Poetry in Translation >> Content Detail



Course Description

This seminar addresses the challenges of translating poetry, as well as introducing the students to poetry from a variety of countries and eras. The instructor presents some cultural and historic background related to the poetry being studied. The students then compare multiple translations of several related poems into English and analyze the goals, successes and failures of the translations in a guided discussion. Languages that are fairly familiar and similar to English (e.g. French, Spanish, Latin), as well as more distant ones (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Persian) are discussed. The choice of languages is guided by the student's backgrounds and interests. In addition to analyzing translations, the students do some translation of their own, though accommodations are made if a student lacks even a basic knowledge of any foreign language.

In order to receive credit, a student must:

  • Attend at least 75% of the class meetings.
  • Fail to do no more than one assignment. A student who misses a class meeting is still expected to make up the assignment.
  • Complete a final project and present it on the last day of class.


Each week, students are asked to read a particular poem, and to analyze several translations of that poem into English. Students who can read the poem in its original language are asked to attempt their own translations. The subsequent class opens with a guided discussion of these translations.

Additional assigments include:

  • Reading articles about the process of translating Asian poetry.
  • Writing a haiku in English.
  • Translating a fragment of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or
     Canterbury Tales into modern English.

For the final project, each student focuses on a non-English poem of their choice, and presents an analysis of the poem and its various translations to the rest of the class.

Grading Policy

Class Participation50%
Weekly Assignments25%
Final Project25%


© 2009-2020, All Rights Reserved.
Higher Ed Space ® is a registered trademark of AmeriCareers LLC.