Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Translation MFAs?

Anyone have some advice or direction for Mike?

I've been reading your blog for a couple weeks now, and I've got a question. I write poetry, and one of (and I mean one of) my major interests is translation (Latin and Greek). Would it behoove me to apply only to those programs that have specializations in translation (I think Iowa offers an MFA in translation)? Will other MFA programs turn up their noses at someone who wants to spend a lot of his time translating, or at a portfolio that includes a lot of translation? If there are only a few programs that are good environments for people interested in translation, um, any idea which programs they are?

Any thoughts in response would be greatly appreciated.

Mike S.


Anastasia said...

BU has a great translation program. Most of the poetry students take Rosanna Warren's fantastic translation seminar, though I do not know how much translation they actually do in their regular workshops. In addition to Rosanna, the faculty also includes two other poets highly esteemed for their translations, David Ferry and Robert Pinsky. For poetry students, albeit not for us poor fictioneers, translations can also be included in the thesis.

UT Houston, I understand, also has a well-regarded translation program.

dustin. said...

there are some writing programs which offer study of translation. though i don't know much and can't offer you a list or anything, i do know that the University of Arkansas always has several students working on MFA's in translation. they chiefly work with a faculty translator/poet named John Duval. check out their website (http://www.uark.edu/depts/english/PCWT.html) for descriptions if you like. the founder of the program, Miller Williams, has translated extensively throughout his very long career--they've been translating at arkansas for over thirty years.

dustin. said...

...just glancing at the website, it looks like they've recently another translator/poet at Arkansas by the name of Geoffery Brock. recent stegner. i don't know that fellow (harhar), but i will testify, however, that John Duval is a fine man with a terrific, easygoing humor and deep, soothing voice.

B.J. Epstein said...

Hi Mike,

What you do really depends on what you want to focus on at this time - writing or translating.
I concur with the other posters, and add that yes, Iowa also has an MFA program in translation (see http://www.uiowa.edu/~ccl/mfatranslation.shtml). Queens College in NYC is also starting a program (see http://qcpages.qc.edu/ENGLISH/Graduate/index.html#mfa1), and there are several others. However, when you look into MFA programs in translation, you need to check which languages they accept. Some such programs only allow/offer specific languages (such as Spanish), while others will take any language. The classical languages are likely to be less common.
As you are a poet yourself, you may want to go for a program in poetry that includes seminars/options/modules in translation, such as the low-residency program at Fairleigh Dickinson (see http://alpha.fdu.edu/becton/writeMFA/overview.html). But, again, that depends on whether you would rather focus on writing or translating - in this case you would focus on the writing and just spend perhaps one semester on translation - and there aren't that many such programs to choose from. Though there has been a lot of hierarchy over the years in creative writing, in terms of the silly belief that only "original" writing matters and that translation is reductive or imitative, that is slowly changing, and I hope we will start seeing more MFA programs that include translation soon.
A final option is to look into PhD programs in translation studies. Such programs take longer and include more critical work, but you might be able to combine the creative and the analytical in a dissertation. But clearly you'd have to consider how much longer you want to be in school and whether you are interested in the theoretical aspects.
I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have on this. My own background is that I chose an MFA program in fiction over one that also included a module in translation, and I am now doing a PhD in translation while also working as a translator (primarily Swedish to English).
Good luck to you!

Best wishes,

Bede the Venerable said...
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v. said...

The NEOMFA program in Ohio also has a really good translation program. The NEOMFA is a consortium of four schools: Kent State, Youngstown State, Cleveland State and the University of Akron. You'd want to apply probably through Kent which has the best translation dept. You can look at the website at www.ysu.edu/neomfa/. I'm in the program for poetry, but I took a translation class last semester that was really phenomenal.

Si Pemimpi said...

what about literary translation for Indonesian? I'm an Indonesian and planning to apply for literary translation program, from Indonesian into English. Do U of Arkansas and Iowa accept translation student from Indonesian into English?