Comparative Literature | Honors Seminar
C200 | 23830 | Prof. Bill Johnston


CMLT-C200 (23830) Honors Seminar
Topic: Tossed in translation: The role of translation in reading
world literature

Prof. B. Johnston , MW1:00-2:15,   BH137,
Intensive writing credit

Readers of world literature often assume that the translations they
are reading are transparent and unproblematic renderings of the
original works. Such a view is encouraged by the myth of
the “perfect translation.” Yet translations are never transparent,
and never perfect; all classic works exist in multiple translations
and continue to be re-translated.
This course will be an introduction to the ways in which translation
plays a major role in how we read, understand, and appreciate world
literature. The course will examine important yet differing
translations of each of a set of central works of world literature,
comparing alternative translations and considering the impact on the
reader of different translation practices. This analysis will be
located in the context of the history and theory of translation. The
goal will be to foster a richer understanding both of the works
themselves, and of the opaque yet creative and illuminatory
contributions of translation in both conveying and interpreting
these works across boundaries of language and culture. Works to be
considered, in part or where possible in whole, may include the
following: Gilgamesh; Aristophanes: Lysistrata; Beowulf; Moliere:
The Misanthrope; Gogol: The Government Inspector; Chekhov: The
Cherry Orchard; Neruda: The Heights of Macchu Picchu.