This course is designed for new and intermediate translators to discover and reimagine what’s possible in the realm of literary translation. We will begin by studying groundbreaking texts in translation—including Kyung-Sook Shin’s Violets translated by Anton Hur, Édouard Levé’s Suicide translated by Jan Steyn, and Mieko Kawakami;s Breasts and Eggs translated by Sam Brett and David Boyd—and then build toward crafting and refining our own short translations within a collaborative and expansive workshop.
This class will dedicate ample time to analyzing recent renowned works of literary translation to explore how and why these texts resonate with readers and to learn from the techniques of their translators. In the workshop portion of the course, students will engage in a series of writing exercises to familiarize themselves with the nuances of translation and to begin to experiment with creative and nontraditional translation methods. After selecting a short text or an excerpt of a larger work to translate, students will have an opportunity to workshop their translations to work toward a polished product at the end of the six-week course.
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.
Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.
- Deepen your understanding of the possibilities of translation through intense analysis of contemporary translated works
- Receive generous and thorough peer and instructor feedback on two short translations
- Advance your translation skills and work toward crafting a publishable piece(s) of translated literature
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Writers will have weekly readings, including excerpts from contemporary books in translation and shorter pieces of translated fiction. There will be two opportunities for workshop during the course; students will be asked to complete two formal writing assignments to present for workshop. Students are welcome to submit two different pieces or one new piece and one subsequent revision. Students will received written feedback on both from their peers and from the instructor. The class will also feature classroom discussions, brainstorming, and writing exercises to help define and refine our understanding of what makes translated literature successful.
Week 1: Introductions; Translation Overview; Close Reading Selected Translations; Writing Exercise; Writing Assignment: Idioms in Translation
Week 2: Sharing Idioms in Translation, Close Reading Selected Translations; Writing Exercise; Writing Assignment: Round 1 - Group 1 Translations
Week 3: Workshopping Round 1 - Group 1 Translations; Writing Exercise. Writing Assignment: Round 1 - Group 2 Translations
Week 4: Workshopping Round 1 - Group 2 Translations; Writing Exercise; Close Reading Selected Translations; Writing Assignment: Round 2 - Group 1 Translations
Week 5: Workshopping Round 2 - Group 1 Translations; Continuing Conversation about Techniques & Challenges of Creative Literary Translation; Writing Assignment: Round 2 - Group 2 Translations
Week 6: Workshopping Round 2 - Group 2 Translations; Final Discussion about Techniques & Challenges of Creative Literary Translation
Jenessa Abrams is a writer, literary translator, and practitioner of Narrative Medicine. Her fiction, literary criticism, and creative non-fiction has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Tin House, Electric Literature, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from MacDowell, the Ucross Foundation, the Norman Mailer Center, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Public Library, and Columbia University, where she earned her MFA in fiction and literary translation. Currently, she teaches writing in the Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia University.
"Jenessa was a pleasure to work with at the Chicago Review of Books. She turned in strong work and made the editing process a breeze. The CHIRB was lucky to have her writing on the site."
“Jenessa knows how to identify the emotional truth of a book. We worked together on a review she wrote for BOMB about Melissa Febos’s Abandon Me, a complicated text to write about because it’s formally unconventional and much of its messaging is implicit, deeply woven into its fabric. Jenessa dug into all these facets and separated the threads into different points of argumentation, setting up the review so the reader was prepared for its various eddies and angles. Jenessa has an incredible work ethic. She’s open-minded, collaborative, intuitive, willing to challenge herself, and always respectful of deadlines. She’s worked with my other editorial colleagues at Guernica and the Rumpus — they have all had glowing things to say about her. It’s rare we get to work with a writer who is versatile, compassion, unpretentious yet rigorous. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity.”
“I have been so grateful to work with and be taught by Jenessa Abrams over this past year. I have taken several writing courses in my academic career, however Jenessa has offered the most in-depth, personal, and generative feedback of any writing professor I've had. Her in-line comments on my writing have made me feel incredibly known and I am so grateful for her keen eye to note where prose can be sharpened or deepened. Her presence made me feel immediately comfortable to take risks in my writing both in style and subject matter. I feel I have grown in so much confidence in my voice as a writer and I attribute so much of that to the encouragement and guidance I have received from Jenessa.”
"Jenessa is one of the most thoughtful and generous teachers I have ever worked with. She gently pushed me to go deeper into my writing, to think critically about my practice and who I am as an artist, while simultaneously creating a safe space to meet me exactly where I was. Jenessa provided extremely attentive and helpful feedback; her love of teaching and her enduring respect for her students was always felt."
“Jenessa's unique gift as a teacher is the ability to identify and develop each individual student's talent and interests, even those they did not know they themselves had, and provide them with the skills to develop those very talents and interests. This pedagogy requires deep, careful attention and individualized assessments that meet students where they are; the exact opposite of an overly didactic and stifling one-size-fits-all approach. She excels at building a classroom atmosphere in which honest feedback and growth can occur, and she has the skills, passion, and experience as a writer and teacher to create a strong foundation to her courses. Having found her to be one of the most effective teachers I have worked with in many years, I have no doubt that any student would benefit immensely from having her as an instructor, and that the program she is a part of will be that much better for it.”
“I have trouble verbally expressing myself but Jenessa made it so that I felt comfortable enough expressing myself both in class and on paper. She also taught me a lot which has allowed me to not only become a better writer but a better person.”
"Jenessa exhibited genuine care for her students and pushed her students to do better. Throughout [her course], I found myself not only getting better at writing but also finding joy in writing."
"I was consistently reminded of my potential and encouraged, as a result I feel much more confident in my abilities."
"The time she puts into helping her students perfect this craft allows them to succeed in whatever setting. She also makes sure that each and every single one of her students feel comfortable and confident in themselves. She is very understanding.”