Month: April 2017


LCL Professors Peter Constantine and Jacqueline Loss and PhD student Charles Lebel conducted the workshop on April 13th about translation and the job market organized by LANGSA. First, Professor Constantine reflected on the role of translation within the academia today and pointed to a paradigm shift that took place in 2009. Until then, translation was not much discussed in academia and had not been emphasized in people’s resumes. Catherine Porter, the President of the MLA that year, spoke about how English language literary works were not enough. Her intervention, which argued that translations played an indispensible role to transmit knowledge across linguistic disciplines, completely changed the place of literary translations within the academic world. Professor Constantine mentioned a couple of helpful resources for translators: the free guides from the PEN organization and ULTA, and the MLA’s website guidelines for peer review, ‘Evaluating translations as scholarship’.

Professor Jacqueline Loss personalized the discussing by speaking about her own experiences with translations. Even though her advisor did not encourage her to pursue translations (they were not considered scholarly articles), the process of translating brought her into contact with living writers. Translating changed her relationship with Cuba. Not only did she become more informed about the country of her research, but also about her own country, as she accessed a kind of literature, culture and language that she hadn’t been exposed to before. Professor Loss recommended that scholars limit their translations to texts from their fields of specialization so that they can use their expertise to decipher the context and flavor of the lexicon from that particular time and place. She recommended the website ‘Words without borders,’ which contains helpful tools and resources.

PhD student Charles Lebel, who worked as a translation editor for Corporate translations, a leading, life science translation firm based in East Hartford, emphasized that translation extend to many different fields, for instance the thriving area of medical translation. His advice for prospective translators was to find points of intersection between their research interests and linguistic capabilities. Based on his own working experience, Lebel stressed how reputation plays a key role in the amount of work translators receive and how much they are paid. He added that many large business organizations have in-house translators and they are in high demand. Lebel pointed to the many available online resources such as translation message boards and the online translation company The workshop ended with questions from students interested in working for the translation industry.

By Adriana Alcina

Reading/Rethinking Refugees with Sebastian Wogenstein

Sebastian Wogenstein, professor of German and Comparative Literature, presented the fourth of this year’s LCL colloquia series lectures in a talk entitled Reading/Rethinking Refugees. He began with a breakdown of the numbers of current worldwide refugees to illuminate why the issue is such a pressing one. Wogenstein referred to the refugee crisis as “one of the most urgent and consequential issues of our time,” quoting the UNHCR (2015), saying that as many as 65.3 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, 21.3 million of them, refugees. He noted that the reaction of most governments has been to close borders in order to limit influx and compares this practice to the closing of borders to Jews in World War II. Wogenstein highlighted the countries that are currently hosting large numbers of refugees, including Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, and Jordan.

Wogenstein reflected mainly on the works of two authors, German-born Jewish American political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, and the Austrian playwright and novelist, Elfriede Jelinek. Through his discussion, he showed the continued relevance of Arendt’s work, especially of We Refugees originally published in the Menorah Journal in 1943 to today’s refugee crisis. Arendt’s idea that refugees live and die without leaving a trace remains particularly relevant today, Wogenstein explained. He cited statistics of refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean, numbers that are not complete of given our inability to recover every body lost at sea. What this means is that we do not know the identities of many of these victims.

Against this backdrop, Wogenstein then turned to Jelinek’s play, which draws attention to the refugee experience as an essential element of the human condition. Within Jelinek’s play, characters who are being persecuted are seen as “Jews”, though they are nothing but human beings. This points to the conclusion that in a world where only sovereignty counts, only your national belonging can protect you. “Human beings have ceased to exist in our society for a while,” stated Wogenstein, alluding to the claim supported by Jelinek’s play: national identity has taken precedence over humanity. Through his discussion of both Arendt’s and Jelinek’s work, Wogenstein forced us to rethink the refugee experience as well as the concept of human rights, both in history and the current political moment.

By Ayjan Arik

Puerto Rican Author Mayra Santos Febres Returns to UConn

The renowned Puerto Rican author, poet, and professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayra Santos Febres returned to UConn on March 11 to give a talk in Spanish for undergraduate, graduate students, and faculty. Santos Febres is the author of many celebrated novels, including many she discussed in her talk: Sirena Selena vestida de pena (2000), Cualquier miércoles soy tuya (2002), Nuestra Señora de la noche (2006), and Fe en disfraz (2009).

Santos Febres insisted that much of her work focuses on forms of knowledge distinct from the Eurocentric binary system of thought. She explained the history behind this system of thought, delving into ideologies that formed during the Enlightenment from Descartes onwards. Following a line of inquiry originally introduced by Jacques Derrida, Santos Febres retraced the history of dualities that structure the Western tradition, many stemming from the division of body and the soul. The backbone of this tendency developed around a linear model of time, place, and ideas. Santos Febres illustrated her point with examples such as the movement of a classical ballerina whose posture is straight up and down, or the way in which many Western cities, such as New York, were drawn according to system of grids. Santos Febres poignantly declared, “I do not do this.”

Santos Febres’ work emphasizes the pensamiento caribeño, or the Caribbean form of thought, which focuses more on the movement, curvature, and non-linear traits of the body. Body language and types of knowledge that come from the body, not the mind gave rise, she argues, to salsa, spoken word, rap, all of which involve non-linear dynamic movements. This is one reason her work focuses on trauma, because trauma is an experience that manifests itself in the body. Santos Febres suggested that there are times when words cannot express or describe the violence that we experience. “This is where I base my novels,” she said.

Santos Febres elaborated on her favorite novel, Fe en disfraz, about an educated black woman, Fe, who represents monstrosity, a recurring idea in her novels. In her discussion of Cualquier miércoles soy tuya, Santos Febres explained how the Caribbean city suggests a fractal structure, rather than a grid. Similarly to cities, the families that interest her are also “fractal,” without form, without a center, and without a strong patriarchal line. Within Cualquier miércoles soy tuya, Santos Febres revealed that she wanted to connect the ways in which humans interact within the Caribbean city to draw a sort of relational map that revealed these fractal qualities in an attempt to create consciousness about other forms of knowledge that may be able to give form to a uniquely Caribbean reality.

By Ayjan Arik