Translation is one of the central mechanisms of literary creativity across the world, yet the labor of translation, and its generativity, has traditionally been undermined or elided altogether in literary and 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 (or non-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.

Free and open to the public via Zoom. Registration information as follows (please be patient as we navigate a secure yet open and accessible meeting structure!).

Jan 20, Triple Translation and Decolonization
Passcode: translate

OR join us live on YouTube without registering:

Feb 16, Translation and Language Justice in Border Zones
Passcode: justice

OR join us live on YouTube:

Feb 23, East-West, On-Off Transit
Passcode: transit

We will also livestream the conversation via YouTube:

March 2, Napoleon Rivers, Black Studies & Translation as (Anti-Racist) Activism–prz4jE9WcLwcQwT6ndhWapCpRGHiO
Passcode: activism