John Keene, 2018 MacArthur Fellow and Chair of the Department of African American and African Studies at Rutgers University, lectures on “Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness.”

Over the last 50 years the field of translation studies has developed a substantial discourse around the topic of translation, in all of its forms. Yet the topic of “race” in relation to translation—literary, cultural, professional, legal, etc.—translation remains little discussed. This presentation will explore a particular aspect of this issue, the translation of Black poets, Black writers more broadly and writing by authors of African descent and heritage, and of “Blackness” itself, particularly with regard to its complex and conflicted relationship with the ideas of “America” and American hegemony. Why is it important to translate Black poets, and Black authors in general, writing in non-Anglophone and non-European languages, from outside the US. and how might our thinking about this apply to other non-White and non-European writers? How might translators, especially Black translators of non-US based Black writers and writing, think about the work they are translation, and what practices might they incorporate into their process? How might non-Black translators from every part of the globe think about this topic? These are but a few of the questions this talk hopes to raise.


Presented by the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM) and the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Creative Writing.


JOHN KEENE’s recent books include the story collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015, 2016), and several books of poetry. He also has translated the Brazilian author Hilda Hilst’s novel Letters from a Seducer (Nightboat Books, 2014). His recent honors include an American Book Award and Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, as well as a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He chairs the department of African American and African Studies, and teaches English and creative writing at Rutgers University-Newark.

Map + Directions

The Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building is located at 20 Washington Road on the Princeton University campus.

+ Google Map

Presented By

  • Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities
  • Program in Creative Writing

Additional Info