This lecture explores the paradox that poetry, which has often been dismissed by translation studies scholars as untranslatable has in practice been endlessly translated, often well translated over time, and figures prominently in any account of World Literature. Looking to ways in which the lyric poem’s aesthetic, even “untranslatable” qualities in fact make it central – rather than peripheral – to translation studies, the talk then goes on to discuss ways in which the lyric can highlight ethical as well as aesthetic issues in the translation and transmission of what we call World Literature. Textual examples will be drawn from the poetry of several cultures. The discussion closes with a suggestion that translation studies might itself be expanded and transformed through greater attention to the particular challenges posed by the translation of lyric poetry.
About the Speaker:
Sandra Bermann is Cotsen Professor of the Humanities, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Master of Whitman College at Princeton University. In addition to writing articles and reviews in scholarly journals, she is author of The Sonnet Over Time: Studies in the Sonnets of Petrarch, Shakespeare, and Baudelaire, translator of Manzoni’s On the Historical Novel and co-editor of Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation. Her current projects focus on lyric poetry, translation, historiography and literary theory, and new directions in the field of comparative literature. A recipient of Whiting and Fulbright Fellowships, she has been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Columbia University Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall in Paris. At Princeton, she served as Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature for twelve years, and co-founded the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. She recently completed a term as President of the American Comparative Literature Association.
Translating the Poetry of World Literature: Ethical and Aesthetic Issues