Skip to Content

Uljana Wolf Across Languages

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Brigitte Rath

Co-Organizer: Kasia Szymanska

Contact the Seminar Organizers

Texts that do not fit comfortably into the literature of any one language prove to be especially productive for genuinely comparative lines of inquiry. Labelled with terms such as multilingual, translingual or postlingual, non-monolingual texts require approaches that deal with their disregard for clear linguistic boundaries and their resistance to contextualisation within the borders of a specific literary tradition. Situated between languages, genres, and modes of writing, Uljana Wolf's work provides an excellent case study for the theoretical and critical challenges involved in reading texts written and read across languages.


All three of Wolf's poetry collections are explicitly written across languages: kochanie ich habe brot gekauft (2005) blends a physical border crossing—travelling from Germany to Poland—with a linguistic one, as signalled by the title which moves seamlessly from the Polish term of endearment "kochanie" to the mundane German announcement "I've bought bread"; falsche freunde (2009) contains a "German-English DICHTionary" of 26 alphabetical entries each clustering around linguistic "false friends"; and meine schönste lengevitch (2013) valorizes linguistic hybridity by borrowing its title from Kurt M. Stein’s 1925 parody of German-English codeswitching and accented pronunciation, calling this "lengevitch" "my most beautiful one."


Wolf's work comprises translations of texts which themselves cannot be said to be "English" or "Belarusian", although they are often classified as such. Wolf has translated poems by Eugene Ostashevsky, Valzhyna Mort, Matthea Harvey, Christian Hawkey, and together with Michael Zgodzay, she co-translated a collection of Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, a Polish poet exploring the Polish-Ukrainian borderland. Wolf also provided a complete translation of Canadian author Erín Moure's O Cadoiro, which rewrites Galician troubadour poetry. Complementarily, Wolf's work has been rewritten in English by Susan Bernofsky and Sophie Seita (Subsisters. Selected Poems, 2017).


Wolf's essays reflect on her own writings across languages and on her work being re-written in other languages, but also engage, e.g., with the translingual poetry of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee (wandernde errands, 2016), with "bad words" which will not fit into a language in Ilse Aichinger's texts, or with the genre of prose poetry (box office, 2009).


We invite comparative papers that address any aspect of Uljana Wolf's work across languages, including but not limited to:

● Reading/writing across languages as "writing with" (e.g. Wolf's attributions of "writing with" Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Hélène Cixous, Gertrude Stein or Kurt Stein)

● Reading/writing across languages in the translations of multilingual texts

● "Reading/writing across languages" as combining poetry, translations and critical writing

● "Reading/writing across languages" to establish lines of connection with female poets across languages

«Back To Seminars