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2002-2003 Visiting Fellows

Anastasia Stefanidou
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

“Poetry by Early Ethnic and Diaspora
Writers of Greek America”

Funded by the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University, the visiting fellowship awarded to me by the Friends of the Princeton University Library made possible a one-month stay, during which my primary focus of research was the Andonis Decavalles collection (housed in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library).

Dekavalles is considered one of the most important contemporary poets of the Greek diaspora. Reading, first-hand, the numerous and often personal letters Decavalles exchanged with such notable figures as Kimon Friar, offered me an invaluable and illuminating view of the writer's personality, way of thinking, aspirations, dreams, as well as disappointments throughout his career as a writer and teacher. As a scholar of his work, I found Decavalles's archives impressively rich and unique. Included with the correspondence to various Greek and American writers and friends, were unpublished poems, essays, reviews of other Greek writers' work, and reviews of his own work by both Greek and American critics.

Access to this rich wealth of primary source material offered me a unique opportunity to better understand and contextualize Decavalles's life-long passionate and tireless devotion to the promotion of modern Greek literature in America. Regarding his own success with utmost humility, Decavalles seems happiest when he feels that he made Greek literature known to the Greek diaspora in America as well as to American readers, in general. The study of Decavalles's collection is important not only to Decavalles scholars but to any scholar of Greek American literature. The collection offers a vivid portrait of Greek writers and scholars in America throughout the twentieth century up to the present day, working to establish themselves as legitimate purveyors of Greek culture, while demonstrating their determination to keep their ethnic and cultural ties with their pre-migratory home alive.

Decavalles is a paradigmatic example of a writer who has dedicated his entire life to the active participation in and the production of literature on both sides of the Atlantic. I will be publishing the following article (which started as a chapter in my doctoral dissertation and has now been informed by my Decavalles research at Princeton University Library): "A Cosmopolitan Exile's Nostos: Modernity, Memory, and Myth in Andonis Decavalles's Poetry" in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora (spring 2003). In the near future, I also hope to publish an article in the Princeton University Library Chronicle where I can refer in greater length to my research at Princeton.

In addition to researching the Decavalles collection, I utilized the wealth of other resources and archives found in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. I read and collected material-rare or unavailable in Greece-including translations, reviews, letters, and literary works by and about other ethnic and diaspora writers of Greek America, such as Aristides Phoutrides, Byron Vazakas, Dinos Siotis, Nikos Spanias, and Nicholas Kalas. I also gathered information by and about Greek literature scholars in America, such as Kimon Friar and Edmund Keeley. Finally, I read with great excitement issues of the magazines Athene and Greek Heritage, as well as the newspaper Atlantis.

My research in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections (as well as the main library) has helped my continuing study of Greek American literature and culture become a more complete project. As a direct outcome of this work, I plan to write a book-length critical analysis of Greek American poetry from the beginning of Greek immigration to America to the present day. I intend to acknowledge fully the invaluable fellowship the Friends of the Princeton University Library offered me.

It is my strong belief that the study of any aspect, period, or form of Greek American literature and culture would not be complete, thoroughly researched, or well-informed without consulting the special collections and manuscripts at Princeton University Library. Therefore, I would like to extent my deepest gratitude to Dimitri Gondicas and the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University for funding my fellowship, John Delaney for his assistance, and all the friendly and warm staff at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections for always being helpful and ready to answer all my queries and assist me in any way. My experience at Princeton was extremely rewarding, intellectually rich, and unique in its scholarly scope and research results.


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