Translation is one of the deepest, most creative ways of engaging with a text. It provides us with a unique opportunity to dive into another writer’s sensibilities and rewrite a text in our own words. It’s also a fun way to engage with different styles and literary traditions, and an opportunity to bring diverse voices into the English language.
In this six-week introductory class, you’ll find a text in another language you’d like to translate, effectively research and take notes for a translation, and ultimately write a literary translation of your own. You’ll also read selections from contemporary and classic works in translation—including Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, Deborah Smith’s Booker Prize-winning translation of The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Katrina Dodson’s translations of Clarice Lispector, and the Kitchen Table Translation issue of Aster(ix) featuring the work of immigrant and diasporic translators—and learn how to identify and evaluate the different strategies used and approaches to cultural issues in the text.
Translating a piece of literature can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Workshop experience and fluency in another language are NOT required in this class. On the first week of class, you’ll receive a list of resources to help you get started, including advice on how to find the right dictionaries, how to use knowledge you might already have about the work, and how to translate from a language you don’t speak. Students can translate from any language and any genre, but all will be translating into English.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Familiarity with the craft and ethics of literary translation
- Knowledge of how to write and revise a translation to a professional standard
- Constructive, personalized feedback from peers and instructor on either two shorter pieces or one longer piece
- One-on-one conference with the instructor to discuss workshop submissions and address any questions about translation in general
- Knowledge of how to secure the rights to translate a work, and of how to pitch and publish translations
- The confidence and enthusiasm to keep translating!
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should expect to read about 35 pages and do one quick craft exercise each week, then submit once for workshop a translation of their own in the 5- to 10-page range for prose and 3-7 pages for poetry;12-point font, double-spaced. Students should also be prepared to give feedback on their classmates' workshop submissions.
WEEK 1: Why Translate? In-class discussion on what draws you to a language and a text, finding a text you’d like to translate, the ethics of metaphorical border crossing, and getting started. In-class handout and discussion on the elements of translation.
WEEK 2: Reading Like a Translator. Assigned reading, in-class writing assignment, and in-class discussion on questions of place, culture, epoch, gender, voice, register, representation, and literary advocacy.
WEEK 3: Another Way to Say. Assigned reading, in-class translation exercise, and in-class discussion on the different techniques used in translation, on and off the page.
WEEK 4: Translation in Practice. Workshop #1, including list of issues you’ve encountered while translating. Further reading on process and revision.
WEEK 5: Writing Is Rewriting. Workshop #2. Editing your first translation and trying your hand at a new piece. Further reading on craft and issues in translation.
WEEK 6: Breaking Into Translation. In-class discussion on how to secure the rights to translate a work, pitch, submit, and publish your translations, plus general advice.
Bruna Dantas Lobato was born and raised in Natal, Brazil. A graduate of Bennington College, she received her MFA in Fiction from New York University and her MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa. Her stories, essays, and translations from the Portuguese have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, A Public Space, BOMB, Words Without Borders, The Common, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Her translation of Caio Fernando Abreu's Moldy Strawberries has received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant and is forthcoming from Archipelago Books.
"Bruna’s edits are excellent and I am so appreciative of her talent. I've learned the hard way that editing in itself is an art form and much time can be wasted engaging with those who can't edit. She has a gift for recognizing the strengths of a piece, and I feel like a better writer every time I engage with her."
"Bruna is a fantastic writer and editor with a sharp eye for detail and subtext. She has been a great editor of my work, always generous, kind, and attentive to what could best serve my prose."
"As a writer, Bruna Dantas Lobato fits whole worlds into careful, spare sentences. As a translator and reader, she can reverse engineer: finding the heart of a piece through her careful attention to detail and intent. Her work places her among the rare and multi-talented who approach reading and writing with insight, courage, and a healthy sense of fun."
"In Bruna Dantas Lobato’s translation, Caio Fernando Abreu’s MOLDY STRAWBERRIES passes the microphone to the people on the other side of power: the junkies, failed revolutionaries, beggars, and drag queens who, at times like these, have the most to lose. Told by one of Brazil’s greatest gay writers, this book unfurls in long, elegant sentences, evoking the inner lives of people this society—like so many others—too often prefers to forget."