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March 10, 2019

Course Spotlight – Literary Translation: Crossing Borders to Enrich Your Own Writing

“Translation is a way of keeping one close to what one is doing, to the possibilities of one’s own language.” —W.S. Merwin, American Poet

Professional Creative Writing program course, Literary Translation: Crossing Borders to Enrich Your Own Writing, is designed for creative writers who may know a variety of second languages (recent classes featured French, Chinese, Spanish, Gaelic and Greek) or no second language at all. Ezra Pound did not know Chinese when he wrote his landmark translations, but instead used expert literal translations and, most importantly, was an accomplished poet in English.

The major product of this course is the translation of a literary work. Students with a second language select contemporary writers to translate and often are in email contact with their authors. Many have found the correspondence rewarding. Some have developed continuing relationships.

Those without a second language develop alternative projects. An example, for horror fans:
Select “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, 1820. How does it compare to horror/gothic writing today? What language are you updating to make it current? There are many comics and film versions of this story. What do they leave out, add? Do culturally specific details from that time need explanation? Does updating the language change the original’s cultural norms? Translate a portion of the story into contemp orary American English. In your translator note, address the above questions and the choices you made.

There is no closer reading than translation. It is a process that results in an intimate understanding of any literary selection. Translation can be a catalyst for your writing, opening new doors in your work. It is both a distinctive form of creative writing and a demonstration of cross-cultural competency.

Literary Translation: Crossing Borders to Enrich Your Own Writing will be offered online during the spring 2019 quarter. For more details, contact the course instructor Patricia Dubrava at To register for the course, visit PioneerWeb or call the Student Support Center at 303-871-2291.

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