Areas of Study

Translation studies

In this course, students will read English translations of novels that have won major prizes. In addition to exploring themes of contemporary literature from around the world, special attention will be paid to the role of translation in shaping the work and its reception, and to the question of what makes for a prize-winning translation. Each week students will read a prize-winning translation alongside reports from the prize committee, reviews of the translation, and what the translators say about their work.

How Emily Wilson Reimagined Homer

EVERY DAY, the news reminds us of our collective failure as knowers. From history and literature, we have learned over and over that war has a boomerang effect that destroys everything. Yet here we are again: in Ukraine, in Tigray, in Syria. As the scholar-poet-playwright-translator Anne Carson has writ­ten, extrapolating from the Iliad, “In war, things go wrong…YOU LOSE YOU WIN YOU WIN YOU LOSE.” Carson weaves that pithy lesson into her 2019 play Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, an adap­tation of Euripides’ Helen. In ancient Greek literature, reflections on the inexorable reciprocity of warfare almost always lead back to the myth of the Trojan War and the Iliad, so there is a lot at stake in the translation of this poem. As Emily Wilson puts it in a note on her new translation of the epic, “There is nothing like The Iliad.”

https://yalereview.org/article/emily-greenwood-emily-wilson-the-iliad

 

Courses

Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room

Wednesday

CompLit 98A: Junior Tutorial Workshop

Thomas Wisniewski

A year-long series of workshops on researching in foreign languages, proposal writing, translation, close reading, the junior essay, and the senior thesis proposal. This junior tutorial is required of all concentrators.

 

In Person

Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room

Wednesday

CompLit 99A: Senior Tutorial Workshop

Thomas Wisniewski

A year-long series of workshops on researching, proposal writing, the senior thesis, and the oral exam. This senior tutorial is required of all concentrators.

In Person

Fall 2023

Ask Instructor

Wednesday

CompLit 102Y: Literary Biography & Documentary Film

Thomas Wisniewski

What is the relation between literary biography and documentary film? What might the life of a writer tell us about the work? To explore these questions, we will study a range of writers in tandem with documentaries made about their lives. With an emphasis on travel, exile, expatriatism, multilingualism, modernism, and Paris as a literary nexus, we will read work by a selection of twentieth-century authors including James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, Isak Dinesen, Ernest Hemingway, Beryl Markham, and Julia Child. Frequently we will pair the viewing of a documentary film with selections from the sources on which it is based. As we challenge the intentional fallacy, we will analyze the cinematic technique with which the film is made and the literary evidence from which it draws. Selections of fictional and nonfictional texts featured in the documentaries will frame our seminar discussions. A centerpiece of the course will be the work of Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen, a Dane who wrote primarily in English, whose memoirs will be read alongside her short fiction and compared to the feature films and documentaries made about her life and her writing. To that end, the seminar will offer students the opportunity to collaborate on and contribute original research to a new documentary film about Blixen’s 1959 transatlantic tour, including her legendary trip to New York and Boston.

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room

Friday

CompLit 107/YIDDISH 107: The Politics of Yiddish

Saul Zaritt

A bastardized German, a jargon, a woman’s vernacular, an old world language, a dying and ghostly tongue, a Hasidic language, a queer language, a radical language—these are just a few of the ways that Yiddish has been labeled over its one-thousand-year history. This course will trace the shifting politics attached to Yiddish from its early modern beginnings as a language of translation between Jewish and non-Jewish cultures to its postwar vacillation between a language of mourning and nostalgia, Jewish American humor, Hasidic isolation, and contemporary Jewish radicalism. Through poetry, fiction, essays, and film, we will discuss what it might mean to discover “the secret” language of the Jews” at the origins of Jewish socialism and at the foundations of diaspora nationalism. All texts will be read in translation.

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

Barker 211

Thursday

CompLit 213Y: Beyond Subtitles: Cinema, Media, and Translation

Junting Huang

“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong Joon Ho during his acceptance speech for Parasite’s historical Golden Globe wins. Are we finally ready to embrace subtitles? Are those one-inch-tall subtitles still a cultural barrier? Are they literary artifacts of translation? Despite their widespread use, subtitles are less often studied as a critical site for translation. Using subtitles as a point of departure, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore the intricacies of translation in cinema and other media cultures. It situates translation at the intersection of media and literary theories. In this course, we explore how the media form of subtitles can enable philosophical reflection on issues such as nationalism, nativism, foreignness, aphasia, postcoloniality, labor, and technology. The course will draw on theoretical texts from a diverse range of thinkers, including Frantz Fanon, Frederic Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, John Mowitt, Rey Chow, Naoki Sakai, and Sergei Eisenstein, among others.

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room

Thursday

CompLit 343AA, BA, CA: Professing Literature 1, 2, 3

Luis Girón-Negrón

This course focuses on professional development and preparation for academic careers in literature and related fields as well as positions outside academe. Part one of a two-part series. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit. Notes: It is open to all Harvard graduate students and is required of first-year Ph.D. students in Comparative Literature.

4 Credits

In Person

People

Associate Professor of Yiddish Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Dana-Palmer 206

Office Hours: By appointment see Calendly link

Lecturer on Comparative Literature, Faculty of Arts & Sciences

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Dana Palmer 204

Office Hours: By appointment

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: c/o Reischauer Institute CGIS South S222 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

Office Hours: By appointment Tuesday 10:30-11:30am: to meet during office hours or at another time, please reach out via email in advance to set up a time

Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature and English

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Barker Center 265

Office Hours: Th. 3-5pm (email for your appointment)

Sangam Professor of South Asian Studies and Comparative Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: 1 Bow Street, 336

Office Hours: Mon & Wed 3-4:30 PM or by appointment: please e-mail me for appointment

Lecturer on Comparative Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Mather House Dean's Office, 10 Cowperthwaite Street

Office Hours: Wed 3-4pm or by appointment

Areas of Study