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George Estreich's "Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves"

Please join us for a reading and discussion of


GEORGE ESTREICH, the author, will be in conversation with Professor JOSH LUKIN!


How new biomedical technologies—from prenatal testing to gene-editing techniques—require us to imagine who counts as human and what it means to belong.

From next-generation prenatal tests, to virtual children, to the genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, new biotechnologies grant us unprecedented power to predict and shape future people. That power implies a question about belonging: which people, which variations, will we welcome? How will we square new biotech advances with the real but fragile gains for people with disabilities—especially when their voices are all but absent from the conversation?

This book explores that conversation, the troubled territory where biotechnology and disability meet. In it, George Estreich—an award-winning poet and memoirist, and the father of a young woman with Down syndrome—delves into popular representations of cutting-edge biotech: websites advertising next-generation prenatal tests, feature articles on “three-parent IVF,” a scientist's memoir of constructing a semisynthetic cell, and more. As Estreich shows, each new application of biotechnology is accompanied by a persuasive story, one that minimizes downsides and promises enormous benefits. In this story, people with disabilities are both invisible and essential: a key promise of new technologies is that disability will be repaired or prevented.

In chapters that blend personal narrative and scholarship, Estreich restores disability to our narratives of technology. He also considers broader themes: the place of people with disabilities in a world built for the able; the echoes of eugenic history in the genomic present; and the equation of intellect and human value. Examining the stories we tell ourselves, the fables already creating our futures, Estreich argues that, given biotech that can select and shape who we are, we need to imagine, as broadly as possible, what it means to belong.

GEORGE ESTREICH’s publications include a chapbook, Elegy for Dan Rabinowitz (Intertext, 1993), and a full-length poetry collection, Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body, which won the Gorsline Prize from Cloudbank Books (2003). The Shape of the Eye (SMU Press, 2011; Penguin, 2013), his memoir about raising a daughter with Down syndrome, received the 2012 Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Estreich has published essays and articles in The New York Times, The Oregonian, Avidly, The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, Salon, Tin House, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He teaches writing at Oregon State University.

JOSH LUKIN teaches in Temple University’s English Department and its award-winning First Year Writing Program. His scholarly pursuits include mid-twentieth century U.S. fiction and disability studies. Josh has given presentations on issues affecting the disability movement at a wide range of venues: the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, UPenn, Occupy Philly, the University of Delaware, and Temple’s Intellectual Heritage program. He has served on the Black Disability Studies Committee of the National Black Disability Coalition, attempting to promote the teaching of Black Disability History in colleges. Josh is the editor of Invisible Suburbs: Recovering Protest Fiction in the 1950s United States (University Press of Mississippi, 2008). His most recently published essay is “Science Fiction, Affect, and Crip Self-Invention—Or, How Philip K. Dick Made Me Disabled.”

Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves Cover Image
ISBN: 9780262039567
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mit Press - March 19th, 2019

Event date: 
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hopscotch Translation Series: Mark Polizzotti's "Sympathy for the Traitor" w/ Chris Clarke

Please join us for the 8th installment of our
Hopscotch Translation Series

—a discussion of— 
with MARK POLIZZOTTI (the author) and translator CHRIS CLARKE!


An engaging and unabashedly opinionated examination of what translation is and isn't.

For some, translation is the poor cousin of literature, a necessary evil if not an outright travesty—summed up by the old Italian play on words, traduttore, traditore (translator, traitor). For others, translation is the royal road to cross-cultural understanding and literary enrichment. In this nuanced and provocative study, Mark Polizzotti attempts to reframe the debate along more fruitful lines. Eschewing both these easy polarities and the increasingly abstract discourse of translation theory, he brings the main questions into clearer focus: What is the ultimate goal of a translation? What does it mean to label a rendering “faithful”? (Faithful to what?) Is something inevitably lost in translation, and can something also be gained? Doestranslation matter, and if so, why? Unashamedly opinionated, both a manual and a manifesto, his book invites usto sympathize with the translator not as a “traitor” but as the author's creative partner.

Polizzotti, himself a translator of authors from Patrick Modiano to Gustave Flaubert, explores what translation is and what it isn't, and how it does or doesn't work. Translation, he writes, “skirts the boundaries between art and craft, originality and replication, altruism and commerce, genius and hack work.” In Sympathy for the Traitor, he shows us how to read not only translations but also the act of translation itself, treating it not as a problem to be solved but as an achievement to be celebrated—something, as Goethe put it, “impossible, necessary, and important.”

"Lively, readable, and often funny … a likably idiosyncratic sequence of essays on a topic that is of more importance than ever in our globalized world … Polizzotti makes one feel that creating and reading translated literature can be a genuinely pleasurable experience."
—Emily Wilson, New York Review of Books

"Sympathy for the Traitor is a swift, lucid, and engaging tour of what translation is and does. Polizzotti reviews two thousand years of thought on the subject, sweeps away contorted academic theorizing, and makes an unbreakable case for sympathetic readability. And then, acknowledging the many peculiarities of the mind-meld that is translation, he goes on to visit the farther reaches of translingual exploration. This little book deserves to become a standard text."
—Luc Sante, author of The Other Paris

MARK POLIZZOTTI has translated more than fifty books from the French, including works by Gustave Flaubert, Patrick Modiano, Marguerite Duras, André Breton, and Raymond Roussel. A Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the recipient of a 2016 American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature, he is the author of eleven books, including Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995; revised ed., 2009), which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction; Luis Buñuel’s Los Olvidados (British Film Institute, 2006); Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Bloomsbury, 2006); and Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto (MIT Press, 2018). His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, New Republic, Wall Street Journal, ARTnews, The Nation, Parnassus, Partisan Review, Bookforum, and elsewhere. He directs the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

CHRIS CLARKE grew up in Western Canada, and currently lives in Philadelphia. His published work includes translations of Pierre Mac Orlan (Wakefield Press), and Oulipo members Raymond Queneau (New Directions), François Caradec (MIT Press), Olivier Salon, and Jacques Jouet (Toad Press). He was a recipient of a 2016 PEN/Heim  grant for his translation of Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives (Wakefield Press), and his translation of Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano's In the Café of Lost Youth (NYRB) was shortlisted for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize. Chris is a doctoral candidate in French at The Graduate Center (CUNY), and became a member of the Outranspo in 2014.

Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto Cover Image
ISBN: 9780262537025
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mit Press - January 29th, 2019

Sleep of Memory (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) Cover Image
By Patrick Modiano, Mark Polizzotti (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780300238303
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Yale University Press - October 16th, 2018

Dictionary of Gestures: Expressive Comportments and Movements in Use Around the World Cover Image
By Francois Caradec, Philippe Cousin (Illustrator), Chris Clarke (Translator)
ISBN: 9780262038492
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mit Press - November 27th, 2018

Event date: 
Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hopscotch Translation Series: Frankétienne & Asselin Charles in convo w/ A. Véronique Charles

Please join us for the 7th installment of our
Hopscotch Translation Series


in conversation with translator ASSELIN CHARLES
& special guest A. VÉRONIQUE CHARLES!


DÉZAFI is no ordinary zombie novel. In the hands of the great Haitian author known simply as Frankétienne, zombification takes on a symbolic dimension that stands as a potent commentary on a country haunted by a history of slavery. Now this dynamic new translation brings this touchstone in Haitian literature to English-language readers for the first time.

Written in a provocative experimental style, with a myriad of voices and combining myth, poetry, allegory, magical realism, and social realism, Dézafi tells the tale of a plantation that is run and worked by zombies for the financial benefit of the living owner. The owner's daughter falls in love with the zombie overseer and facilitates his transformation back into fully human form, leading to a rebellion that challenges the oppressive imbalance that had robbed the workers of their spirit. With the walking dead and bloody cockfights (the "dézafi" of the title) as cultural metaphors for Haitian existence, Frankétienne’s novel is ultimately a powerful allegory of political and social liberation.

FRANKÉTIENNE (born Franck Étienne on April 12, 1936 in Ravine-Sèche, Haiti) is a prolific writer, poet, playwright, painter, musician, activist, intellectual, and "spiraliste." Considered by many to be the ‘father of Haitian letters,’ Frankétienne writes in both French and Haitian Creole (often juggling the two) and his paintings have been exhibited internationally. An outspoken challenger of political oppression, Frankétienne was a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009 and, in 2010, was named a Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Dr. ASSELIN CHARLES is a specialist of the novel in Africa, African America, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and has taught at various institutions of higher education in several countries. His research focuses on the parallels and intersections in Black Atlantic literatures, particularly in Harlem Renaissance writings and in the Francophone, Creolophone, and Anglophone literatures of the Caribbean. In addition, he has published a number of celebrated translations, including the first English translation of Anténor Firmin’s masterwork, De l’Égalité des races humaines (The Equality of the Human Races), and an English translation of René Depestre’s famous collection of short stories, Alléluia pour une femme-jardin (
Alleluia for a Garden Woman).

A. VÉRONIQUE CHARLES, doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, conducts research on contemporary literature and archival documents that elucidate the complexities surrounding the Atlantic slave economy in precolonial Africa. She currently teaches a seminar on the zombie figure in literature, scholarship and popular media.
This event was made possible by the generous support of
the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania!

Dézafi (Caraf Books: Caribbean and African Literature Translated fro) Cover Image
By Franketienne, Asselin Charles (Translator)
ISBN: 9780813941394
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Virginia Press - October 30th, 2018

Ready to Burst Cover Image
By Franketienne, Kaiama L. Glover (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781935744788
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Archipelago - October 14th, 2014

Event date: 
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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