates experiential learning. In other words, I want my students to wholly engage themselves and contribute the best part of themselves in a friendly learning environment where collaboration life impact are keys. And when do the students give their utmost? When you ask them to be creative and share with everyone in the class what motivates them, what makes them passionate. In the collaborative final video-performance projects that I create with them instead of final exam, everyone works hard and learns and undergoes a transformative experience. Part of this transformative experience is what I call the so-called “surprise piece” as part of their final portfolio, in any format they wish. Thus, I have received numerous surprise pieces thus far that are extremely rewarding (poetry translations, music compositions, drawings, installations, films, ceramic pieces, hip hop songs, newly-designed board games, short stories, essays, etc).
TNH. You are the creator of Ludics seminar which is based on your book Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond. Could you give us some more information about it?
V.R The Ludics Seminar is part of the series of the seminars of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, directed by Homi K. Bhabha. I founded it and co-directed it with my colleague Kathleen Coleman, the James Loeb Professor of the Classics and President of the American Philological Association in 2013 and since 2015 I am the only Chair . Ludics “focuses on the concepts of play and games, widely interpreted. Interdisciplinary at its core, it aims by means of innovative approaches at fostering an open dialogue among scholars who are interested in exploring the ludic principle across a broad spectrum of human culture, from literature, rhetoric, and theater to law, economy, and politics.” Since 2013 it has hosted 13 events on a wide range of topics as the following titles bear evidence: “Playing with Design: Cultivating Childhood Creativity in Postwar America”, “Playing to Engage: How to Revitalize Society”, “Sounds from Europe’s Margins: Bagpipes in Boston”, “Games Translators Play in Bilingual French-Canadian Theater”, “Laughter in Greek Lyric Poetry”, “Playing Scrabble with Sappho: A Translation Workshop for Anyone Interested in the Interplay of Poetry, Translation, and Play”, “Ludi, Ludic, Ludicrous: Choreographing Rome from Spartacus to Caligula”, “Casino Royale in Ancient Skyscrapers? On Recent Finds from Roman Tower Houses in Tuna el-Gebel (Egypt)”, “Τhe Dissonance of Ludic Poetics in Greek Wedding Song Tradition: A Workshop on the “Interdiscursivity” between the Epithalamia and the Laments in Greek Antiquity”, “Purposeful Gaming”, “Creativity and Entrepreneurship”. “Crossing: Virtual Experiences, Games, and Teaching”, and “The Ludic Impulse in Post-Postmodern Fiction”.
TNH. You have also founded The Advanced Training in Greek Poetry Translation and Performance Workshop at Harvard. What is the mission of this workshop?
The Advanced Training in Greek Poetry Translation Workshop and Performance at Harvard fosters a dialogue among professionals of poetry translation and performance with an emphasis on Greek poetry, both ancient and modern. Through presentations and intensive work, it helps rethink the role of translation today in order to advance the participants’ translation skills and ultimately produce a body of work of translations that can be shared by others. I founded it in January 2014 with only eight members and now our Facebook page shows 97 members. What started as an extension of my research interests, is now an open forum and tremendous resource for anyone who is interested in the theory and practice of poetry translation. The last year we have partnered with the Paros International Poetry Translation Symposium that takes place annually in Athens, Greece, and this collaboration was proven so fruitful that we plan to expand our partnerships with other relevant workshops. Also, all the members of the Workshop who live in the greater New England area benefit from the participation in the majority of the open workshops on the theme of “Rethinking Translation”, organized by the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard. Also, we benefited from the funding provided to some of our events by the Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA).
TNH.You have published several books such as Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond, and some other poetry collections. Which skill does it prevail, academic research, creativity or a combination of them?
I would say that the main body and focus of my work is the scholarly work, but I cannot write without also expressing myself in my creative work. My poetry writing/ music collaborations/performance collaborations/translations/playwriting not only provide a balance in my life like the one that jewelry making does offer me, but also they feed my academic work. Likewise, my creative work is animated by the theoretical principles which I elaborate in my scholarly work, which many times revolve around the multiplicity of forms of the play concept. Like two communicating vessels, they work better by being conceived as “one into another”.
TNH. Is there any special project you are working on right now that you might want to share?
I have several projects on which I am currently working, both scholarly and creative. The creative ones are collaborative.
The first is the monograph “AIR, WATER, EARTH, FIRE, IN THE POETRY OF NIKOS ENGONOPOULOS” which is a reworking of my D.E.A. thesis at the University of Sorbonne-Paris IV and which will be published in February by the editions Rome in Greek.The second is the publication of two volumes of the unknown theatrical work of Nanos Valaoritis.The third one is a new volume of poetry/songs in collaboration with composer Ivaana Muse and a new project/tour/series of workshops with composer Kostas Rekleitis. Also my extended poem “Subito” is going to be performed in Edinburg in his music by soprano Peyee Chen on November 28, 2015 with the Edinburgh Ensemble. Also, on December 12th, there will be a reading of my recent poetry collections Transitorium (Somerset Hall Press, 2015) and IA SONGS (with Kostas Rekleitis, Musica Ferrum , 2015) at Cornelia Street café under the auspices of the Greek-American Writers Association.
- See more at: http://ariasocratous.com/greek-scent-culture-harvard-university/#sthash.bEDMO2FL.dpuf