An Interview with PhD Alum Darryl Sterk

Darryl Sterk, PhD (2009)

Darryl Sterk graduated from EAS’s PhD program in 2009 and is associate professor of translation and interpretation at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Sterk translated Wu Ming-Yi’s novel, The Man with the Compound Eyessterk. Sterk spoke at the International Festival of Authors (2013) in Toronto about translation as a creative process. Read the Toronto Star article here.

Please tell us about your professional journey since graduation.

After a summer course in traditional Chinese fiction in 2009 I got a lectureship at University of Alberta in Chinese language and literature. I got the job because I had translation experience. It was well paid, 12 months not just eight, and in my hometown. I did that for two years, then went to Zhong Zheng University in southcentral Taiwan to teach at a graduate institute of Taiwan literature, where I got to teach an undergraduate course in literary adaptation. Finally, two years ago, I got a job teaching translation at National Taiwan University in Taipei, in the new Graduate Program in Translation and Interpretation. And that’s where I’m still teaching now.

What courses are you teaching, and in which department?

I teach anything related to translation, including sight translation, contrastive Chinese and English analysis (mostly linguistics, with some rhetoric), intermedial translation (mostly film adaptation), AV translation (subtitles), literary translation, specialized translation, for instance, in the natural sciences or the social sciences, but in future law, finance, economics, technology, and so forth. I teach in the Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation at National Taiwan University.

How did you doctoral program at EAS prepare you for researching and teaching as a faculty member?

Very well! As I said, I got the chance to teach in my final year at EAS, a great opportunity in retrospect. It was a class of 60, and I’m still in touch with the top student. Being a TA gave me a basic grounding in Chinese history. In my coursework I absorbed enough classical Chinese to read traditional texts in wenyan. The process of writing a doctoral thesis taught me a lot about how to write and hopefully about how to think as well.

What is/are your current research project(s)?

My current research is primitivism in Taiwanese representations of indigenous peoples, including self-primitivization. This year I finished one article on the representation of hunting in indigenous fiction against a background of anthropological research on gift economy, as well as another article on the first ‘native feature’ in Taiwan. In the next few years I will finish up my work on indigenous representation, hopefully in the form of a pair of monographs, and start learning an indigenous language called Seediq, which was spoken in the 2011 feature film Seediq Bale. I hope to do a more sociological or anthropological style of research. Another project is a book on the contrastive analysis of Chinese and English, which would be more of a textbook than a contribution to knowledge. But these days I spend most of my free time translating. I just finished translating a near future disaster novel into English and am plodding through a translation of House Made of Dawn into Chinese with my wife’s help.

Do you have any advice for current EAS doctoral students?

Get some experience in translation. Translation is a lot of fun, I think, and it’s a possible career, or at least a way to make some money while learning in excruciating detail about the ways of the world. It is also a chance to improve or reinforce language skills doctoral students should bring to the table when they apply for jobs in any department of East Asian Studies. I would not be where I am today, wherever that is, without Chinese speaking and writing skills. Good luck everyone!