The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation
“Cultures that do not translate stagnate, and end up repeating the same things to themselves." —Eliot Weinberger
In this class we will study and translate major figures in 20th-century poetry, including Aimé Césaire, Shu Ting, Wisława Szymborska, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Yun Dong-ju, Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Akhmatova, Paul Celan, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Giuseppe Ungaretti. Biographies of these poets will reveal how historical events (from Franco's dictatorship in Spain to the birth of modern Senegal) have intertwined to influence each other and shape who we are today. The curriculum will be tailored to the linguistic backgrounds of students who enroll, and some knowledge of another language is necessary, but all those curious about world poetry are welcome. We will study multiple translations of major poems and render our own versions in response. Students familiar with other languages will have the additional opportunity to work directly from the original. A portion of the course will be set up as a creative writing workshop in which to examine the overall effect of each others’ translations so that first drafts can become successful revisions. While discussions will explore the contexts and particularity of poetry written in Urdu, Italian, Arabic, French, Bulgarian, and Polish (to name a few), they may ultimately reveal how notions of national literature have shifted in recent years to more polyglottic and globally textured forms. Through famous poems, essays on translation theory, and our own experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to creative work, assignments will include an oral presentation, informal response papers, and a short final essay. This course is cross-listed with Comparative Literature.