By Elizabeth Van Pilsum, Staff Writer
This semester, the English department welcomes a new staff member, Jeannine Pitas Ph.D. Dr. Pitas is a teacher, writer, and Spanish-English literary translator originally from Buffalo, New York. Most recently, she lived in Iowa, where she taught at the University of Dubuque for the past seven years.
This semester, Dr. Pitas is teaching a class on British literature which spans the Restoration period to the present day and a modern European literature class with a focus on Eastern Europe. Next semester, she will be teaching a section of Core Writing, a class on magazine production and literary outreach, and a literature class focusing on Catholic writers. Dr. Pitas has also taken on the role of faculty advisor for Generation, the student-run literary magazine on campus.
Dr. Pitas is an alumna of Sarah Lawrence College, where she designed her own major and took a variety of courses in the humanities. She first became interested in translation while at Sarah Lawrence. Even in beginner Spanish classes, her professors incorporated translation into the course, and she loved using translation to improve her knowledge of the language and learn more about various authors’ works.
After college, Dr. Pitas had the opportunity to travel to Uruguay on a Fulbright Grant where she translated the works of Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio. Dr. Pitas’ love for translation and literature fueled her studies at the University of Toronto and she achieved a doctorate in comparative literature. While in Toronto, she also became confident in her skill as a poet and began giving public readings of her work.
Dr. Pitas has continued her writing and translating, and in 2018, her translation of di Giorgio’s I Remember Nightfall was shortlisted for the National Translation Award presented by the American Literary Translator’s Association. Most recently, Dr. Pitas has worked in translation with Eulalia Books, the small press housed at Saint Vincent. In 2019, Dr. Pitas also published a book of her own poetry, called Things Seen and Unseen, and she has another book called Or/And which is slated to be released in March of 2023.
Dr. Pitas is also passionate about teaching, which stems from the support she received as a child from her own teachers. She was born prematurely and experienced some developmental delays, so she was sent to a special school for children with disabilities before she was able to walk. Those teachers had such a strong positive impact on her that she still remembers them, despite her young age at the time.
Dr. Pitas also remembers her later teachers fondly. She said, “In high school, I had many teachers who really went the extra mile to help me succeed, and they also offered moral support when I was struggling with some family difficulties at home. At Sarah Lawrence, the classes are small and the professors are very approachable and down-to-earth. They made me want to become a teacher myself.”
Dr. Pitas first visited Saint Vincent College in 2019 to present her translation of Romina Freschi’s book Echo of the Park by Romina Freschi, which was published by Eulalia Books. "I felt an instant connection to the place,” she said. “I instinctively imagined myself working here.” In spring of 2022, a position to work for the English Department became available, and she jumped at the chance to apply.
“I am very excited to teach in a Catholic college,” she said. “The Benedictine charism of hospitality really resonates with me personally, and the monks clearly work very hard to make Saint Vincent the welcoming community that it is.”
“So far, I’m most excited by the enthusiasm and positive attitudes of the students, as well as their kindness,” says Dr. Pitas. “I'm really looking forward to accompanying them on their journeys.”