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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Cynthia Steele
C LIT 511
Seattle Campus

Literary Translation

Lectures on principles of translating literary works into readable English. Students present and comment on translations made by them and write seminar papers on problems of translation in theory and practice.

Class description

C LIT 511 A / ENG 554 A LITERARY TRANSLATION

This course is both a seminar on the theory of literary translation and a workshop in which we will share, revise and refine our own translations-in-progress, working individually or in pairs. We will read and discuss major theoretical texts that make up the field of translation studies, including works by Walter Benjamin, Gayatri Spivak, Emily Apter and David Damrosch, together with essays on the practical and linguistic dimensions of translation by Robert Blye and André Lefevre, as well as personal reflections by two prominent contemporary translators, Edith Grossman and Gregory Rabassa. In our discussions, we will consider questions of translatability, fidelity, the hierarchical division between original texts and their translations, and the charged politics of translation. Throughout the semester, we will compare different translations of literary texts, in order to examine how each version works, and will discuss how translators make decisions on language, style, format, and cultural equivalency.

With regard to the practical dimension of the seminar, we will devote roughly equal time to practicing translations of poetry, fiction and personal essay. At the end of the term, each student will turn in a portfolio of these translation exercises (one each in poetry, fiction and personal essay), each finalized and accompanied by a critical translator’s introduction.

The prerequisites for this class include demonstrable fluency in reading literature in a language other than English. Please bring to the first class meeting three xerox copies of between two and four untranslated poems that you would like to translate.

Film: The Woman with the 5 Elephants (2009, dir. Vadim Jendreyko).

REQUIRED TEXTS Edith Grossman. Why Translation Matters. New Haven: Yale UP, 2010. ISBN-10: 0300171307; an essay packet posted to our Catalyst Web Site.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Cynthia Steele
Date: 10/15/2012