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Translation Workshop

ENGL 120.301
W 2-5

Too often translators are stigmatized for inflicting a loss on the foreign text. Yet far too little attention is paid to the gain of translation, not just how it enables communication between languages and cultures, but how the translator produces literary effects that look squint-eyed in two directions at once, both foreign and domestic. If translation can't ever bring it all back home, the translator can nonetheless send the reader abroad by unsettling the sort of literary taste that takes "home" for granted. Translation offers a unique literary experience that tests the limits of the receiving culture, inspiring new forms of writing that bend the translating language into strange and beautiful shapes. Are you ready to travel?

In this workshop we'll construe "literary" with enough latitude to encompass not only prose fiction, poetry, and drama, but such other genres as memoirs and film soundtracks, song lyrics and philosophy. You'll pick your own foreign texts for translation, and the class will form your first audience, offering comments and suggestions, a sense of what works and what needs work.

The aim is not just to translate, however, but to think deeply about translating, to develop writing practices by drawing on the resources of theory. We'll examine some innovative translations written by professionals and consider theoretical statements that have made a difference in the history of translation. "A translator without a historical consciousness," wrote the French translator Antoine Berman, remains "a prisoner to the dominant representation of translating." Inevitably, this workshop will lead you to interrogate your own ideas about what a translation is.

Reading proficiency in a foreign language is the ideal prerequisite, but a translator can go far with a basic knowledge of a language powered by a stubborn willingness to pore over dictionaries and grammars. Admission to the workshop is contingent on an interview with the instructor via e-mail: