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Center for Translation Studies to be established at Illinois

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor

Released 6/19/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois is gearing up to build hundreds of new bridges to other countries and cultures – but it won’t be using any of the traditional materials of construction.

These bridges will be built with the languages and literatures of the world.

The U. of I. announced on June 13 in New York that it is establishing a Center for Translation Studies.

Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus, announced the creation of the center during a reception for another translation unit at Illinois, Dalkey Archive Press.

The press, which moved to the Urbana campus last December, is the leading independent publisher specializing in literary translations of contemporary international titles, mostly fiction.

The French Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York hosted the event to celebrate its co-publication with the press of “As You Were Saying: American Writers Respond to Their French Contemporaries.”

The book, to be released July 1, is a uniquely conceived collection of short stories written by some of the best contemporary U.S. and French authors. The collection’s editors are Fabrice Rozié, from the French Cultural Services in New York; Esther Allen, from the PEN American Center; and Guy Walter, from Villa Gillet, the French center for contemporary art and thought in Lyon, France. Jean-David Lévitte, the French ambassador to the United States, wrote the preface.

The U. of I. is confronting the dearth of translated books in the United States by establishing the translation studies center, Herman said.

It will be “a new academic entity – a place where scholars and students will study, perform and enhance the complex act of transforming a literary experience created in one language into an equivalent experience in another language,” Herman said.

“The knowledge of art and business will be one of Dalkey’s vital contributions to the center, giving students a real-world experience available nowhere else.”

But the center also will be an interdisciplinary collaboration, the chancellor said, drawing on scholars from many departments in the humanities. Over time, other academic units will add their expertise as the center expands from literary translation to include commercial and legal translation and eventually to develop “truly functional machine translation applications,” he said.

“Together, the center and Dalkey will elevate the process of translation, making it better understood and more widely applied than ever before.”
Douglas Kibbee will serve as interim director of the center, under the auspices of the newly formed School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Kibbee, a professor of French and of linguistics at Illinois and executive coordinator of the university’s Foreign Language Building units, will become director of the new school in August.

According to Kibbee, “There are three or four significant translation programs in this country, but what we are proposing is significantly different from any of them.”

In addition to offering literary translation in conjunction with Dalkey and the English department’s Creative Writing Program, the center “will create other connections with our ‘full-service’ university – such as machine translation with computer science, simultaneous interpretation in conjunction with the Fire Service Institute and business translation in conjunction with the College of Business and international journalism,” Kibbee said.

Also, the University Library is digitizing translated works “as a way of supporting the study of translation, including multiple translations of a single work,” he said.

“With the presence of Dalkey, we also will be able to give our students a chance to work on the business side of translation – editing and publicity, for example – and bring to campus a number of translators for short master classes,” Kibbee said.

The center also will offer major international conferences on translation issues and create a publication series on issues in translation.

Dalkey Archive Press is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to promote international cultural understanding and provide a forum for dialogue for the literary arts,” said John O’Brien, the director of the press.

“Since 1984, the press has made available to readers the finest works of world literature from the past 100 years. Our intention is to serve as a permanent home for these works, so that they will continue to be read by present and future generations.”

Dalkey publishes 30 titles a year in English and has more than 350 books in print, and its Web site has an annual readership of 600,000. Dalkey has received many honors, and its authors have won the Nobel Prize, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

With regard to Dalkey’s latest title, “As You Were Saying,” the editors invited seven French authors to write short stories that would be translated into English; their stories would be paired with seven U.S. authors, who, in turn, either completed the stories they received or produced companion stories of their own.

The paired authors are Marie Darrieussecq and Rick Moody; Camille Laurens and Robert Olen Butler; Jacques Roubaud and Raymond Federman; Lydie Salvayre and Rikki Ducornet; Grégoire Bouillier and Percival Everett; Philippe Claudel and Aleksandar Hemon; and Luc Lang and John Edgar Wideman.

Funding for the book also came from the Illinois Arts Council, Villa Gillet, the Urban Community of Lyon, France, and the U. of I.