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Randa Abou Bakr Lecture

Randa Aboubakr, professor of English and comparative literature, delivered the first lecture of the Fall 2012 In Translation Series.  In her lecture, “Translating Poetry in the Age of Prose,” she focused on the translatability and the importance of translating poetry.  She explored different strategies of translation – homophonic, mimetic, and analogical – and translating “poetry in prose.” The complexity of translating poetry, she observed, is reflected in the need to create a balance between the hidden meanings of a poem and the structural form of poetry as a genre.  Aboubakr discussed the challenges of translating poetry in a field increasingly dominated by prose, the role of translators as “couriers of culture,” and the politics of translation. She concluded that more attention should be given to translating poetry in the age of blogs, Facebook and Twitter, which she called today's "little epics."

Highlights from the Lecture

"The impulse was to make an emotional apologia for translating poetry, which is an exceedingly neglected endeavour."

"How could a translator carry over the metaphorical language pervading a poem, reproduce tone, atmosphere, and connotation?"

"The translator of poetry has to have special sensitivity to the specificities of poetic expression, whether formal or otherwise."

"Just as a long-term relationship between the literary translator and the particular mode of writing he or she is translating would add pluses to the translation, virtual relationship between the translator and the poet, whether in the form of critical familiarity, would benefit the translation."

"Literalism is where the translator works from a literal translation rendered by an intermediate translator."

"Epic is not only a story of warfare or nation building but also an archive of the daily lives and customs of people and a record of cultural values and beliefs."

About the Speaker

Randa Aboubakr is a professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University.  Among her publications are The Conflict of Voices in the Poetry of Dennis Brutus and Mahmud Darwish (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2004) and “The Role of New Media in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011: Visuality as an Agent of Change,” in Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook (New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2012). Aboubakr has published numerous translations from, and into, Arabic and English, including a translation of Ahmad Bakheit’s Laila: The Honey of Solitude (1999), Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (2007) and has also co-translated an anthology of modern Sub-Saharan African poetry (2003).  She was a visiting professor at Freie Universitaet Berlin and the Jagiellonian University of Krakow.

To view the lecture, click here.