Translation is one of the central mechanisms of literary creativity across the world, yet the labor of translation, and its generativity, has traditionally been elided or even undermined in academic discourse. This course at the University of Chicago, with its biweekly colloquia curated by Jennifer Scappettone (English; RLL; Creative Writing) and Haun Saussy (Comparative Literature; Social Thought), is meant to jumpstart the new cross-departmental initiative in Translation Studies at the University ( during Winter 2021.

The course and colloquium offer opportunities to think through both the theory and practice of this art form and means of cultural transmission, focusing on the problems of translation of and by poets in a variety of languages: it emphasizes precisely the genre most easily “lost in translation,” as the truism goes. Topics to be discussed will include not only the key formal questions of loss and gain, semantic and grammatical interference, the production of difference, self-translation, translation as metaphor, foreignization vs. nativization, and the quandary of translating for performance and for sonic resonance, but also more adamantly political questions, including the translation of indigenous languages, translating underrepresented figures and writers of color, language justice, the labor of interpreting, translingualism, code-switching, pidgin and creole, nation language, deterritorialization, and translation and/as decolonization.