Translation, Revision, and Reinvention: 56:200:562:01 Fall 2013 Barbarese
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Office: Armitage 481 Thursday 6:00-8:00 p.m. Office Hours: by apt

Translation and revision appear vastly different activities. Are they? During the twentieth century poets often explored the act of translation as a means of “revising” the original in order to master and own it, the result being an entirely new thing—a super-original, But what is translation—paraphrase, metaphrase, simple imitation—or revision as creative trespassing ? Is translation a public service, satisfaction of personal need, mere play—or all three? The course explores translation in its conventional sense and as the “creative adaptations” of original works by looking closely at the work of Pound, Zukofsky, Lowell, Bly, and others. Along with a look at translation theory (and a guest lecturer on the subject), the readings will include poems by Yeats, Pound’s Cathay and Homage to Sextus Propertius, Zukofsky’s “homophonic” translations of Catullus, In addition each weekly session include a look at famous revisions of canonical work by poets and fiction writers who have attempted to “translate” their own work, through revision, into something better and often vastly different—and sometimes worse. How do we revise? When is the revision inferior to the original? When stop revising? The course is designed for any student of literature with an interest either in creative writing or scholarship (or both) and in the pedagogy of the writing workshop. During the course of the semester members of the class will perform their work to the class, produce translations from an original language or complied through the translations of others, and present examples of how an original work evolved through the stages of revision.

Required Readings:

Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence
An anthology of poetry
The King James Bible
Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Christopher Logue, War Music

Electronic Handouts:

Image, Form, Argument (handout)
Stylistics Sampler (e-handout)
Barbarese, “Translation is/as Play,” boundary2 (2010)
Merwin, The Mystery of Translation, NYRB 3-21-13
Venuti, “Translation and Pedagogy,” College English (1996)

Which Version?

Beowulf, the opening (several versions)*
Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight,” two versions and “The Aeolian Harp” (lines excised)
Eliot, the “Two ‘Prufrocks’”
James Wright, 2 versions of “A Blessing”
Lawrence, “The Fox” (published version and first draft)
Pound, “Portrait dune Femme”
Psalm 71, KJB and contemporary versions
Stevens, “Sunday Morning,” original published (5-stanza) version and Harmonium version
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
Two sonnets, by Edmund Spenser and William Smith
Two Translations of Baudelaire
Two versions of Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”
Wordsworth, “My heart leaps up,” vandalized
Yeats’s two versions of “The Sorrow of Love”

* All of our readings, unless otherwise noted, are in English translation.


  • Critical writing (50%). Five brief analyses or comparisons of various translations, texts, versions of texts, or styles. These assignments are preceded with a bullet check (?) on the syllabus, and they include:
    • A translation or meta-translation, from any language, or composite translation built on existing versions of any published text;
    • A brief summary/analysis of the choices you made in producing your translation;
    • Two imitation exercises into the style of a given or given authors
    • A brief essay discussing your choice of any of the major revisions we discuss in class, or another vision/revision of your choosing.
      ***Copy all the above as attachments to: ***
      ***Name your essay according to the following format: [YourLastName].doc/docx***
  • A final project of your own design and choosing, with my approval. This can be a number of things: a completely creative work that includes translation and revision; a bibliographic essay on a particular author, style, area or work; research into one or more versions of a significant literary work, some of which we will glance at; or something else. (50%) The final project will be given to me in electronic and hard copy. Send the electronic copy to

Class presentation. Each of you will present a sample of what you are working on now. Your presentation should be designed to demonstrate where and how your work derives or departs from the influences that have affected you. Though these presentations are informal, they may be scripted, if you wish, but they are ungraded and will occur nearly every week.

Additional Expectations:

  • Electronic Devices: Please do not use or open a laptop computer, electronic reader or a cell phone during class. All texts must be hard-copies (trade paperbacks or texts that have been downloaded and printed). You will normally not need to bring your Kindle or iBook to class.
  • Lateness. Unexcused late work may be returned unread and may be subject to a penalized for each day of lateness.
  • Attendance is expected at all sessions. Three or more absences will undoubtedly affect your grade in the course. Come prepared to participate.
  • Academic Honesty. The university guidelines and procedures governing plagiarism and academic dishonesty will be strictly observed. Plagiarism is theft and will result in an F for the course. You can find the policy published on the university’s website at
  • My webpage is at Once there, follow the tab to Translation, Revision and Reinvention

Though the syllabus reflects as accurately as possible the course expectations and projected assignments, those expectations and assignments may be amended, extended or modified; so keep your syllabus handy.

Week 1: 3 September:

  • Introductions
  • Translation: Psalm 71, KJB and contemporary versions
  • Which Version? Yeats, “The Sorrows of Love”
  • Craft: Defining Translation, style, revision and imitation

Week 2: 10 September: Revisionary Agon

  • The Book of Exodus and The Gospel of Matthew
  • Translation: The Book of Exodus (passages)
  • Which Version? Eliot, the “Two ‘Prufrocks’”
  • Craft: Image, Form, Argument (e-handout)

Week 3: 17 September: 20th Century Translation/Translators

  • Translation: Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” from Cathay; Beowulf, the opening lines
  • Which Version? Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”
  • Craft: Readings in Translation Theory (e-handout)

Week 4: 24 September:

  • Translation: Dante (e-handout)
  • Which Version? Stevens, “Sunday Morning,” original published (5-stanza) version and Harmonium version
  • Craft: “My Heart Leaps Up”: Closely Read, Loosely Ravaged (online)
  • Craft: Revise/Vandalize a Canonical Work of your choosing

Week 5: 1 October: Close Reading and Vandalizing Wordsworth

  • Presentations
  • Translation: Baudelaire, “Fenêtres” (e-handout)
  • Which Version? Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” “Aeolian Harp”
    • ? Craft: Student translations (direct or indirect)

Week 6: 8 October: Revisionary Agon II

  • Presentations of student translations
  • Which Version? Your work
  • Craft: Bloom, Anxiety of Influence, chapters t.b.a.
    • Craft: A short essay (3-5 pages) comparing and analyzing two or more translations that you used as the basis for your own (meta) translation of a given text into English.

Week 7:15 October:

  • Translation: Catullus (three versions, including Zukofsky) (e-handout)
  • Which Version? Edmund Spenser and William Smith (e-handout)
  • Craft: Lawrence, “The Fox” (published version and first draft) (e-handout)
    • ? Craft: A short essay (3-5 pages) comparing the two versions of any of the works we have thus read and discussed.

Week 8: 22 October:

  • Translation: Pound, Homage to Sextus Propertius
  • Which Version? Eliot, sections of The Waste Land (e-handout)
  • Craft: Pound’s “Portrait d’une Femme”

Week 9: 29 October:

  • Which Version? James Wright, 2 versions of “A Blessing”
  • Translation: Jacques Prévert
  • Craft: A Basic Stylistics
  • Reading: Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Week 10: 5 November

  • Translation: An “original” translation
  • Which Version? Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
    • ? Craft: Stylistic imitations I (paratactic to hypotactic)

Week 11: 12 November

  • Which Version? Fitzgerald’s revisions of The Great Gatsby
  • Translation: A translation assembled from existing translations
  • Craft: Stylistic imitations II (hypotactic to paratactic)

Week 12: 19 November:
*** Thanksgiving Break: Thurs Nov 28-Sun Dec 1 ***

Week 13: 3 December:

  • Which Version? Hemingway’s original ending of A Farewell to Arms
  • Translation: The Qur’an
  • Craft: t.b.a.
  • Reading: Logue, War Music

Week 14: 10 December:

  • Open discussions
  • Conclusions