Loosed in Translation: Poetics and Politics, between Tongues
Per its etymology, translation figures as a deft midwife, carrying a text over one language and into another. Pessimists frame translation otherwise: as an ill-fated encounter between powerful and powerless languages; as a form of transmission that necessitates misprision; as the violent uprooting of a source text or language from its autochthonous environment; or as a domesticating art that exploits, and encourages, the loss of meaning in linguistically-specific phrasal idioms, grammatical gender, syntax, and tonality.
In this class we will engage, in addition to plays, films, novelas and poetry that thematize such aporias of meaning, texts that have been translated into English and that retain surprising residues of their transmission. How do geographical, historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts shift the content of a translation? How is the translator's desire to achieve meaning tempered by misrecognition or nonrecognition, unbidden acts of misnaming, or ruptures in the communicative function of language? What words, genres, and texts resist transmission and how? When does mistranslation matter, and what are its political stakes? Can translation happen within-- not just between-- languages? We'll ask such questions of our readings and of translation writ-large.
While not limited to bilingual students, those R&C students with interest in, or knowledge of, non-English languages are especially encouraged to enroll in this class. Readings will be in English, with options to engage the source text. Our final project will involve an opportunity to creatively translate a work of your choice.