HUMS 427, The Practice of Literary Translation
This course combines a seminar on the history and theory of translation (Tuesdays) with a hands-on workshop (Thursdays). The readings lead us through a series of case studies comparing, on the one hand, multiple translations of given literary works and, on the other, classic statements about translation—by translators themselves and prominent theorists. We consider both poetry and prose from the Bible, selections from Chinese, Greek, and Latin verse, classical Arabic and Persian literature, prose by Cervantes, Borges, and others, and modern European poetry (including Pushkin, Baudelaire, and Rilke). Students are expected to prepare short class presentations, participate in a weekly workshop, try their hand at a series of translation exercises, and undertake an intensive, semester-long translation project. Proficiency in a foreign language is required.
Poet and translator Peter Cole has been affiliated with Yale since 2006 and currently teaches classes each spring in the Comparative Literature Department and Judaic Studies. He is the author of five books of poems, most recently Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations(FSG). Cole’s many volumes of translation from Hebrew and Arabic include The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition (Yale), The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 (Princeton), Taha Muhammad Ali’s So What: New & Selected Poems 1973-2005 (Copper Canyon), Aharon Shabtai’s War & Love, Love & War: New and Selected Poems (New Directions), and the novels of Yoel Hoffmann (New Directions). He has also written a book of non-fiction, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Schocken/Nextbook), with Adina Hoffman, and edited Hebrew Writers on Writing (Trinity).
Cole has received numerous honors for his work, including fellowships from the NEA, the NEH, and the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, the Association of American Publishers’ Hawkins Award for Book of the Year, the PEN Translation Award for Poetry, the American Library Association’s Brody Medal for the Jewish Book of the Year, and a TLS Translation Prize. He is the recipient of a 2010 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2007 was named a MacArthur Fellow. He is currently a co-editor of Princeton University Press’s Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation, and divides his time between Jerusalem and New Haven.