The Creative Work of Translating





Stephanie Sandler (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 36G   4 credits (spring term)   Enrollment:  Limited to 15

Prerequisite: The seminar will require some knowledge of one language besides English. Please feel free to contact Professor Sandler ( if you are unsure about this. If circumstances permit, there will be at least one required field trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Translation makes culture possible. Individual writers and thinkers draw sustenance and stimulation from works created outside their own cultures, and artists working in one format get ideas from those working in entirely different media. Translation between languages and between art forms will center our seminar’s work. Taking a broad view of translation as a mental activity, we will study poems, fiction, film, photography, film, and music. We will stretch our own imaginative capacities by transposing material across media and genres, creating homophonic translations, and translating between languages. We will work individually as well as collaboratively. We will read a small amount translation theory, and some reflections by working translators. We will invite into our classroom a practicing poet, artist, and translator or two, attend poetry readings and lectures at Harvard. The only requirement is some knowledge of a language besides English—and a readiness to play with languages, art forms, and texts. Readings from Anna Akhmatova, Walter Benjamin, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Brodsky, Anne Carson, Emily Dickinson, Forrest Gander, Susan Howe, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Nabokov, Sappho, W. G. Sebald, Wang Wei, and Sor Juana; music by John Adams and David Grubbs. Films to include Despair, Chekhovian Motifs and The Golem.

See also: Spring 2023