If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Ideal Class: World Literature "Transloosely Literated"

If I could teach absolutely anything, I would love to teach a senior English class in world literature in translation. It would blend together my loves of languages and of literature, as well as my general belief that education should serve to expand the world view of students.

One of the major themes of the class would be the challenges presented by translation--the ways in which perfect translations are impossible and all translators are always making their own choices about the works. I would show the funniest scene from Lost in Translation, where Bill Murray is being instructed by the Japanese director of the commercial he has flown to Tokyo to shoot. The director talks and talks, but when the interpreter translates it into English it comes out as just a few words. The scene is Bill Murray at his best.

I would also pick a page or a paragraph from a famous work--Don Quixote comes to mind--and present multiple translations of the same material, in order to talk about the places where different choices were made.

And now I would have the students read this piece from Sunday's NYT Book Review. A classic!

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