Starting in the spring 2020 semester, the University of Connecticut began offering a minor that allows students to explore literary translation while learning how to interact with people from other cultures or those who speak different languages, according to the minor’s website.
The literary translation minor is interdisciplinary, incorporating many majors outside of its own department.
Translation classes, currently capped at 90 students, will allow for a hands-on environment in which students can work closely with professors and classmates.
The prerequisite for the minor is knowledge of a non-English language well enough to read literature and translate it. Most students in the program can be divided into three categories: fluent in their first language, intermediate to fluent in their heritage language and American students studying a foreign language.
The literary translation minor requires a minimum of 15 credits at the 2000-level or above, with two required translation courses (TRST 3010 and 3011), two literary or cultural courses from areas like Japanese or German, and one creative writing or related genre course from English (ENGL 3701, 3703, 2407, 4407W). Students may count up to six credit hours in independent study in the place of courses in literary and cultural or creative writing.
Peter Constantine, the director of the literary translation minor, said the program is popular because of its low pressure and enjoyable environment, where students have the opportunity to take classes they wouldn’t normally take.
“I was surprised at how many students come from outside literatures, cultures and languages, and I think that’s because we’re fun. It’s enjoyable, not high intensity; it’s like a writing course without some of the pressure,” Constantine said. “There seems to be a lot of students who were passionate about things like mathematics but are also passionate about literature or culture, and this is one way of really exploring that in a way that’s useful academically.”
“There seems to be a lot of students who were passionate about things like mathematics but are also passionate about literature or culture, and this is one way of really exploring that in a way that’s useful academically.”
Peter Constantine, the director of the literary translation minor
The purpose of the required courses is to have students engage with literature and have the opportunity to gain experience in fields like publishing, translating or editing. Constantine described the minor as a whole as a “gateway to world culture and literature.”
Constantine added that having international cultural understanding is a unique skill and opens doors for many areas, but specifically international relations, business, diplomacy and education.
David Lassy, a junior UConn student double majoring in Chinese and history as well as pursuing a literary translation minor, said he’s been taught relevant skills he can utilize post-grad. He plans to teach English as a foreign language as a career and continue his current contemporary Chinese poetry translation work, and this minor helped him to improve both his Chinese and English understanding and translating abilities, whether it be reading comprehension or writing.
“The minor not only gave me a better understanding of Mandarin idioms and cultures, but also developed my English writing abilities as I worked to create accurate and colorful translations,” said Lassy. “Literary translation gave me an avenue to improve my reading comprehension in Mandarin. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful skills to combine with language learning because the study of one compliments the other.”
“Literary translation gave me an avenue to improve my reading comprehension in Mandarin. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful skills to combine with language learning because the study of one compliments the other.”
David Lassy, a junior UConn student double majoring in Chinese and history as well as pursuing a literary translation minor
Professor Brian Sneeden, who will be leaving UConn for the University of Manchester, UK in the spring of 2022, also said the global connectivity of the modern world requires knowledge of other cultures and the ability to interact with those who are different from us.
“As our world becomes increasingly connected, it’s more important than ever for students to gain skills for navigating multilingual texts and settings,” said Sneeden. “UConn’s Literary Translation Minor is designed to offer students comprehensive instruction in the major theoretical approaches to translation — while putting those theories to practice creating our own literary translations.”
Sneeden emphasized the importance of having a skill for translating.
“Often our students find that the skills for translating works of literature carry over to other types of translation,” Sneeden said. “If you can translate a nuanced text like a poem, for instance, you’ll also likely be able to translate a speech from a politician, or a report for the United Nations.”
Students interested in pursuing a minor in literary translation should contact program director Peter Constantine.