LIT 70R, Fall 2018
Monday 1:15-4:00
Kohlberg 330

Sibelan Forrester
Kohlberg 340
tel. 610-328-8162
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Office Hours, Fall 2018:
Tuesday, 10:00-11:00
Wednesday, 4:00-5:00
Thursday, 1:00-2:00

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 areas 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 points of view from creative writing, linguistics, and literary theory as well as the discipline of translation studies.

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.

Fall 2018 Accommodations Statement
If you believe you need accommodations for a disability or a chronic medical condition, please contact Student Disability Services (Parrish 113W, 123W) or email to arrange an appointment to discuss your needs. As appropriate, the office will issue students with documented disabilities a formal Accommodations Letter. Since accommodations require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. For details about the accommodations process, visit the Student Disability Services Website at You are also welcome to contact me (SF) privately to discuss your academic needs. However, all disability-related accommodations must be arranged through Student Disability Services.

Required Texts (for sale in Bookstore or online; there are also copies in McCabe):

Some of our course work can be done electronically, but we may 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. If you can work out a way to gather comments by sending out attachments of the document to me and your group, and thus saving paper, I will do all I can to support you.
NB: I prefer to receive assignments electronically: my comments will be more legible, and I can painlessly keep a copy in case some day you want me to write you a recommendation. Documents in MS Word or pasted into an e-mail message are extra convenient, but let me know if something else would work better for you.

Consider becoming a member of the American Literary Translators' Association (ALTA). The student rate is a very reasonable $30 per year. Your membership will get you the ALTA Newsletter, the journal TR (Translation Review), the chance to join the often useful ALTAlk list, and a great annual conference (this year's in Bloomington, Indiana, October 31-November 3; let me know if you want more information). Every spring the organization has a competition for travel fellowships for emerging translators to attend the following fall's conference, and there is a mentoring program that covers a changing variety of lanaguges. See the ALTA web site for more information.

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.


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.

This fall we will also have three special events - a multi-bilingual reading by faculty (date in September TBA), and two visitors to class who will also give public lectures later the same day. If you will not be able to attend the lectures or reading outside class, let me know; otherwise I will expect to see you there.

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.

Two other Oral Assignments:

1) At some point during the semester, present and lead discussion of one book or article 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? You'll sign up for presentations in advance. If you like I can make suggestions based on your interests, or offer suggestions about making an effective spoken presentation.

2) In the second part of the semester, you'll present an outline of your work in progress — your final paper topic, or the portfolio of annotated translations that you are 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 (10% 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, a family member could be wonderful) in a language you don’t know, have them help you choose something and then give advice and feedback as you work on it. We’ll workshop these during weeks 3 and 4. Final version due SEPTEMBER 24; 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: Choose from two possibilities.
    1) Create a comparisom of several translations, using the site I'll demonstrate to you. Choose an original that has at least five or six translations into English available for you to comparem.
    2) Create 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. 15% 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. Let me know if you have questions.
    Aim for 20-25 pages total. Due DECEMBER 22. 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. You don't need permission to make a translation, but getting permission to publish can be a big hairy issue.)

In brief:Due:
first translationSeptember 28 5%
second translation October 26 10%
web project or bibliography November 1615%
portfolio or final paper December 17 30%
presentation of reading TBA 5%
presentation of final project TBA 5%
presentation at final bilingual reading TBA 10%
attendance, participation always! 20%

On Reserve (in McCabe):

Suggested Readings (most are available in Tripod):

It's never a bad idea to look at the books in the vicinity of one you have identified as interesting. The ability to do this without going up into the shelves is one thing we lost with the end of library card catalogs. It's possible to do it on Tripod, but you have to want to and to figure out how.

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; identify language groups in the class; 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 those who weren’t here last week; "false" translation; in small groups present and describe text chosen for first project (or even share the first rough draft); what is translation theory?; Rabassa, Jerome, d’Ablancourt, Dryden; example of formulating a research paper project: translation theory/practice/studies in Russia

Tonight! 7:00 p.m. in the Scheuer Room, Bilingual Reading featuring Swat and Bi-Co faculty! Light refreshment will be provided. Let me know if you won't be able to make this event.

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 OR we can try to work out a digital solution.


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

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 OR scan pdfs or find it online so you can project in the classroom, and be ready to explain what you like about it. FIRST TRANSLATION IS DUE!


September 24: How is translating related to creative writing?
A special visit from Dr. Margo Shohl!
Read first translation aloud; Raffel, Benjamin, Pound, Borges, Nabokov; discuss your experience with the first project and results. Form different small groups (if you desire) for the second project.

LECTURE by Margo Rosen, 4:30 p.m., Kohlberg 328. "Catch the Music: Problems and Pleasures of Translation"

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 October 1, start work on a piece or two of the second project, be ready to describe ot, make enough copies of at least one piece to workshop in class.


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


Readings for Week 6: Donald Frame, "Pleasures and Problems of Translation," Craft, 70-92; George Steiner, “The Hermeneutic Motion,” TSR 156-61; Itamar 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 enough copies of another draft/drafts of your second project for workshopping. Start thinking about your final project – what does your work so far suggest you'd enjoy doing? Think about the elements in translations you like and prepare to talk about that in class.


October 8: What if the text to be translated is religious?
A special visit from Nora Seligman Favorov!
Frame, Steiner, Even-Zohar, Toury; another “false translation;” describe what you like to see in a translation; small groups: workshop more drafts from your second project (bring copies for small groups) - I am happy to write comments on drafts and/or type comments into digital documents if you e-mail them to me.


LECTURE by Nora Favorov: "Making a Living as a Freelance Translator," 7:30 p.m., Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall.

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, start your annotated bibliography OR have consulted with professor about the web project.


October 22: What if the writer's so GREAT that the text might as well be religious?
Felstiner, Vermeer, Lefevere; compare 3-4 translations of a single work and discuss. Workshop whatever needsworkshopping in 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 or all 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. 5, find a translation you think is problematic, be ready to hand out or project some illustrative bits in class and talk about the problems.


November 5: What if your translation will most likely be "the last word"?
Present a translation you find problematic, with 2-3 bits to project 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 literary or cultural theories have sprung from translation practice or theory?
Seidensticker, Appiah, Harvey; bring part of final project for workshopping in small groups; discussion of helpful theories; strategize, schedule and plan student bilingual readings; briefly describe the topic of your annotated bibliography or web presentation.


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 or web presentation; bring 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 your bibliography or web work; workshop another draft from final project in small groups; discuss shapes for large projects (including both papers and final portfolios), comments and suggestions. Finalize plan for 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. Workshop another piece of the fina project.


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.


Again: attend and participate in the final bilingual readings!

Bilingual Readings!


* * *

Final project is due December 22 to my office, Kohlberg 340. E-mail submission is even better: send to by 5 p.m. on December 22.

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What will you do now?