Professor Olga Nikolova on the Internal Forces of Transformation

July 21, 2023 Greti Georgieva
Professor Olga Nikolova on the Internal Forces of Transformation

Professor Olga Nikolova teaches American Literature and Nature Writing at AUBG. After completing her Master’s degree in English Studies at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, she earned her Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University. Her dissertation on Graphic Design, Modern Poetry, and Academic Writing further helps her at her job of editing her own literary journal Peat Nekogash (“Пеат некогаш”). Professor Nikolova is also an experienced translator and has been translating Ezra Pound’s poetry for more than 20 years now.

Listen to the interview with Professor Nikolova to hear more about her textbook on essay writing, breaking academic stereotypes, and preferring poetry over fiction.

I have the conviction that education has to do with learning to live, that whatever we study, whether it’s math, whether it’s biology, whether it’s economics, whether it’s literature, it is to allow us to live to the best of our abilities.

The Power of Literature

For Professor Nikolova, there are forces outside of man which cannot be understood by reason. They could be achieved only when one tunes their senses to their frequency and literature is one way of doing so.

Literature has to do with developing your sensibility, your perceptions, the way you command the language, your abilities to read not only texts but the world around you.

Calibrating oneself takes time, internal effort and reading good literature. For Professor Nikolova one characteristic that discerns one piece of writing as good and valuable is how honest it is.

“To give an example, is like when you say, “I love you” to a person and you mean it. It may be the simplest phrase in the world, but when you mean it, it has power. And it’s absolutely the same thing with good writing. This is what it means to be authentic, you mean it, and the reader can feel that it’s theirs.”

Teaching Literature

Professor Nikolova has been teaching at AUBG since 2017. In her classes she tries to help the students forget about their insecurities and participate comfortably in the discussions.

“When it happens, when the students in the class actually can talk to each other and when they like each other, it’s amazing… sparks are flying off and the discussion is great, and you feel kind of grateful and exhilarated after class.”

In teaching poetry, she often finds students with preconceptions or trauma from their previous high school experiences. Poetry requires patience and effort to leaf through its layers which is unpleasant for some people, including her husband. Still, Professor Nikolova believes that the experience of struggle is beneficial and useful outside of the classroom.

It’s like the best thing once you learn, once you do it, once you climb on that plateau. You know, there was a struggle in the beginning, but once you arrive there, it’s, it’s the most meaningful thing. And it feels wonderful, but that’s very difficult to communicate [to the students].

Befriending Nature

Professor Nikolova has two dogs and a cat. She takes her dogs on a walk every day outside of Sandanski, the city she lives in, and to the nearby hills. After two years of doing it, she realized her connection with nature and how much the natural world surrounding her is alive and vigorous.

“I remember walking down through the woods and then stopping. And it felt like it was, you know, doing its attention, its attention to me, it was a friend of mine. The woods look back at you.”

What is more, Professor Nikolova finds the walks with her dogs as a form of meditation. She finds great pleasure in watching her dogs run around and being present in that moment in the forest, because she feels herself their cheerfulness.

It’s been a great discovery for me, and I wish it on everybody to, you know, to find that thing that gives them this kind of joy and wonder and tranquility.