Dr. Douglas Hofstadter, a noted physicist, mathematician and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is making a return visit this week to Ouachita Baptist University for a series of speaking engagements across campus.
Hofstadter will deliver a lecture on “Worshipping the Message Whilst Walloping the Medium: This Is Called Translation?” on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in Young Auditorium. He also will speak at a Faculty Colloquium on Friday, Feb. 28, at noon in McClellan 100 and speak in various classes during his two-day visit.
Hofstadter, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his first book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, is a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He serves as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science at Indiana University and director of its Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition.
Discussing his Thursday evening lecture, which is free and open to the public, Hofstadter said, “Of late, many translators into English have chosen to place ‘content’ on a sacred pedestal while throwing ‘form’ entirely out the window. But is there actually something objective called ‘content’ and something else called ‘form,’ and are they really cleanly separable?”
Using a short poem written about 1,300 years ago in ancient Chinese by poet Wang Wei as an example, Hofstadter will compare and critique several contemporary English translations of the poem.
“I will point out what I consider the weak and strong points of these translations, and then I’ll show my own version, with its own weak and strong points,” Hofstadter explained. “Naturally, though, I’ll defend my own as being by far the best of all!
“But don’t you worry,” he added. You don’t need to know a single word of Chinese (let alone ancient Chinese!) to enjoy Wang Wei’s poem, or to understand my lecture.”
Dr. Johnny Wink, Ouachita’s Betty Burton Peck Professor of English, is among professors in the department of English and modern foreign languages, who will host Hofstadter during his visit.
Recalling when he was first introduced to Hofstadter’s writings by one of his students, Wink said when he received the book, Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, “I was charmed, fascinated and moved from the word go. I don’t expect ever to read a more profound meditation on the nature of language than I encountered in those pages. Nor do I expect ever to read a greater love story. Love and language, for a thousand pages! I go back and back to that book. I dote on it.”
Wink and Hofstadter begin corresponding and developed a friendship that led to Hofstadter delivering a series of lectures at Ouachita in 2009. Wink described Hofstadter as a man who is “a physicist, a mathematician, a cognitive scientist, an essayist, a poet, a translator, a phenomenologist, a thoroughgoing student of at least a dozen languages” and much more.
Hofstadter holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Stanford University and both a master’s and doctorate in physics from the University of Oregon. He has been a professor at Indiana University since 1977 and is the author of numerous books that have earned national acclaim.
For more information, contact Dr. Johnny Wink at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5556.
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications