Looks Like It’s ALTA Time

It feels strange to be thinking about a convivial occasion right after losing such a beloved member of the translation community, but this is the week of the American Literary Translators Association Conference, and the show must go on. Readers of this blog no doubt already know all about ALTA; anyone who doesn’t is invited to read up on it. Suffice it to say that a large number of translators will soon be converging on Rochester, NY to spend a very long weekend (the sort that begins on a Wednesday afternoon) talking about what it is we do when we talk, read, teach and practice the art of translation. Even if you can’t make it for the conference, you are invited to check out the program, which is available online. I’m hoping that at least some of the events will be podcast this year for the benefit of those who are unable to attend.

I myself will be involved with two panels this year. The first, “To MFA or not to MFA: the Translation Question,” will investigate the role played by the study of translation in creative writing MFA programs, whether or not the program in question has a specialized “translation track.” Panelists include Geoffrey Brock, poet, translator and long-time faculty member at the University of Arkansas, the first program in the country to incorporate a translation track into its MFA writing program; Russell Scott Valentino, who for many years taught in the oldest Translation MFA program in the country, at the University of Iowa; and Becka Mara McKay, a graduate of that program who now teaches at Florida Atlantic University. We were originally going to be joined also by Sidney Wade of the University of Florida’s MFA program, but she is unable to attend after all, and in her place I have invited two current MFA students to testify, Anne Posten of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College (CUNY) and Joshua Daniel Edwin of the MFA Writing Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts, which offers translation coursework and the possibility of a joint concentration in translation and fiction, poetry or creative non-fiction. The panel will be held from 1:45 to 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, in the Lynn Lovejoy Parlor of the Memorial Art Gallery, where most of the conference will be taking place.

The second panel is one I am co-chairing with Esther Allen: “Taking Back Translation Studies” Here’s the description:

Academic interest in literary translation has increased significantly over the past fifteen years, as seen e.g. in the “presidential theme” of the 2009 Modern Language Association Convention. With ever more literary criticism and theory devoted to various aspects of translation – much of it produced by critics and theorists who are not themselves translators – we would like to ask: What is the place of the literary translator in contemporary translation studies? What can the practicing translator add to translation criticism that academic observers of her activity cannot? And should literary translators band together to produce their own version of translation studies?

Panelists include Bill Johnston, Sean Cotter and Peter Bush. You’ll find us in the Lynn Lovejoy Parlor from 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6.

There will be many more highlights to this year’s conference, not least of them the keynote by David Bellos (1:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5), but rather than attempting to reproduce the entire program of the conference here, let me refer you to the ALTA website where you will find all the information posted.

But before I leave you, let me plug one last panel, the one being sponsored (quite possibly for the first time ever) by the PEN Translation Committee. This is a practically oriented discussion designed to help translators figure out how best to present their work (to publishers, to colleagues, but above all to the reading public and reviewers). “The Marketing Toolkit: How Translators Can Make Their Work Matter,” moderated by PEN Translation Committee member Minna Proctor, will feature contributions from PEN stalwart Margaret Carson; Tom Roberge, who handles marketing at New Directions; Ira Silverberg, Director of Literature at the NEA; and Matvei Yankelevich, a veritable one-man-band of writing, translating, designing and book publishing from Brooklyn’s own Ugly Duckling Presse. I’m thinking they’ll have a lot of insights to offer. They’ll be in the Lynn Lovejoy Parlor from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Here’s hoping there are podcasts! If so, I’ll post them here.

P.S. For those attending the conference, here’s some arrival information:

The Radisson Rochester Riverside is located about 20 minutes’ drive from the Rochester airport. If you call their front desk when your plane gets in – (585) 546-6400 – they will send a shuttle to pick you up (expect to wait around 15 minutes).

The Memorial Art Gallery (where the conference sessions will be held) is about 5 minutes’ drive or 20 minutes’ walk from the hotel (or 25 minutes’ drive directly from the airport by cab). They aren’t able to hold luggage, but there’s an unattended cloakroom where bags can be left, or you can just bring your bag around with you as you attend the conference.

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  1. Susan, I just found your blog. It looks amazing. I’m off to read.

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