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Division of Languages and Literature and Translation Project present

On Translation and Poetic Identity in the Age of Identity Politics

With Ammiel Alcalay and Benjamin Hollander

Monday, November 18, 2013

Please note time change.

Ammiel Alcalay
and Benjamin Hollander will address how translation as act and idea has shaped their practices and poetic identities.

Hollander, who grew up between German and Hebrew before coming to the English he now writes in, will speak to how this linguistic and cultural journey has been translated into the un-Americanness of his American language and philosophy. His new book, In The House Un-American (Clockroot Books), is partly guided by the metaphor of translation as transport, as the perpetual crossing and metamorphosis of an immigrant’s language, identity, and culture. David Shapiro has called it “so America, so like an inner emigration, as if we had all changed names.” Hollander will address how the foreignness of his writing can inform the singularity of poetic thinking: how, in terms of syntax and fluency and perception, he wants, as the poet and translator Murat Nemet-Nejat writes,  “to help English  [and American identity] grow a limb it does not have.”

Alcalay has been publishing translations from a number of languages for over thirty years, and will speak to how these experiences inform poetic thinking and knowledge. As an advocate of writing from various parts of the world—particularly the Middle East and the Balkans—he has been instrumental in forging a space for engaged political encounters with other cultures and languages. He will address how his immersion in projects, centered in and on other regions and languages, have evolved into comprehending the context of how one uses American English and what that might mean for a reconfiguration of post Second World War American culture, as well as what that might mean for exploring new approaches to North American political, cultural, and literary history and identity. Taking, on the one hand, Meso-American scholar Gordon Brotherston’s crucial idea that “the prime function of classical texts is to construct political space and anchor historical continuity,” and poet Charles Olson’s idea that the history of these States remains “unrelieved” as starting points, Alcalay will address how his experiences as a translator and writer have taken him into realms that have little to do with the prevailing discourse in which literary translation has become embedded. 

Faculty, for pdf files of the texts Alcalay and Hollander will be drawing on in their morning/afternoon practicum, please contact Cole Heinowitz.

Please also join our guests in Olin 115, 7-9pm for Special Views of History:  Benjamin Hollander and Ammiel Alcalay read from their work.


For more information, call 845-758-7203, or e-mail heinowit@bard.edu.

Time: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm

Location: Olin Language Center, Room 115