Sem Comp Lit: Postmod/PostCol

S. Shankar
ENG 780P(1) Seminar in Comparative Literature
Fri 3.15-5.45 KUY 207

Translation and Comparatism examines the past and current fates of translation, comparatism and the related field of World Literature. These topics are central to the study of literature in general given the globalized nature of the cultural field today. They are also particularly pertinent to our location in Hawai`i and the Pacific given the many languages and literary/cultural traditions that are to be found here. As such, this course will be of interest and use to a wide range of graduate students, whether you are multilingual or not, whether you want to work in multiple literary and cultural traditions or not.

The course approaches “translation” from the point of view of theory (as the subject of metadiscursive rumination), of trope (as a rich metaphor for a variety of processes and experiences of transformation), and of practice (as the painstaking transference of a text from one language to another or, more generally, from one medium to another).

It approaches “comparatism” historically as well as theoretically, both tracing its contours through the origins and growth of a field of study known as “comparative literature” and exploring the philosophical arguments that have been made for and against comparatism. How is it possible to engage in an act of cross-cultural comparison without subjecting one side to the dominant ideas of the other? Is comparison conceivable without an underlying universalist foundation? What are some of the different models of comparatism? Such are some of the vexing questions at the heart of the modern project of comparatism.

As these questions only begin to suggest, translation and comparatism are intimately linked topics. An act of translation is an act of comparison; and comparatism all too often depends on translation. Also covered in the course will be a topic closely linked to translation and comparatism—notions of World Literature, which have made a robust comeback in the last decade. Is Literatures of the World a better label than World Literature? This pertinent question will be seriously engaged.

The texts for the course will be theoretical, practical (i.e. essays exploring the actual practice of translation), literary, and cinematic. The semester has four general themes running through it (somewhat reflected in the way the readings are organized): (1) The Theory and Practice of Translation, (2) Translation as Trope, (3) Comparatism, and (4) The World Literature Debate. The readings pertaining to the first theme explore translation from a theoretical as well as practical perspective; for the second theme, we will read/watch literary texts and films that allow us to appreciate as well as critique the uses of translation as a trope (that is, as a metaphor); the third theme explores comparatism as a methodology founded on comparison and also comparative literary and cultural studies as fields of academic inquiry; and under the fourth theme we will review approaches to as well as critiques of the Literatures of the World.

Since I am interested in translation at a theoretical level at the same time that I am myself a practicing translator, I welcome student projects that take an analytical approach to translation as well as projects engaging in actual translation. Hawaiian and Pacific languages and literatures are outside my area of expertise, but I welcome student projects relating to them.

Student Learning Outcomes:
At the end of the semester, students will have a good grasp of translation studies as a field, of debates around comparatism as a method, and of the debates around the Literatures of the World. They will have an understanding of the discipline of English today and its relationship to other disciplines; an understanding of advanced research methods and/or creative techniques of translation; and an ability to demonstrate advanced critical analysis in both written and oral formats.

Students will make a presentation related to a reading (also presented to me as a six-page paper), preceded by a 250-word abstract; write a midterm seven-page project proposal accompanied by a five-page annotated bibliography; and submit a twenty-five page term paper at the end of the semester. These assignments may build on each other. The term paper may be substituted by an appropriate creative project of translation if approved by me. Class discussions will be supplemented by required and voluntary discussions online.

Readings and Required Texts:
#The Translations Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti. 3rd Edition.

The following essays from the reader will be read: Walter Benjamin, George Steiner, Roman Jakobson, Vladimir Nabokov, Eugene Nida, Andre Lefevere, Gayatri Spivak, Lori Chamberlain, Keith Harvey, Itamar Even-Zohar, Gideon Toury, Antoine Berman, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Vicente Rafael, Michael Cronin, Lawrence Venuti.

#The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

#The English Patient (movie)

#Course Packet (PDFs online):

Poems by Keats, Shelley and Aime Cesaire

Essays by Tejaswini Niranjana, Abbe Mark Nornes, A. K. Ramanujan, ku’ualoha ho’omanawanui, Bryan Kuwada, Cristina Bacchilega, Sundar Sarukkai, Susan Bassnet, Harish Trivedi, R. Radhakrishnan, Pheng Cheah, Francesca Orsini, David Damrosch, Franco Moretti, Noenoe Silva, Emily Apter, Erich Auerbach, Edward Said, S. Shankar, Jacques Derrida.