Comparative Literature 190. Translation: Language at Work

Instructor: Marc Shell
Terms: Fall Term

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

What difference does language make? This class 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: the final reading list will thus arise from group discussion of the languages we know. The first half of the course considers issues of literalness and literariness along with rhythm and rhyme in both poetry and prose. At the same time we will discuss simultaneous translation, dubbing, and general ineffability along with American literature written in languages other than English. The second half focuses on the relationships of language translation to economic transfer and to literary metaphor and also considers the roles of inter-linguistic translation in various arts and media: movies, plays, music, and variably ‘bilingual’ paintings.

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