Comparative Literature 290. Translation, Metaphor, and Exchange

Instructor: Marc Shell

Wednesdays, 1-3 pm | Location: Dana Palmer 102

What difference does language make? This seminar begins with Goethe’s Faust, a work that translates the Bible (“In the beginning was the Word”) and teases out the idealist philosophical theorization of translation (Helen of Troy speaking German words in Greek syntax). Seminar participants will then engage collaboratively in comparative readings: the particular language expertise of every one of us will benefit the group as a whole. Thus a study of American immigrant works, for example, will include items written in a host of languages. Likewise, a study of modern poetry and rhythm will include translations into several languages. Our purview involves non-literary work as well as literary: ensuring “adequate” translations of basic Constitutional documents in officially bilingual nation states or international unions, for example, along with providing comprehensible road signage for highways and simultaneous translation for conferences and parliaments. The last meetings of the seminars focus on the relationships of language translation to economic transfer and to literary metaphor and considers the roles of inter-linguistic translation in various arts and media. Visitors to the seminar will include distinguished scholars and writers from across the disciplines.

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