Global Programs | New Word for Word Exchanges in Catalonia and Italy

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In November 2014, the Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program celebrated the launch of two new Word for Word literary translation exchange programs.

Conceived by professor and former writing program chair Binnie Kirshenbaum, Word for Word began in 2011 with an English/German translation exchange partnering students from the School of the Arts Writing Program with students from the creative writing program at the University of Leipzig (Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig - DLL). This fall, writing students traveled abroad to collaborate with students from Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain), and Turin, Italy, for translation work in English, Italian, and Catalan.

In Barcelona, Columbia students Scott Shanahan and Alicia Meier participated in a series of classes and events hosted by the Màster en Creació Literària de IDEC- Universitat Pompeu Fabra, including an intensive workshop led by translator Yannick García and a panel discussion on Catalan literature in translation at the Institut Ramon Llull. In Turin, students Kevin St. John and Shane Manieri visited Scuola Holden, a unique institution devoted to training storytellers across various media of literary and performing arts, where they participated in an intensive workshop led by translator Anna Nadotti. Writing Program Chair and Professor Sam Lipsyte accompanied the students to Italy, delivering a reading and lecture to Scuola Holden students on contemporary American fiction.

“The Word for Word translation exchange in Turin was one of the most, if not the most, eye-opening experiences I’ve had as a graduate student," Manieri said. "The program provided us with a space to discuss cultural meanings, metaphors, idioms, and the tension between those differences, thereby sharpening our understanding, and guiding us toward making smarter decisions. I believe, as a poet and translator, it has made me a more perceptive, sensitive writer.”

Over the semester, the students will continue to collaborate and translate each other’s work online, supported by the faculty at their respective institutions. In late March, the students will meet again in New York City when the Catalan and Italian students visit Columbia. The students will participate in final workshops and reviews, led by translator and adjunct faculty member Peg Boyers in Italian, and by poet and translator Rowan Ricardo Phillips in Catalan. At a reading on April 1,students from both programs will present their work. The event will be free and open to the public.

These two new programs have been created in association with the Columbia Global Center | Europe (Paris). Other European partners are the Institute Ramon Llull and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona (with generous support from the Fundació Han Nefkens), and the Scuola Holden in Turin. The writing program has also received a grant from The Antonia and Vladimer Kulaev Cultural Heritage Fund, based in Los Angeles, to support expansion to the two new sites.

This year, the School of the Arts and our collaborators across the exchanges with Leipzig, Turin, and Barcelona will publish an anthology of facing-page translations of the students’ work. Students from each of the exchanges will come together at the Columbia Global Center | Europe (Paris) to celebrate the publication and to host a public panel discussion about the art of literary translation. Details will be announced soon.


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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.