EAS1118H Translation and Modernity

EAS1118H Translation and Modernity
Professor: Janet Poole

A recent phenomenon in the historiography of East Asia is the proliferation of works which theorise modernity as a form of translation. This seminar aims to take a critical look at this trend by 1) exploring the various ideas of translation which underlie this move and 2) by thinking through alternative understandings of translation. This is not a course on translation per se, but, as a practicing translator, I am interested in exploring how the practice of translation may help or impede us in thinking about history.

The work of Walter Benjamin is central to rethinking translation as a form of historical mediation. We shall, therefore, begin with Benjamin on history and translation, and then move onto various ways in which translation has been invoked, practiced, and used in order to think about historical difference. As historians of East Asia in the North American academy, we all have to come to terms with the problem of translation; I hope that this course will help us both to enhance our understanding of recent historiography in our field, and to think through our own way of understanding mediation. The topic of your final project is thus open: it may be a historiographical essay, a consideration of the historical practice of translation, or an exploration of a critical practice of translation. You should in any case talk to me before beginning your final project.

1. Careful and timely reading of assigned texts, attendance and active participation in class discussions.
2. Weekly thought papers of approximately one page to be posted to the Blackboard website by midnight on Wednesdays at the latest. These papers are a chance for you to gather your thoughts on the readings and share questions before class.
3. At least one class presentation which discusses one week’s readings and poses questions to lead class discussion.
4. A final project: this may take the form of a paper (approximately 20 pages double-spaced) or a critical translation.
Grading will be: weekly essays and class participation (50%) and final paper (50%).