This is a literature seminar focusing on reading personal experiences of systemic discrimination in translation. To begin, we will investigate how key concepts such as “literature,” “human rights” and “translation” differ across languages and cultures. Then we will spend the majority of the term exploring the dilemmas translators face when asked to interpret tales of suffering in local languages and represent them in the general, even universal terms English speakers will readily apprehend.
The reading list will include works from a range of languages, time periods, and perspectives such as Svetlana Broz’s Good People in an Evil Time: Portraits of Complicity and Resistance in the Bosnian War, I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan: A Dalit’s Life, and Translating Slavery: Gender and Race in French Abolitionist Writing 1780-1830.
Ellen Elias-Bursać, the translator of Good People in an Evil Time will spend a week with the class talking about her experiences in the translation unit of the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague and its relationship to her career in literary translation.
Students will be expected to post a weekly blog about the readings and to present their reactions to a recommended reading once in the semester. For their final project, students will contribute to a class website that will offer critical commentary on contemporary literary nonfiction in translation highlighting issues of human rights published in the online literary journal Words without Borders.
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