In just another week, the semester ends. It’s amazing how quickly the time goes by.
My teaching this semester has focused on children’s literature and on literary translation. I had 60 undergraduate students studying children’s literature and of course I made sure that we looked at texts for children from cultures other than English-speaking ones and that we discussed translation issues. In the MA course in literary translation, we looked at different genres, including children’s literature, drama, and detective fiction, with a brief foray into historical texts.
Besides the slight overlap in subjects, I noted that there was an overlap in the discussions the various classes had. Something that came up over and over again was power and the related issue of ethics. For example, in children’s literature, adults (in the form of authors, editors, translators, publishers, booksellers, librarians, parents, and teachers, among others) have power over the child readers (or the read-to) in terms of deciding what texts are available for them and how those texts tackle different topics. In translation, translators have power over their target audience in terms of what texts we make available to them and how, and editors and publishers and authors frequently have power over the translators in regard to strategies and approaches to translation.
That is to say that we must be aware of ways in which we might abuse our privileged positions, especially as adults and as translators. It’s easy to forget that we have this power, because we often complain about being overworked, underpaid, and invisible. But after having spent three months interrogating this subject in detail with my students, I am reminded that we would do well to always consider how our actions might affect others, whether in a translation or in some other way.
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