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Writing as Translation

ENGL 3516.301
M 1:45-1:45pm

“Translators need to be invisible,” said Elena Marcu, Romanian translator of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. “They need to leave no trace.” What happens when we translate someone’s voice into another language? What is lost, and is anything gained? Is it most important to strive for accuracy and fidelity, or does the translator become a co-creator of meaning—leaving their own traces? And how can the act of translation expand and push our own creative abilities into new spaces we discover?

This workshop course is devoted to creative writing as inherently a form of translation. Students will try their hands at writing their own translations, although please note that knowledge of a language other than English is not required. The idea is to work from available translations in English to come up with our own versions of the texts and mediums we chose. We’ll also write parallel texts and adaptations based on the available English translations. But to understand what we’re doing in a larger context  We will read some of the theory on translation by Borges, Benjamin, and Bakhtin. We will also examine the merits and problematics of translations that divert significantly from their source texts such as Pounds translations of Chinese poetry and re-writings of the Arabian Nights. This will give us a chance to broaden our definition of translation and to look at adaptations of works in movies and graphic novels. It will even enable us to look at using genres from other literary traditions in the context of translation by looking at the history of incorporating the Persian Ghazal into English. Essentially, translation/re-writing is a fact of life, and this course will help you deal with that reality!

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