Modern Language Association
Viewing convention Program information from 2009

Session Details

Monday, 28 December

132. The Translator’s Visibility: Bridging the Gap between Translation and Translation Studies

8:30–9:45 a.m., Commonwealth Hall C, Loews

A special session

Presiding: Susan Bernofsky, New York, NY

Presider's Annotation:
There has been a marked increase in the visibility of translation studies over the past decade as a special area of concentration within Comparative Literature, but translation’s place in the curriculum is still being negotiated. This roundtable brings together some of the country’s most distinguished scholars and teachers of translation who are at the same time accomplished translators in their own right and will ask them to weigh in on translation’s role in the academic setting.

Our discussion will center on the advantages of bringing together the perspectives of writerly practitioner and literary scholar. In particular, we will be talking about translation’s mediate and mediating function between the practice of literature-making and the scholarly analysis of texts, both of which come together in the translation process. As a result of the structure of the translator’s work, the translator is likely to move more between an academic context and the mainstream literary marketplace than is typical for other sorts of academic scholars. On the one hand, this in-between status is largely responsible for the skepticism with which translation has historically been viewed by university administrations (a circumstance that is fortunately now changing). On the other, it signals translation’s unique ability to bridge the divide between writerly and scholarly approaches to literature, which have traditionally been kept institutionally separate. The twenty-first century has seen developments in literary studies that makes this a particularly ripe moment for including the study of translation within cultural studies. Translation was a key factor in Goethe’s Weltliteratur, and it lends itself naturally to discussions about notions such as border crossings, the transnational and globalization.

Key questions to be addressed in the roundtable include the following:

• What aspects of translation are teachable, to whom, by whom, and with what goals?
• What is the relationship between translation studies and translation as such? Should they be taught together, in the same course? in the same program?
• What is the relationship between translation theory and the practice of translation? To what extent does the field of translation studies help translators to approach a text?
• What misconceptions about the translator-scholar exist in the academic world? in the publishing world?
• How can translator-scholars help their colleagues who teach literature in translation to choose the translation on the market best suited to their students’ needs?
• How can the university community help to develop a readership—and therefore a market—for literature in translation?
• How can translators working in an academic setting use their status to 1) encourage publishers to increase the number of translations in their list; 2) influence them in the choice of works they commission for translation; 3) improve the quality of trade-book translation through reviews and articles?
• How have changing ideas about the nature of the practice of literary translation influenced the its adaptability to an academic/institutional environment?
• To what extent is teaching literary translation teaching a professional skill, one that students can use professionally in the “real world”?

Speakers: David Bellos, Princeton Univ.; Barbara Harshav, Yale Univ.; Michael Henry Heim, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Suzanne Jill Levine, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Richard Sieburth, New York Univ.

No comments have been posted for this session.

Close Window

© 2014 Modern Language Association.