Member News

Including 2016 AATSEEL Book Awards and Awards for Teaching, Service and Scholarship

AATSEEL enjoys keeping its members informed about important events and professional milestones. If you or an AATSEEL member you know has recently defended a dissertation, been hired, received a promotion or retired, please send the member’s name, accomplishment and affiliation to:

Colleen Lucey, Editor

(University of Arizona)

The AATSEEL Newsletter would like to recognize the following members for their recent professional success:

Congratulations to Ellen Elias-Bursac who was elected Vice President of the American Literary Translators Association.

We send our heartfelt congratulations to Halina Filipowicz (University of Wisconsin-Madison) who has been appointed Book Review Editor for the Arts and Humanities at the interdisciplinary journal Polish Review.

Zakhar Ishov (Tuebingen University) is a recipient of a one-year post-doctoral research fellowship within the Excellence Initiative Program at the University of Tübingen University. As a part of Teach@Tuebingen post-doctoral program Zakhar is going to teach a class titled “Writing Berlin: foreign writers in German capital between the two wars” from April to July 2017.

Colleen Lucey (University of Arizona) has been awarded an Advanced Research Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State Title VIII Program for Research and Training on Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union. The award will fund three months of research in Russia and support the completion of her book project tentatively titled Figures of Desire and Disgrace: Prostitution in Russian Literature and Art.

AATSEEL is delighted to report that Russell Valentino (Indiana University) is recipient of two grants. The first grant is a PEN/Heim Translation Fund to support translation of Miljenko Jergovic’s 1000-page novel Kin from BCS into English. Dr. Valentino also received a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship totaling $25,000 to support his translation of Jergovic’s Kin. In addition to these awards, Dr. Valentino was commissioned by The New York Times to translate Miljenko Jergovic’s essay “The Siege of Starts Without Warning,” which compares the sieges of Sarajevo and Aleppo. The article appeared in the NYT opinion section on Oct. 21, 2016: 

The Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA) and the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at University of Wisconsin-Madison received a 2017 STARTALK award to support the Pushkin Summer Institute (PSI) at UW-Madison.  The PSI ( is an intensive, six-week residential pre-college program that seeks to build and improve students’ Russian language abilities, stimulate their interest in Russian studies, and prepare students for the demands of college life.  Designed to serve students from under-represented, low-income, and minority communities, the program began in 2012 and is now entering its sixth year.

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Request for Nominations

The editors of the AATSEEL Newsletter are soliciting nominations for junior scholars in the field of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures. If you or someone you know is a recently published author and would like to be featured in the AATSEEL Newsletter, please send a brief description (250-400 words) of the individual’s contribution to the field and potential to impact the profession. Nominations can be sent to Colleen Lucey:


AATSEEL Book Award Winners for 2016


Best Book In Literary/Cultural Studies

Ann Komaromi

Uncensored: Samizdat Novels and the Quest for Autonomy in Soviet Dissidence

This book brings the study of Slavic languages and literatures into a new era. Komaromi’s analyses of uncensored prose by major dissidents (Sinyavsky, Aksyonov, Erofeev, and Bitov) take into account the circumstances and materials of these texts’ construction and powerfully figure them both as specific material objects and as unstable items that changed from one instantiation to another. Komaromi uses Bourdieu judiciously to examine the writers’ often canny negotiation of the rules of the various cultural games they played, whether Soviet or foreign, underground or official. She succeeds simultaneously in making her characters come alive on the page and in constructing a conceptually elegant account of their experimentation with an autonomous writerly subjectivity. Komaromi provides a model for scholarship both on the recent past and on the materiality of the text in an era of new media that open up new artistic and social possibilities.


Best Literary Translation Into English

Angela Rodel

The Physics of Sorrow

This year’s AATSEEL Award for Best Translation into English goes to Angela Rodel for The Physics of Sorrow, her translation from the Bulgarian of Georgi Gospodinov’s novel, Физика на тъгата (Fizika na tagata). Both experimental and engrossing, The Physics of Sorrow is a memoiristic novel with a labyrinthine structure. The title alludes to an article in The Economist ranking Bulgaria the “saddest place in the world.” A central conceit of the novel is that its protagonist is afflicted by “obsessive empathetic-somatic syndrome” whereby he inhabits the experiences of those around him, reliving their memories. When in middle age this capacity leaves him, he becomes an obsessive collector—and curator—of other people’s stories. In fits and starts, moving backward and forward in time, Gospodinov takes the reader on a tour of a labyrinth of Bulgarian memories—replete with its own Minotaur, a mute child locked up in a basement. Sympathetic reflection on the plight of the Minotaur is one of the novel’s leitmotifs. Angela Rodel’s translation reads fluidly and naturally—in many places one forgets one is reading a translation. Yet where the translation truly shines are in those moments where one senses the translator’s inventiveness at work. In one memorable passage, a teacher asks young Georgi for a word that comes to mind when he hears the letter “G.” When Georgi answers “God,” the teacher responds that “government” would be better, and there is “no place for God in our government.” It is clear that Gospodinov’s acrobatic and alphabetic humor required sensitivity and ingenuity to translate. In certain passages the novel spills over into other genres, including popular science and classical verse, which Rodel deftly handles, such as a paean to the Minotaur rendered in her “heroic hexameter.”


In bringing Gospodinov’s Physics of Sorrow to the English-speaking world with great literary sensitivity, Angela Rodel has enriched world literature.


Best Scholarly Translation Into English

Rawley Grau

A Science Not for the Earth.

This year’s AATSEEL Award for Best Scholarly Translation into English goes to Rawley Grau for A Science Not for the Earth, his translation from the Russian of a selection of poems and letters of Yevgeny Baratynsky. In A Science Not for the Earth, Rawley Grau has done the great service of resurrecting for English-language readers a prominent yet often overlooked Russian poet and philosopher of the first half of the 19th century, Yevgeny Baratynsky. This hefty tome, published by Ugly Duckling Press, is an impressive feat, and includes translations of over 90 poems, 166 letters, and a hundred pages of annotations. In his introduction Grau makes the case for reading Baratynsky’s opus as that of a poet engaged with thought and knowledge, someone who cannot be readily categorized in any one school of poetry. Described by Pushkin as “original in our country because he thinks,” Baratynsky understands poetry to be an “intellectual medium that is obliged to investigate all facets of experience, from the sublime to the abject”, who says that if “poetry cannot provide an escape from consciousness or access to transcendent truth, then it can at least be an instrument to uncover the truth of this present life.”


Through Grau’s well-wrought translations, each of which is given alongside the original Russian poem, along with the extensive collection of letters, we are offered rare and precious glimpses into nineteenth-century Russian thought and society. The notes, rigorously documented and engaging, offer biographical detail, invaluable historical context, and insight into the poetic and linguistic debates of the period. Of his approach to translating Baratynsky’s verse, Grau says: “I had no desire to turn Baratynsky into a modern American poet, but neither did I wish to embalm him in a pseudo-nineteenth-century style. I sought to produce something that offers present-day readers unhindered access to the poet’s thought without disguising his roots in early-nineteenth-century poetry… If I have succeeded, they are living poems that, to some degree at least, can convey the poet’s lived existence and find him readers not only in posterity but in a new language.”Rawley Grau has indeed succeeded. The lucid, engaging translations in this masterly edition give readers much to mull over and explore.


2016 AATSEEL Awards for Teaching, Service and Scholarship


Excellence In Teaching (Secondary)

Shannon Johnson, Friends School of Baltimore

Shannon Johnson is a dedicated teacher who has made exceptional contributions to the Russian program at her school. Initially working in outbound programs at American Councils, for the past twenty years she has taught at the Friends School Baltimore Middle School. She has participated on the American Councils Teachers Summer Program in Moscow, and served on the admissions/scholarship committee in subsequent years to select finalists for that program.   In addition to teaching Russian at the FSB Middle School, she currently co-leads an Upper School Friends School study/homestay trip to St. Petersburg every other year. With her colleague Lee Roby, she has also developed a truly innovative Upper School memoir research and translation course since 2015. Students in the project translate the memoirs of a Russian journalist, conduct research on the cultural products and practices in the memoirs, and study the art of literary translation. She has contributed a new learning scenario for the upcoming revised Standards for Learning Russian, based on her work with middle school learners. In addition to her work at Friends School, Shannon is currently involved in the running of the ACTR Olympiada of Spoken Russian in Maryland.  She also serves as a judge each year for the Maryland Elementary School Olympiada. As of January, 2016, she serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of SLAVA, the national honor society for outstanding pre-college learners of Russian.  For these truly outstanding contributions to her profession, AATSEEL is delighted to present her with this year’s award for Excellence in Teaching (Secondary).


Excellence In Teaching (Post-Secondary)

Ona-Renner Fahey, University of Montana

Ona Renner-Fahey teaches at all levels and across the curriculum, bringing the same unrelenting passion, energy, and professionalism to first-year Russian language classes that she does to her advanced courses in Russian poetry. Her contributions to the Russian program at Montana, however, extend well beyond the classroom. She leads a group of UM students on a three-week study abroad trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg every two or three years during either the summer or winter session. She also worked hard while on sabbatical to establish a partnership between UM and SRAS that has allowed more advanced students to study abroad for a semester or an entire year without encountering problems back in the US with transfer credits. The success of UM Russian students over the past 5-7 years speaks volumes, particularly given that the Russian section consists of only two tenure-track professors and an adjunct instructor. Over this period the UM Russian program has produced five Fulbright recipients, a Boren scholarship winner, a healthy number of CLS recipients, and a good number of awardees each year in the Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest. It has also seen its graduates accepted to top-tier graduate programs in Slavic, history, international relations, international law, literature, and political science. The success of these students can to a large degree be attributed to Ona’s tremendous impact as a mentor and the work she devotes to them on a daily basis. For her dedication and for the exceptional impact her work has had on the Russian program at the University of Montana, AATSEEL is proud to confer on her this year’s award for Excellence in Teaching (Post-Secondary).


Distinguished Service To AATSEEL

Dianna Murphy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

For seven years, from 2006-2013, Dianna Murphy served as conference manager for AATSEEL, a job whose travails and accomplishments are mostly hidden from the membership at large. Her elegance and savvy in successfully organizing the event annually, negotiating tirelessly with hotels, accommodating the desires and needs of the organization, above all getting everything done flawlessly and on time, became a source of admiration for the AATSEEL officers who did see her work.  Nothing appeared to faze her.  She was unfailingly polite, welcoming, and empathetic, even when dealing with difficult situations and colleauges. As if managing the conference were not enough, over the years she also served as AATSEEL’s representative to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the National Federation of Modern Language Teaching Associations, and the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages. For her unfailing poise and good judgment, and for her exceptional dedication to the organization, AATSEEL is delighted to present her with this year’s award for Distinguished Service to AATSEEL.


Outstanding Contribution To The Profession

Nyusya Milman-Miller, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

An associate Professor of Russian and Director of the Russian Program at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Nyusua Milman-Miller has been teaching Russian and directing Russian Programs in Slavic field for over 40 years. An exceptional teacher, she is also among the most respected Russian language specialists and authors of Russian textbooks.  At Virginia Tech, she has developed one of the strongest Russian programs in the country, first raising the number of minors from 7 to 70, then instituting a Russian major which rapidly grew to over 30. She has also obtained funds for the growth of the Russian program which go beyond the VT campus. In 2013 and 2016 she received two government grants totaling over a two million dollars for the study of critical languages, thanks to which 93 undergraduate Russian students received full scholarships to study abroad and two full time positions were added to the department. She has also developed Winter and Summer Study Abroad programs at the Russian State University for the Humanities and, more recently, at Daugavpils University in Latvia. For her exemplary work in building a Russian program at all levels and in all its facets, AATSEEL is honored to present her with this year’s award for Outstanding Contribution to the Profession.


Outstanding Contribution To Scholarship 2016

Michał Paweł Markowski, University of Illinois at Chicago

A prolific scholar of Polish and European Modernity and Modernism, Michał Paweł Markowski is also the Hejna Chair in Polish Language and Literature and Head of the Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures at UIC. His long list of publications includes Universal Dissolution: Schulz, Existence, Literature (in Polish, 2012), Polish Modern Literature: Lesmian, Schulz, Witkacy (2007, in Polish), and Black Waters: Gombrowicz, World, Literature (2004, in Polish, shortlisted for the “Nike” Literary Prize in Poland and for the Best Book in the Humanities Award). He is also one of the leading exponents of western literary theory in Poland (as witness his 2006 Theories of Literature in Polish, two volumes). But Michał is also a public intellectual who engages critically with contemporary literature and social issues. A bold and fearless thinker, he regularly appears in Polish-language broadcast media (public television and radio) and frequently writes essays for newspapers and cultural magazines in both the U.S and in Poland. His philosophical approach to questions relevant to laypeople and academics alike yields insights that extend the reach of scholarship beyond the Ivory Tower. Founder and Artistic Director of one of the biggest and most important literary festivals in Europe since 2008, The International Joseph Conrad Literary Festival (Kraków, Poland;, Michał is personally in contact with contemporary writers, including Nobel-prize winner Svetlana Alexievich and popular Russian detective fiction writer Boris Akunin. This important work shows that he relates to literature and philosophy as living enterprises. His intellectual activity transcends the confines of academia, making scholarship his mode of being rather than a professional practice. For his truly exceptional contributions, not only to scholarship but also to the life of the mind, AATSEEL is delighted to present him with this year’s award for Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship.