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Walter Blanco

Professor Emeritus

Walter Blanco




A.B., Columbia University
A.M., Ph.D., Harvard University


Dr. Walter Blanco never used to think twice about settling down to work at 11 p.m. and working until 6 or 7 a.m. All night, he would be busy translating poetry from Spanish or bringing some Ancient Greek classic to life. "I've always been a night owl," he says, before adding with a laugh, "but I was younger back then."

Nowadays he prefers working for shorter durations of time and during daylight hours. Most afternoons, when he's not teaching at Lehman, he can be found in his home office translating The Histories by Herodotus for a new unabridged edition that will be published by Norton Critical Editions next year. (He already translated an abridged version of The Histories for the same publisher in 1991 and an edition of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War in 1998.)

His love of Ancient Greek dates back to his childhood when he stumbled one day upon a bag of books in a garbage pile. Inside the bag was a stack of bilingual Loeb Classical Library texts. "There was English on one side and Greek on the other," he recalls. "I couldn't read it, but I just liked the way it looked, and I fell in love with it."

Dr. Blanco tries to bring a modern approach to these beloved classical texts. "Ezra Pound said of poetry to 'make it new.' That's what I'm trying to do," he notes. "I'm trying to make it American—there's a sort of British quality to the translation. I'm trying to make it colloquial American and poetic at the same time."

You might say Dr. Blanco spans 2,000 years of technology in one afternoon. When he's not translating manuscripts from the ancients, he's likely to be busy reading books on his iPhone. "I love my iPhone," he says. "I can carry a thousand books around in my pocket."

Dr. Blanco, who was chair of the English Department from 2002 to 2009, began teaching at Lehman in 1972. Over the course of his career, he has worked as a Fulbright Professor in Brazil, travelling the country giving lectures on American literature; served as director of the CUNY/Paris Exchange program; and won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to work on an archeological dig in Greece. During the 1999-2000 academic year, he was a Visiting Professor at the Sorbonne. Together with fellow English professor Billy Collins, he edited a literary journal, called The Mid-Atlantic Review, in which he published translated works from the Mexican poet Ramón Sender, among others. He holds his doctorate in English from Harvard University.

(This biography is excerpted from a February 2011 Lehman College "Spotlight on Research" column)