Category Archives: Professor Profile

CCSU Italian Professor Works on Eleventh Book

by Angela Fortuna

Many people say that the sound of poetry is more important than the words, but that is not the aim of the poet, according to Central Connecticut State University professor Maria Passaro.

Many know Passaro as an Italian professor at CCSU, but she is also an author.

Passaro’s books tend to have the same theme. She takes a famous poem that is written in the original Italian language and translates it into English, sentence by sentence. The only exception of this Italian to English translation is with her first book, based on an Italian tragedy, published in 1997, where she provided the Italian translation.

“My books tend to be in the original and translation,” said Passaro. “I don’t want to sacrifice the meaning of the poem. I am just trying to [translate] the poem closer to what the poet is saying.”

During Passaro’s 28 years at CCSU, she has written many books and articles. Currently, she is the director of the Italian Resource Center on campus.

With a doctorate in comparative literature and a master’s degree in Italian, Passaro is very knowledgeable in literature and Italian translation. After many years of experience, Passaro’s writing style comes naturally to her.

Passaro previously taught Italian grammar and literature at Fordham University.

Passaro enjoys writing and translating works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In some book reviews, Longfellow’s work was often seen as more beautiful in Italian than in English.

“Longfellow translated from Italian to English in his original works,” said Passaro.

Although there are many books published that transform the language of literature, Passaro’s books are different. She translates the Italian as closely as she can to the English language so readers can get the full effect of each poem.

“Some of the translated books don’t put the original [poem] purposely, so you don’t check,” said Passaro.

Of Passaro’s 11 books, her most recent translation was of “Corradino,” a tragedy by Francesco Mario Pagano, published in 2014.

Passaro also recently translated the poem “Rhymes of Love” by Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso.

Another recent book Passaro wrote is called “Representation of Women in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Texts.”

“It’s not a feminist book, it just [portrays] the beauty of women and how it molds the soul of the poet,” said Passaro. “I’m giving credit to women for what the poets did.”

One of Passaro’s personal favorite poems includes “Michelangelo” from “The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow.” She wrote a translation into Italian verse of “Michelangelo”.

“If you read it, you will see the beautiful iambic pentameters,” said Passaro.

Passaro has also published dozens of articles and essays, including a few journalistic publications.

“I have many essays where I just contribute a chapter,” said Passaro. “Working with other people is nice.”

Passaro also recently wrote a short nine-line poem, called “L’Europa Unita” in Italian, which in translates to “United Europe.”

The most recent book in progress has two parts: “A Selection of Medieval Italian Literary Texts” and “A Selection of Renaissance Italian Literary Texts.” The sections are separated by time period, from beginning to end. Passaro is still unsure if the two books will be combined at this point.

She said she taught Italian courses 470 and 476 using the material she will be publishing.

“I also put it online so students could see both Italian and English if they had trouble,” said Passaro.

When asked about what kind of poems she likes to use in the classroom, Passaro said she likes to “stay with one act plays because they’re easy to represent.”

As for the future of book translation, Passaro remains hopeful that the most important texts will continue to be translated.

Professor Stephen Balkaran: A Voice for America

by Sheridan Cyr

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photo by Sheridan Cyr

Central Connecticut Philosophy Professor Stephen Balkaran immigrated to the United States 27 years ago from the Caribbean and has since become a prominent figure as a voice of the Hispanic community as well as for all citizens who have immigrated to America. He has given over 75 speeches across the country, spreading the ideas that he has captured in over 50 scholarly articles and three books, with a fourth underway.

Speaking with Balkaran was an enlightening experience. He has an incredible argument and motive and the knowledge he has is crucial to American politics in this election. Balkaran is requested all over the country to give speeches and educate the American people on the importance of the immigration vote, culture, expansion and more. His articles are shared in a number of universities, where professors are hoping to educate youth on what they have missed out on from grade school textbooks.

Balkaran is a highly active member of the CCSU community. In his 10 years here, he has brought significant figures such as Paul F. Chavez, the son of late Hispanic Civil Rights Activist Cesar Chavez, and Fred Gray, the civil rights attorney for Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and Mrs. Rosa Parks. He is hoping to have another significant figure visit in the early fall, but has asked not to give it away just yet.

He also runs a summer course bi-annually in which students travel south by bus and trace many of the most significant historical civil rights movement locations. Students see first-hand where Martin L. King Jr. was shot, where Rosa Parks sat on the actual bus that she made her peaceful protest from, churches where many civil rights quests originated and much more. Reading about these events does not compare to experiencing them in person, and Balkaran is thrilled to help American youth capture the historical significance and understanding.

His arguments and beliefs have come to a head in the midst of this presidential election. According to Balkaran, in the next eight years, 36 million new voters will immigrate to America, adding to the 50 million recent immigrants. That’s about 37 percent of the country’s population. Because of the massive amounts of people coming in, it is crucial that presidential candidates consider how they will vote.

“Hispanics are a swing vote in 19 states,” said Balkaran. “Because of this, we have to talk to them in a very sensitive and cautious way.”

Balkaran is specifically considering the remarks of presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who he feels has been harsh and often ignorant toward immigrants.

“It was kind of interesting how a guy who is running for the president of the United States is not really embracing the new America, and doesn’t embrace the diversity of this particular ethnic group, the Hispanics,” said Balkaran.

Balkaran argued that many Americans are unaware of the Hispanic presence in America. Hispanics, he said, have always been present here, even before the pilgrims arrived. When Trump twists his face up and shouts, “go back home,” he does not understand that they have always had a strong presence here.

In an article called “Consequences of Immigration Reform” published in Hispanic Outlook in 2014, Balkaran describes this presidential debate as “the civil rights debate of the 21st century,” said Balkaran. “The political importance of the Hispanic vote is closely tied to the Immigration reform, and, whether we admit it, the American Presidency will be dictated by the Hispanic vote.”

In another of Balkaran’s articles, “What Would America Be Without Hispanics?,” he called on a report from the New York Times that claimed as of 2010 more black or brown children are being born in America than white, and that at the time of publishing, one out of every six people in America were Hispanic.

One of Balkaran’s most interesting arguments is nicknamed “The United States of Amnesia.” This describes how Americans have forgotten altogether what it means to be an immigrant — those who have come to this nation, in particular.

“We always hear the Irish story, the Polish story, the Jews, where are these immigrants today? Where are these groups? They all forgot,” said Balkaran, asking immigrants to recall why they came here, and to remind America that they have a strong, powerful presence. “We are a nation of immigrants, but you know what, we are a nation of selfish people. We came here, we got our piece of the pie, and that’s it. We forgot.”

The remarks Trump has stood by are alarming, to say the least. In another of Balkaran’s articles, “The Hispanic Vote,” he urges that the candidate’s “racist remarks remind us that the hatred towards immigrants is alive and well in a country that practices integration and acceptance of all.” What will happen to this massive portion of citizens if Trump becomes the face of America? It is a question that worries Balkaran and motivates him to continue his fight.

It’s not just Trump. It’s not even just the Republican Party. The Democrats, while not having made such alarming claims, have not really done much at all to attract those 50 million Hispanic voters. Ever since President Abraham Lincoln made the first significant moves toward ending slavery, black and Hispanic voters loyalty to the GOP have typically been counted on. This election, however, is shaking up that notion.