ASEEES Distinguished Contributions Award

2010 Citation Recipient


Stanisław Barańczak

The 2010 Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Award, which honors senior scholars who have helped build and develop the field through scholarship, teaching, and service to the profession, is presented to Stanisław Barańczak, scholar, poet, translator, critic, editor and teacher in the field of Polish and East European literatures and political cultures. He is an outstanding member of the Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies community.

Stanisław Barańczak is the Alfred Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Literature emeritus at Harvard University. He was educated in Polish literature at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, where he also began his academic career. During his first year of college he published literary criticism and poems. Besides his academic work, he participated in the opposition movement, taking part in uncensored publications and anti-government activities. In 1981, he began teaching at Harvard. Brilliant, hard-working and extraordinarily productive, Barańczak has authored, translated, and edited more than one hundred books. His main scholarly works pertain to contemporary Polish and East European literature. His A Fugitive from Utopia (Harvard, 1987) remains the single most important English-language study of the poet Zbigniew Herbert to date. Breathing Under Water and Other Eastern European Essays (Harvard, 1990) received the AATSEEL Prize for outstanding scholarship in 1991. He has translated almost all of Shakespeare’s plays into Polish, offering to the Polish public lively, contemporary renditions that have been adopted in most theatre performances. His translations (with commentaries) of English-language poetry into Polish, starting with John Donne and ending with contemporary poets, offer to Polish readers a new portal into Anglo-American culture. Equally important are his translations of Polish poetry into English, especially his co-translation with Seamus Heaney of the foremost Renaissance poet Jan Kochanowski, and with Clare Cavanagh of the Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska. His own poetry has been recognized with the highest Polish literary award (Nike) and is also available in English. Finally, he is the author of several volumes of light and nonsensical verse as well as a translator of the classics of that genre.

His contributions to the profession are also remarkable. He propagated Polish and East European literatures through his constant presence in mainstream publications: he was a regular reviewer for The New Republic and his criticism has also appeared regularly in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, Partisan Review, Salmagundi, and other noted periodicals. His prize-winning translations have appeared with Harcourt and Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and in innumerable periodicals. His translation (with Clare Cavanagh) of Wisława Szymborska’s View with a Grain of Sand (1995) received both the Pen/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize and the AATSEEL prize for translation from a Slavic language. The students he inspired to become Slavic comparativists with an active interest in Polish literature are teaching at Duke, Oxford, Indiana, Northwestern universities and the University of Michigan. For many years he also served as editor of the quarterly Polish Review.

Over the past three decades, Professor Stanisław Barańczak has built a great and enduring legacy for the fields of Slavic and Polish studies.