English 43B

Introduction to the Writing of Verse: Translation, Echo, and Originality

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2009 Johnson, Eleanor
TTh 2-3:30 301 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

(all readings will be available in a course reader or on bspace): Anon., Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney: Introduction; Anon., Wycliffite Bible: Selections; Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy: Selections; Basil Bunting, "Variations on a Theme by Milton"; Anne Carson, Decreation; Geoffrey Chaucer, Boece: Selections; Homer, The Odyssey, ed. trans. Fagles: Introduction; Andrew Joron, The Cry at Zero; John Milton, "Sonnet XXIII"; Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette; William Packard, The Art of Writing Poetry: Selections; Lisa Robertson, Debbie, an epic; Sappho, Poems, ed. and trans. Mary Barnard; Juliana Spahr, Spider Wasp; Tzvetan Todorov, Introduction to Poetics.  


This poetry course is themed on the idea of “translation,” but conceived very largely, to include not just translations between languages, but also between different periods within a single language (such as between Old and Middle or Middle and Modern English), between lexica, between forms, between metaphoric systems, between genres.  By selecting a series of poems and working on different kinds of “translations” of these poems over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to play with and explore horizons of “gettability,” the limit of cultural recognition and archival echo.  

The governing thought experiment for the class will be the notion that all poetry is, on some level, a translation—literally, a “carrying over”—of ideas and forms, of ethical and aesthetic commitments.  By the end of the semester, each student will have produced a series of “translations,” as well as a brief ars poetica, either in prose or verse, reflecting upon and analyzing her own creative process.  

As we pursue our own acts of creative translation, we will read essays on poetic translations, treatments of how poetry differs from prose, and poetic works that are, in some way, wrestling with issues of translation and originality.

To be considered for admission to this class, please submit 5 photocopied pages of your poems, along with an application form, to Eleanor Johnson's mailbox in 322 Wheeler, BY 4:00 p.m., TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, AT THE LATEST.

Be sure to read the paragraph concerning creative writing courses on page 2 of this Announcement of Classes for further information regarding enrollment in such courses!

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