The Art of Literary Translation (LIT4319.01)

Marguerite Feitlowitz

It may well be that the closest, most interpretative, and creative reading of a text involves translating it from one language to another. Questions of place, culture, epoch, voice, gender, and rhythm take on new urgency, helping us to deepen our writerly skills and sensibilities. As Joseph Brodsky put it: “You must memorize poems, do translation, study foreign languages. And the best way to study a foreign language…is by translating a poem…The music of the poem carries you, you float upon waves of sound, but, at the same time, you peer below the surface of the ocean, and there, in the depths, you notice the teeming life of sea creatures…”

Writers in all genres are welcome to explore this “teeming life” that is the fruit of literary translation. Our workshop has a triple focus: comparing and contrasting existing translations of the same work; reading translators on the art and theory of translation; and critiquing students’ translations-in-progress. We will also consider translation as an act of bearing witness to cultural and political crisis, and as a means of encoding messages that would otherwise be censored.


Learning Outcomes:
* You will read translations with sophisticated acuity;
* You will make translations of your own choice of literary texts;
* You will be a constructive reader and critic for your classmates;
* You will help host distinguished visiting translators.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students should send an email to by November 12 saying why you wish to take this course, which language(s) in addition to English you have in your life; and any prior experience you might have with translation, literary and critical writing.
Corequisites: Knowledge of more than one language and culture very helpful.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
Th 1:40PM - 5:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: All courses , Cultural Studies and Languages , Fully In-Person , Literature