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On Campus

December 05, 2000 - VOL. 27, NO. 24

greek columnspacerArete: Deborah Garfinkle


Rick Cherwitz and Courtney Dillard


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Editor's note: Arete is an ancient Greek word for virtue, describing the quest for individual excellence. In this regular feature of On Campus, the University salutes its graduate students — whose considerable contributions to the academy and larger community are truly virtuious. These features will be framed and posted in the lobby of the Office of Graduate Studies, Main 101.

spacerName: Deborah Garfinkle
spacerHometown: Newton, Massachusetts
spacerDepartment: Slavic Languages and Literatures
spacerPh.D. Adviser: Hana Pichova
spacerEducation: B.A., Oriental Studies, (Chinese), University of Pennslyvania; M.A., English (Creative Writing/Poetry), University of New Hampshire

Deborah Garfinkle's road to UT's Ph.D. program in Czech Studies has taken her all the way from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to a small town in the Czech-Moravian Highlands. After reading about the changes taking place in Czechoslovakia as a result of the Velvet Revolution, Garfinkle decided to help the transition by teaching English in an elementary school in Svêtlá nad Sšzavou.

While living in Svêtlá, Garfinkle started learning Czech -- out of necessity since hardly anyone in town spoke English. While she was teaching students English, they were helping her with her Czech. She remained in Svêtlá for three years, where she published several articles about her experiences in venues such as the Prague Post.

Garfinkle eventually returned to the United States to pursue her creative writing. She received a master's degree from the University of New Hampshire, where she studied with the Pulitzer Prize- winning poet Charles Simic, also a well-known translator of Serbo-Croation. Translating poetry, what Garfinkle calls, "the possible impossibility," has since become the means to fulfil her ambition of bringing Czech poetry to a wider audience. In 1997, Garfinkle received a residency at the prestigious MacDowell Colony for her work and, most recently, her translations of poems by Pavel Srut and Ivan Divis, whose work had been banned before 1989, were included in a special edition of the New Orleans Review.

To combine her passion for poetry and Czech, she enrolled as a doctoral student in UT's Czech studies program. For two summers, she received grants from the Slavic department's endowed Czech Chair to carry out research in Prague. Last semester, she once again returned to the Czech Republic as a Fulbright Fellow. Garfinkle has recently added two scholarly pieces to her list of publications. Her recent work includes articles in Brown Slavic Contributions (1999) and Czech Language News (1999).

At UT, Garfinkle's cross-cultural journey has truly come full circle. Instead of teaching English to Czechs, she teaches Czech to Americans, who have the opportunity to study in Prague through UT's programs at Charles University.

NOTE: Nominations (including self-nominations) for ARETE should be sent to Associate Dean Richard Cherwitz at spaj737@uts.cc.utexas.edu


January 9, 2001
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