If You've Never Been to Iowa (for a Conference on Teaching and Translation)

May 21, 2018

I only started this blog a couple months ago, so you might not know that I attended the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October. In addition to chairing a panel working class literature (Translating the Disaffected), participating in readings, and plenty of hobnobbing, I attended a panel on teaching translation.

The panel was led by Aron Aji, the director of the University of Iowa’s MFA program in Literary Translation. A couple months later, I received a group email notifying me about a two-day conference on teaching and translation planned for the end of April, 2018 at Coe College in Iowa. And it happened to coincide with my planned workshop at the University of Missouri. Entitled “Translation and Global Literacies,” it brought together some familiar names in the field of translation, from David Bellos and Sean Cotter to Laura Brueck.

Although my situation teaching in Germany in Germany is different in many ways to that of a liberal arts college or university in the US, the discussions on translation in the humanities and first year curriculum was fruitful. In addition, Margarit Orkdukhanian and Esra Tasdelen’s insights into translation in foreign languages and area studies gave me some “teachable” ideas I was able to implement immediately. Finally, Chris Bauer offered many insights into the possibilities of crosspollination between creative writing and translation.

Beyond all of the professional benefits received, the trip was interesting in two other respects. First, having grown up in rural Kansas, Iowa felt oddly familiar (with a major difference being the fields of corn instead of wheat), even though I’d only ever driven through on the way to Chicago once. It was like going home, but without the baggage of family and other obligations. Second, I was surprised to run into Bill Martin, a friend and colleague who moved to Berlin a couple years ago, but now spends most of his time teaching in Palestine. For his part, Bill had studied at Iowa’s famous writing and translation program. We took advantage of the opportunity and visited his old haunts in Iowa City, even stopping the famed Prairie Lights bookstore.

Share this article Facebook Twitter Mail