LIT 70R, Fall 2012
Monday 1:15-4:00
Kohlberg 318

Sibelan Forrester
Kohlberg 340
tel. 610-328-8162
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Office Hours, Fall 2012:
Monday, 11-12
Tuesday, 10-11
Wednesday, 10-11
... or by appointment

Readings | Assignments | Syllabus

Translation is a fundamental human activity that occurs between languages, cultures, and forms of expression. Without translation, even the most erudite readers would have limited acquaintance with other cultures. Translation practice offers rich data for psycholinguistics and stimulating possibilities for creative writers, while the metaphor of translation has impacted many other kinds of intellectual and creative activity. This course will combine theory and practice, approaching translation in its full complexity as art and science. Our reading, discussion and practice will draw on the points of view of creative writing, linguistics, and literary theory.

Course Goals:

Note: The course can be taken for either Social Science (Linguistics) or Humanities (Literature; Russian) credit. Be aware of the requirements your registration choice entails (see below), and adjust in time if necessary.

If you need accommodations for a disability, please contact please contact Leslie Hempling in the Office of Student Disability Services, located in Parrish 113, or call 610-690-5014, or e-mail for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. Ms Hempling is responsible for reviewing and approving disability-related accommodation requests and, as appropriate, she will issue students with documented disabilities an Accommodation Authorization Letter. Since accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact her as soon as possible. You are also welcome to contact me privately to discuss any academic or other needs.

Required Texts (for sale in Bookstore or online; copies on Reserve in McCabe):

Some of our course work can be done electronically, but we’ll also generate lots of paper. Plan to store it in a convenient way. Always make enough copies of your drafts for workshopping (the syllabus will specify: enough for the whole class, for a smaller group, etc.), so you can get and keep written comments until you’ve finished the project concerned.

Also, please join the American Literary Translators' Association (ALTA). A special part-year $10 membership lasts through the end of 2012. After that, you may renew at the regular student rate of $20 per year. Mail them the completed forms with a check. Your membership will get you the ALTA Newsletter, the journal TR (Translation Review), and a great conference. Attendance at the conference is NOT required; this year it is in Rochester, NY, October 3-6.

The ALTA Administrative Assistant is Michele Rosen,

Contact info:
ALTA Office
The University of Texas at Dallas
MC35, Box 830688
Richardson, TX 75083-0688

(Michele) (972) 883-2030

Course requirements:

At each class session we’ll discuss required readings, present and critique work in progress, do a focused exercise (on-the-spot translation; editing a brief text, etc.). After a few weeks, you’ll begin to present your work and research topics. Your participation will determine the quality of everyone's experience.


September 17 – bilingual reading, Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall, 7:00 p.m.

October 2 – lecture by ace translator Suzanne Jill Levine, 7:30 p.m., Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall

For the last three weeks of the semester or so, you will organize and perform in bilingual readings, ideally using material from the fourth written assignment (see below). If you have good ideas about this at any point, note them down and bring to class. Translators tend to be more diffident than poets or fiction writers — even if they’re also poets or fiction writers! — so think in terms of excitement: how to present your work and your author effectively.

Coursework and Grading:

Attendance and participation in class and readings accounts for 20% of your grade, plus an additional 10% for the final bilingual reading.

Three other Oral Assignments:

1+2) At some point during the semester, present and lead discussion of two books or articles chosen from the Suggested list below (or found elsewhere, with instructor’s approval). Study the list and choose ahead of time to get something you’ll care about and enjoy. Ask provocative questions, help field questions from class members. Start with: what do you agree or disagree with, and why? What does this teach you about translation, what is its point of view? What does it omit? What is useful; what merely interesting? How does it relate to the other readings we have done, or to other important cultural opinions? Sign up for presentations in advance. Let me know if you’d like suggestions based on your interests, or if you would like guidance or suggestions about making an effective spoken presentation.

3) In the second part of the semester, give an outline of your work in progress — your final paper topic, or the portfolio of annotated translations that you’re preparing. Sign up to do this early enough that comments or suggestions could still be helpful.

Each oral presentation will count for 5% of your grade (15% total).

Four Written Assignments:

Remember Forrester’s First and Only Rule of Translation:

It always takes longer than you think it will.

After the first bulldozing phase, you may not spend
that much time polishing, but you have to let the days
and hours pass, approach the project in different moods, ask other people for feedback and process it.

Plan accordingly.

  1. First translation: one poem or small piece of prose or drama. Find a native speaker or other expert (a professor would be fine) in a language you don’t know, have them help you choose something and then help you work on it. We’ll workshop these during weeks 3 and 4. Final version due OCTOBER 1; 5% of your grade.
  2. The second project: translate a set of 5-6 poems or songs (united by theme, author, literary movement, or the like), or a brief short story, or a short play or scene from a play (aim for 6-10 pages), with a page or so of information about the author/works/tradition; due OCTOBER 29. 10% of your grade.
  3. The third project: an annotated, 2-3 page bibliography of translations by other people (unified by some theme or area), or else of literary, critical or linguistic works (books, articles) on translation, unified by language group or theoretical approach. “Annotated” means that you comment on or evaluate each source you list, so you’ll need to read them (or at least skim) as well as find the citations. (If a source looks terribly relevant but you can’t get your hands on it, go ahead and list it with THAT as the annotation.) If possible, use this to start up your final project. Let me know if you don’t know how to get started. Due NOVEMBER 19. 10% of your grade.
  4. The fourth project, if you’re taking this course for RUSSIAN or LITERATURE credit, may be a longer portfolio of translations or a paper combined with a shorter body of translations. Consult with me and/or (if appropriate) another faculty member. Start choosing material and working on this early in the semester; it may include parts of your second project. Put together a 20-25 page portfolio including a 1-2 page “introduction”; or else a 10-15 page paper analyzing the theory, history, or practice of some issue or school of translation, supplemented with relevant translation(s) of your own (10-15 pages).
    If you’re taking this course for LINGUISTICS credit, a substantial part of the final project will be a 10-15 page paper dealing with an appropriate issue in Linguistics — related to your (10-15 page) translation portfolio. Please consult with a faculty member in Linguistics before determining your paper topic.
    Aim for 20-25 pages total. Due DECEMBER 21. 30% of your grade.

Any written project may be done in the form of a web page, if you prefer. In-class workshopping must be on paper (unless everyone has a laptop to bring to class). A final project on the web (…or a blog about your struggles with The Book of Genji?) can give readers immediate access to your work. (This may suit a research paper or translations of work now out of copyright more than translations of recent writing. Getting permission to make a translation can be a big hairy issue…)

I also expect you to attend the bilingual reading on Monday, September 17, and the lecture by Suzanne Jill Levine on October 2. Let me know if this presents scheduling difficulties for you - otherwise, plan for it now!

In brief:Due:
first translation October 1 5%
second translation October 29 10%
bibliography November 1910%
portfolio or final paper December 21 30%
1st presentation of reading TBA 5%
2nd presentation of reading TBA 5%
presentation of final project TBA 5%
presentation at final reading TBA 10%
attendance, participation always! 20%

On Reserve (in McCabe):

Suggested Readings (most are available in Tripod):

Online (just a brief selection):

In McCabe reference section:

Peter France, ed., The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation
(PR131 .O94 2000) — besides info on individual languages and literatures, there’s a sizable section on History and Theory of translation into English.



September 3: What makes you start translating?
Introduction to the course; overview of readings and assignments; establish small groups for the first assignment; Forrester’s Five Stages; Bly's Eight Stages; work on a sample translation draft

Readings for Week 2: "Introduction," The Craft of Translation, pp. vii-xvi; Gregory Rabassa, "No Two Snowflakes Are Alike: Translation as Metaphor," Craft 1-12; "Introduction," The Translation Studies Reader, pp. 1-9; “Foundational Statements,” TSR 13-20; Jerome, “Letter to Pammachuis,” TSR 21-30; Nicolas Perrot d’Ablancourt, “Prefaces to Tacitus and Lucian,” TSR 31-37; John Dryden, “From the Preface to Ovid’s Epistles,” TSR 38-42.
By Sept. 10: find a native speaker, choose a poem in his or her language, bring that information to class


September 10: Which famous writers began as translators?
Introduce everyone again, esp. anyone who wasn’t here last week; "false" translation; in small groups present and describe text chosen for first project (description or even the first rough draft); Rabassa, Jerome, d’Ablancourt, Dryden; example of a research paper project-in-progress: translation in Russia

Readings for Week 3: Margaret Sayers Peden, "Building a Translation, the Reconstruction Business: Poem 145 of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz," Craft 13-27; Friedrich Schleiermacher, “On the Different Methods of Translation,” TSR 43-63; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Translations,” TSR 64-66; Friedrich Nietzsche, “Translations,” TSR 67-68.
For Sept. 17, bring enough paper copies of your first project in progress to workshop it.


September 17: Why don't translators (usually) use pseudonyms?
Work up poem draft from a trot; Peden, Schleiermacheer, Goethe; Nietzsche; talk briefly about the second project; small groups: workshop first project poem


TONIGHT! Bilingual reading in Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall, 7:00 p.m.

Readings for Week 4: Burton Raffel, "Translating Medieval European Poetry," Craft 28-53; “1900s-1930s,” TSR 71-74; Walter Benjamin, “”The Task of the Translator,” TSR 75-83; Ezra Pound, “Guido’s Relations,” TSR 84-91; Jorge Luis Borges, “The Translators of The One Thousand and One Nights,” TSR 92-106; “1940s-1950s,” TSR 109-12; Vladimir Nabokov, “Problems of Translation: Onegin in English,” TSR 113-25.
For Sept. 24, find someone’s translation you like (1-2 pages, or a 1-2 page excerpt of something longer), bring in enough copies for everyone and be ready to explain what you like about it.


September 24: How is translating related to creative writing?
Raffel, Benjamin, Pound, Borges, Nabokov; present final versions of first project, discuss your experience and results. Form different small groups (if you desire) for the second project.


Readings for Week 5: Edmund Keeley, “Collaboration, Revision, and Other Less Forgivable Sins in Translation,” Craft, 54-69; Roman Jakobson, “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation,” TSR 126-31; “1960s-1970s,” TSR 135-39; Eugene Nida, “Principles of Correspondence,” TSR 141-55.
For Oct 1, start work on a piece or two of the second project. FIRST TRANSLATION IS DUE!


October 1: How have theories of translation evolved over the centuries?
Read first translation aloud; Keeley, Jakobson, Nida; describe your second project; in small groups: workshop part of second project (bring enough copies for small group comments)

Today Suzanne Jill Levine, a famous and super talented translator of Latin American literature, will visit our class to talk about her own work and the art and profession of translation!


Tuesday, October 2, Kohlberg Hall, 7:30 pm.
Suzanne Jill Levine, "Borges on/in/and Translation"

Readings for Week 6: Donald Frame, "Pleasures and Problems of Translation," Craft, 70-92; George Steiner, “The Hermeneutic Motion,” TSR 156-61; Itmar Even-Zohar, “The Position of Translated Literature within the Literary Polysystem,” TSR 162-167; Gideon Toury, “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation,” TSR 168-81.
For Oct. 8, bring 4-5 copies of a draft/drafts of your second project for workshopping. Start thinking about your final project – what does your second project suggest?


October 8: What if the text to be translated is religious?
Frame, Steiner, Even-Zohar, Toury; ; another “false translation;” bring in someone else's translation that you like, present and critique them; small groups: present more drafts from your second project (bring 3 or 4 copies, for small groups) - I am happy to write comments on drafts and/or type comments into Word documents if you e-mail them to me.


October 15 – Fall break!

Readings for Week 7: John Felstiner, "'Ziv, that light': Translation and Tradition in Paul Celan," Craft, 93-116; “1980s,” TSR 185-90; Hans J. Vermeer, “Skopos and Commission in Translational Action,” TSR 191-202; André Lefevere, “Mother Courage’s Cucumbers: Text, System and Refraction in a Theory of Literature,” TSR 203-219.
For Oct. 22, choose a well-known short poem or a paragraph from a well-known prose work, find 3-4 translations, make enough copies (one page of each translation) for everyone, bring to class. Start annotated bibliography.


October 22: What if the writer's so GREAT that the text might as well be religious?
Felstiner, Vermeer, Lefevere; choose a well-known poem or a paragraph from a well-known prose work, find 3-4 translations, make enough copies (one page of each translation) for everyone, bring to class and present. Here’s a case where bringing translations FROM English might be fun, as long as you can explain what the differences are in the results; present what’s ready from your second project, due next week.


Readings for Week 8: William Weaver, "The Process of Translation," Craft, 117-24; Antoine Berman, “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign,” TSR 240-253; Lori Chamberlain, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation,” TSR 306-21; “1990s,” TSR, 271-80.


October 29: What is your relationship to past and future translators?
Present second project work by reading part of it (2nd project due today!); Weaver, Berman, Chamberlain; another false translation. Strategize on final bilingual readings.


Readings for Week 9: Christopher Middleton, "On Translating Günter Eich's Poem 'Ryoanji'," Craft, 125-41; Annie Brisset, “The Search for a Native Language: Translation and Cultural Identity,” TSR 281-311; Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak, “The Politics of Translation,” TSR 312-30.
For Nov. 10, find a translation you like or find problematic, make enough copies of 2-3 illustrative bits for everyone and bring to class.


November 5: What if your translation will most likely be "the last word"?
Present a translation you like or find problematic, with 2-3 pages of text to illustrate your points; Middleton, Brisset, Chakrovorty Spivak; briefly describe final projects; in small groups: discuss final project shape in more detail, field questions and get suggestions.


Readings for Week 10: Edward Seidensticker, "On Trying to Translate Japanese," Craft, 142-53; Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Thick Translation,” TSR 311-43; Keith Harvey, “Translating Camp Talk: Gay Identities and Cultural Trasfer,” TSR 344-64.
For Nov. 12: bring enough copies of part of final project to workshop. Continue working on annotated bibliography.

WEEK 10:

November 12: What theories have sprung from translation practice or theory?
Seidensticker, Appiah, Harvey; present part of final project for workshopping in small groups; discussion of helpful theories; strategize, schedule and plan student bilingual readings; briefly describe topic of annotated bibliographies.


Readings for Week 11: Jacques Derrida, “What Is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” TSR 365-88; “2000s and beyond,” TSR 391-97; Ian Mason, “Text Parameters in Translation: Transitivity and Institutional Cultures,” TSR 399-410.
For Nov 19: complete the annotated bibliography; bring enough copies of another part of final project to workshop.

WEEK 11:

November 19: What is the translator’s relationship to the writer?
Derrida, Mason; present another draft from final project in small groups; discuss shapes for large projects (including final portfolios), comments and suggestions. Plan final bilingual readings.


Readings for Week 12: David Damrosch, “Translation and World Literature: Love in the Necropolis,” TSR 411-28; Sherry Simon, “Translating Montreal: The Crosstown Journey of the 1960a,” TSR 429-50; Vincente L. Rafael, “Translation, American English and the National Insecurities of Empire,” TSR 451-68.

WEEK 12:

November 26: How are (are?) translation theory and practice gendered?
Discuss/critique first student bilingual reading, if it already took place—individual pieces and overall impressions; Damrosch, Simon, Rafael; discuss the translation biz; creative exercise; further planning for any bilingual readings that haven’t yet taken place.


Readings for Week 13: Michael Cronin, “The Translation Age: Translation, Technology, and the New Instrumentalism,” TSR 469-82; Lawrence Venuti, “Geneologies of Translation Theory: Jerome,” TSR 483-502.
Attend and participate in the final bilingual readings!

WEEK 13:

December 3: Who is your favorite translator?
Cronin, Venuti; readings from final projects.

Bilingual Readings!

Thursday, December 6: 8:00-9:00, Bond Hall Meditation Room
Russian, French and Spanish: The Serbian Onion, Dmitry Bykov, French Fanfic
(look for signs with directions)

Monday, December 10: 4:30-5:30 p.m., Kohlberg Coffee Bar
Russian Treats

Monday, December 10: 7:00-8:00 p.m., Kohlberg 228
Japanese and Korean

Wednesday, December 12:: 7:00-8:00, McCabe Library Lobby
Stories You (Might) Know

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Final project is due December 21 to my office, Kohlberg 340. E-mail submission is even better, and safer if you would be mailing it from a distant place: send to

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What will you do now?