Author Archives: Emily Jean Goedde

Professor Silke-Maria Weineck’s translation featured in The New Yorker


A lyrical translation of Rilke, published in The American Poetry Review in 2000 by Silke-Maria Weineck (Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan) is mentioned in a current article from The New Yorker:

If writers hope to illuminate the profoundly foreign interior lives of animals, it may be that the realist novel, with its familiar protocols of character, narration, and dialogue, is simply not the ideal literary form in which to do so. In his rapturous Eighth Elegy (here in translation by Silke-Maria Weineck), Rainer Maria Rilke tried to imagine what it would be like to be a bat:

how dismayed a being that must fly

and yet stems from a womb. As if in fear of

what it is, it winces through the air like cracks

run through a cup. That way the trace

of bats tears through the porcelain of the evening.

Rilke’s strange, exploratory poem does not attempt to translate the creature’s experience into our own familiar discourse, but works instead, strenuously and tentatively, to find a new grammar and syntax through which to convey it. If Rilke’s elegy cannot tell us what it is in fact like to be a bat, it at least allows us to imagine how our language would need to metamorphose and take wing in order to even attempt to find out.

For the complete article, see “Can Fiction Show Us How Animals Think?”.

Professor Benjamin Paloff on Translation in The Nation

Professor Benjamin Paloff (UM Comp Lit and Slavic) offers his reflections on the pleasures and pains of translating the translation of translations (or else finding original citations) in “Forensic Translation,” published in The Nation on April 7.

His byline includes the following: “Translation is not the art of failure but the art of the possible.” Enough said. Check it out here: Paloff in the Nation


Translation at Work : Promoting Translated Literature in the US

What is translated into English and why?

Tonight is the second panel of the series Translation at Work : Michigan Conversations on Literary Translation. Its topic is « Promoting Translated Literature in the US » and it will include a fascinating conversation about what gets published in the States and why. The speakers are all deeply engaged with the promotion of translation works, and with thinking critically about how to promote the translation of a diversity of languages into English for an American audience.

Here are the speakers bios:

Esther ALLEN is a distinguished translator and writer. She co-founded the PEN World Voices Festival in 2005, and guided the work of the PEN/Heim Tran-slation Fund from its inception in 2003 to 2010. She currently teaches at Baruch College (CUNY) and serves on the board of the American Literary Translators As-sociation (ALTA).

Laurence MARIE is a cultural attaché at the Embassy of France in the United States and the Head of French Book Office in New York City.

Jadranka VRSALOVIC-CAREVIC is a translator and editor. Since 2009, she is the director of the New York office of the Institut Ramon Lull, an agency responsible for the promotion of Catalan language and culture abroad.

And here are the details:

 Thursday January 22nd 2014, 6pm

Library Gallery, Room 100

Hatcher Graduate Library

913 S. University Street, Ann Arbor MI

The event is free and open to all

Light refreshments will be served.

 The Department of Comparative Literature wishes to thank the following sponsors for their generous support :

College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Institute for the Humanities

International Institute

U-M Office of Research

Rackham Graduate School


Open.Michigan video translations

New Language Captions for Health Videos: Translation Update

by Kathleen Ludewig Omollo · March 22nd, 2013

Approximately eight weeks ago, we put out an appeal to our global community: help us translate two of our video collections into other languages. Our vision: make some of our educational content more accessible to non-English speakers. We decided to target 31 videos from our collection: 12 clinical microbiology videos co-authored by instructors in Ghana and Michigan and 19 disaster management videos co-authored by seven schools of public health in East Africa. We chose these two collections because they were both collaboratively authored by educators in multiple countries and they both had already attracted an audience in countries where English is not the native language.

Image CC BY NC SA Tobias Mikkelsen (Flickr)

Our community responded to the call with tremendous enthusiasm. We are very grateful to our collaborators Philomena and Julie at the Language Resource Center, who helped us recruit local multilingual talent through the Translate-A-Bowl and theLanguage Bank. We also received many responses from outside University of Michigan through the connections we have developed around the world as part of our Open.Michigan outreach and institutional partnerships.


Now we have 70 caption tracks in other languages: 28 in Spanish, 16 in Portuguese, 14 in French, 7 in Russian, 2 in Danish, 2 in Swahili, and 1 in Luganda. Woo hoo! Most captions were completed by a single translator, but some had two: one to translate and one to review.

Through this translation experiment,  we have learned a lot about the processes for crowd-sourcing captions and translations. Additionally, we have affirmed the importance of captioning for increasing accessibility, for improved ease of searching within videos, and for enabling translations. We have already begun adding English captions to additional videos in our collection for further translation activities and have even added a tag “multilingual” for our learning materials to make them easier to identify.


We will continue to invite translators for those 31 videos and will post new languages as the translations are completed. Volunteers can sign up to translate at:

For a list of current volunteers, as well as a review of the videos translated so far (and the languages those videos have been translated into), see the full post on the Open.Michigan site.

The Triple Threat: Translating Tagore

After our in-class presentation by Professor Edward Sarath on Wednesday, our class attended the Celebrating Tagore performance at Hill auditorium. I found it a little weird that a performance was being held during a weekday at Hill auditorium, only because I did not expect such a turnout. Nor was I expecting just how big of a collaborative effort this show was. There was the Michigan Choir, the student orchestra and other faculty from the school of Performing Arts.

I had not witnessed three types of translation happen at the same time. Some people might find it hard to focus using multiple senses of hearing a musical piece and trying the understand the message and seeing the dance performance and that translation as well. Luckily, all of it flowed together quite nicely. It was interesting to see two cultural influences translating the same piece of work. The choir and string quartet were playing more contemporary jazz and the dance group, the Michigan Sahana, were translating using a traditional Bengali dance. After each performance, there was written piece of another one of Tagore’s poems which had been translated as well.

This was a nice culmination of all the ways of translation we had discussed in the class. There are many ways to translate and things are lost in translation, but when there are multiple translations simultaneously, it is hard not to understand the message. They almost begin to translate each other, because there are multiple perspectives. During the translation of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, it was most engaging in the way the instruments and the vocals of the choir added emotion and a spiritual context to the physical display of the dance. It also shows the complexity of Tagore’s work and its versatility to his artistry.

Raqman Lewis

Art for Translation’s Sake

Deep in my heart of hearts, I believe that art is art because the artist says it is. And I really like that definition, because it means that anyone can do art as long as they believe they can. But there is so much art that stirs up emotions that I can’t explain and make me think that sometimes I wonder if that’s not the only definition of art.

When I first heard of and saw Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ art, I had no idea what they were all about. I went to the UMMA during welcome week and watched half of their exhibition there, Isn’t it the Greatest in the World? All I knew when I left was that it had made me feel troubled and a little bit sick. Now, some people would walk away from that and never look back, because the feeling wasn’t enjoyable, but when art is able to do that it intrigues me. It lodged itself in my brain and kept nagging me: Find out more about them and why they did this to you. But school was happening, and I didn’t have the time. When my Complit course revealed that they were going to spend almost a whole week on it, I was incredibly excited and used it as an excuse to learn as much as I could about them.

I took the opportunity to go to the Penny Stamps lecture that they did, though I had to leave most of the way through, and they did it again. I left thinking about the way I lived my life and wondering how hypocritical I could possibly be. But I also left thinking about what was being translated, thanks to the attention that 22 Ways brought to it: from their minds, to their language (which is Korean, although, Marc is American, so maybe it goes straight to English), to my language, to my mind and heart.

I had never thought of intellectual and emotional translation before. But it makes perfect sense. That is why art is a form of translation, as Heidi Kumao was talking about when she came to lecture. But she called it “translation from everyday experiences into art,” and I think it goes deeper than that. When people make art, most of the time, they are not purely translating an experience to a medium. Their mind comprehends the experience first, and then they translate it into art.

And the viewer translates it however they see fit. When I went back to the exhibit at the UMMA, after having looked at their website and seen the artists in person, the exhibit didn’t make me feel sick. It didn’t even make me think about the things I was probably supposed to think about. I thought about all the translation aspects of the piece, and how the room was set up, as opposed to the words on the screen. There’s something to be said for both experiences, but I think I may have enjoyed the first exposure to their work more. When it comes to art, I think I prefer the raw emotional translation that a piece instills in me, as opposed to the intellectual analysis that comes after. Nothing can ever replace that first raw emotional response. It’s my favorite part of the translation of art.

Theme Semester Newsletter #12

Students display and discuss translation projects at the Translation Showcase, December 10

This has been a fantastic semester of translation-related events, courses, blogging, and game-playing! Thanks to everyone who has shown interest in translation studies.

On December 10th, the theme semester culminated in our Translation Showcase. Students presented multi-media translation projects, prizes were awarded for theme semester contests, and attendees had a chance to play That Translation Game!

Information about the Language Bank, with Julie Evershed (Director of the Language Resource Center), at the Translation Showcase.

Julie Evershed from the Language Resource Center (pictured left) invited volunteers to sign up for the new Language Bank. Check out more photos from the Showcase in our photo gallery, and click here to read what students have been posting on our blog.

Interview with Rona Beresh (Junior in Comparative Literature) at the Translation Showcase

Excerpts from theme semester events will be available soon on our video archive. We are grateful to faculty, students and staff for help with organizing many events, especially Meg Berkobien and Patrick Tonks (pictured below) for coordinating the North Quad Translation Mondays and for managing our website and publicity, respectively, and to staff members in the Comp Lit office and in LSA for supporting all these efforts.

Meg and Patrick

The work we have begun to highlight translation initiatives at our university will continue beyond the theme semester. Our website will feature ongoing activities related to “Translation at Michigan,” and the Department of Comparative Literature is proposing a new undergraduate Minor in Translation Studies. Anyone interested in getting involved, as a student or faculty member, please contact Yopie Prins or Christi Merrill. Thanks again for a great semester!

Transcultural Dance

After attending the Celebrating Tagore event on Thursday December 6, I was amazed by the level of professionalism that the dancers had. The dancers were extremely convincing in their visual portray of Tagore’s poetry and I was able to understand the meaning of the poem without understanding the language it was written in. I have had similar experiences like this during the semester, such as the Japanese benshi performance earlier in the year. So it was not a new experience to witness language demonstrated through art. However, what was very different about this performance was the fact that not only was the culture being translated, but the music was as well. While watching the dance, I noticed that the music sounded strange for the theme of the performance. It did not sound ethnically Indian, but rather had heavy Jazz influence to it. As someone who has been involved in music for the majority of my life I found this translation to be extremely interesting and entertaining. Normally a dance is matched to the form of music that it was developed for, but when a different type of music is applied to the same dance it creates a noticeable gap between cultures. It is clear that there are differences between cultures, but it may not be clear what the difference always is.

I feel that this difference in musical culture from visual culture enhanced the experience and made me more aware of my differences from other cultures. In a way, it made me feel foreign to the situation, not the other way around. I realized that my culture did not belong. It is extremely difficult to find situations in your native country in which you are the one that does not belong. While there was some universality to the performance, mostly from the expressions and moves of the dancers, there was an odd mixture of foreign and native influence. This mixture was by no means a negative aspect of the night, in fact, it made it all the more enjoyable. It is not very often that I am able to experience a foreign culture interspersed with elements of my own.

Justin Randall