Flklre & Lit: Qstns of Transl. & Adaptn. (LSE/CSAP/pre-1900)

Folklore and Literature: “Questions of
Translation and Adaptation”

Within a framework that is interdisciplinary and attentive to our
location in the Pacific, this course focuses on two connected cultural
practices—translation and adaptation—that have, in different ways, shaped
historical and current understandings of “folk” or “traditional” narrative
genres (such as, within a western genre system, folktales and fairy tales, myths,
epics, and legends). Methodologically, the course presents students with the
tools of a folklore & literature approach, but does so in a self-reflective
mode where disciplinary assumptions and methodological tools are both deployed
and put into question, especially in light of the difference between “emic”
(relevant within a community) and “etic” (descriptive from the outside) genre
categories and of the imbricated history of folkloristics with colonialism as
well as “coloniality” (Walter Mignolo) more broadly.

“Traditional” narratives considered in this course rest on oral
tradition but are not limited to oral cultures; while many traditional
narratives are authored, this is largely ignored as they are translated to
represent an older or other culture and they are adapted into ‘modern’ literary
texts. Why are they translated and adapted? How do translation and adaptation
overlap? What are the methods and effects of colonial, postcolonial, and
decolonial translations and adaptations of traditional narratives? What is
gained and what is lost by differentiating between literary and traditional

Focusing on translation and adaptation as contact zones, we will
in this course pay attention to their politics (e.g., dynamics of “othering,”
appropriation, and empowerment) and their poetics (e.g., translation as
innovation, narrative strategies of adaptation). If traditional narratives are
perceived as foundational to the construction of a language of the imagination,
we can benefit from studying how structures of inequality inflect this language
of the imagination; how the translation and adaptation of these traditional
narratives informs children’s, national, comparative, and world literatures;
how these translations and adaptations function within globalized popular
culture, especially fantasy film; and how social and ideological processes
affect the production, transformations, and exchange of such narratives across
cultures and history, without however a priori determining their ideological

Decoding how translation often masks the practices of adaptation
and appropriation in colonial and globalizing projects as well as making
visible the work of translation in filmic adaptations will be important goals
as we approach these narratives with the tools of folkloristics, literary
studies, cultural studies, adaptation and translation studies, and indigenous
studies. More specifically, we will ask how these dynamics have played out in
the English-language translation of “folktales” from colonized India;
mo‘olelo from the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and occupied Hawai‘i; wonder tales from
the European literary tradition and from The Thousand and One Nights; and other case studies you bring in.

Within this framework, my practice in
the classroom will be to encourage students to put individual and collective
knowledges (linguistic, cultural, and critical) to good use. I look forward to our active engagement with critical
questions, texts, methodologies, and each other’s ideas.

informal assignments (leading discussion, contributing resources to a communal online
library, translating/adapting exercises); an oral presentation; a short paper
with research component focused on a genre or critical concept; a final
argumentative research paper.


Texts: In
addition to essays on translation, adaptation, folklore, and indigenous studies
that will be available on laulima, critical texts include
Naithani’s The Story-time of the British Empire: Colonial and Postcolonial
Ngũgĩ wa
Thiong’o’s Globalectics.


Arabian Nights (selections in English-language translation) Githa Harihan, When Dreams Travel; Andrei Codrescu, Whatever Gets You through the Night; German Popular Storiesby the Brothers
Grimm and adapted by Edgar Taylor (1823 and 1826); Emma Donoghue, Kissing the Witch; Sara Maitland, Gossip from theForest (selections); 19th-century
English-language translations of Indian and Australian tales that can be found
online such as Old Deccan Days (1868)and (Australian Legendary Tales (1895); The Legends and Myths of
Hawai‘i by His Majesty Kalākaua

(1888); Emma Nakuina’s Hawaii: Its People, Their Legends; Kamapua‘atranslated by Lilikalā

Visual adaptations include David Kaplan’s Red Riding Hood, Yousry Nasrallah’s
Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story
, the PBS Great Performances multi-media presentation Holo Mai Pele,
and Dan Taulapapa McMullin’s Sinalela.


Note: this selection of texts is somewhatsubject to change as
the course takes a more definite shape over the summer. Books will be available
at Revolution Books (2626 King Street); other readings will be posted on