WESTWOOD–A two-day conference devoted to contemporary Armenian literature was held at UCLA’s Rolfe Hall on the weekend of April 7-8. The conference–organized by the Narekatsi chair of Armenian Studies at UCLA examined different aspects of the literature written over the past ten to fifteen years in the course of six panels. The close to 30 participants were from Armenia and the Diaspora.
The first panel–which began on Saturday morning–at 9:30–dealt with "Armenian Literature Today" and was moderated by Prof. S. Peter Cowe of UCLA. A paper was presented by Dr. William Schniedewind–departmental chair of the Near Eastern Languages and Culture at UCLA. General trends over the last decade–were explored in detail by Prof. Azat Eghiazaryan–director of the Institute of Literature–affiliated with the Armenian Academy of Sciences. His presentation was followed by reviews by Dr. Seyran Grigoryan–Dr. Grigor Hakobyan–and Dr. Aleksandr Topchyan. Questions were also taken from the audience after each panel.
After lunch–the conference reconvened for two more panels. The second panel–"Writers’ Place in Society," moderated by Gia Aivazian–was introduced by Prof. Khachig Tololyan of Wesleyan University–Connecticut. The last panel of the day–"Taboos in Armenian Literature," dealt with the lifting of censorship. A presentation was made by Prof. Mark Nchanian of Columbia University–New York and was moderated by Anahid Aramouni Keshishian.
The conference resumed Sunday–at 1 p.m.–with the fourth panel titled "Armenian Literature and National Identity." A paper was presented by Dr. Rubina Peroomian–the first doctoral candidate to receive her degree from the UCLA program in Armenian language and culture under the supervision of Prof. Avedis K. Sanjian. The panel was moderated by Garabed Moumdjian. During the round table discussion–it was realized that the fear of loss of identity is addressed more in Armenian Diasporan literature rather than in the literature of Armenia. Another interesting aspect of the discussion dealt with a common perception that Armenian writers equate to national leaders. Many of the writers on the panel dismissed this point of view–stating that they are artists who do not necessarily engage in political writing.
The next panel focused on Armenian literature composed by writers of Armenian descent in languages other than Armenian. This was the only panel presented in English–and was moderated by Barlow DerMugrdechian. A paper by Prof. Lorne Shirinian of the Royal Military Academy of Canada–addressed this important phenomenon.
The final panel "Literary Translation into Armenian," was moderated by Dr. Rita Vorperian. The subject was explored first by Prof. Artem Harutyunyan of Yerevan State University for Eastern Armenian and Boghos Snabian–editor of the literary review ‘Pakin’ for Western Armenian.
Closing remarks were made by Prof. Peter Cowe–who mentioned that the publication of the papers presented at the conference will take place in the near future.