Translation Studies is focus of new interdisciplinary program at The MacMillan Center

Harold Augenbraum and Alice Kaplan
October 22, 2018

Developing new topics, directions, and methodologies in the study of translation lies at the heart of the work of the Yale Translation Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort to promote the study of translation at Yale. The new program is housed at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale and is directed by Alice Kaplan, John M. Musser of French, along with Associate Director, Harold Augenbraum, Acting Editor of the Yale Review.

The Yale Translation Initiative will take advantage of the breadth and strength of scholarly activity in Yale’s schools and departments to connect the university’s already extensive activities in translation studies and support faculty, staff, and students to explore new ways of looking at translation from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. It will develop programs, conferences, research, and publications, and foster partnerships among Yale departments and professional schools.

“Even when we’re not aware of it,” notes Professor Kaplan, “translation plays a significant role in our lives and work. More than 350 faculty and staff at Yale include some aspect of translation in their research and scholarly practice:  they translate foreign literatures, theorize machine translation, and provide translation services in local communities. Our goal at the Yale Translation Initiative will be to serve as a resource and catalyst for their diverse projects and perspectives, joining humanities, management, social sciences, medicine, law, and government.”

The Initiative is working with a faculty steering committee composed of Ned Blackhawk, Professor of History; Marijeta Bozovic, Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Paul Bracken, Professor of Management and Political Science; Robyn Creswell, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature; Robert Frank, Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics; Leslie Harkema, Associate Professor of Spanish; and Shawkat Toorawa, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Associated faculty include Senior Lecturers Peter Cole, Supriya Gandhi, and Alyson Waters. Post-Doctoral Associate Serena Bassi coordinates the Initiative’s Working Group. Chie Xu (Yale ‘21) will support all the Initiative’s activities.

“The MacMillan Center welcomes the additional resources and expertise the Yale Translation Initiative will offer to students and scholars,” said Ian Shapiro, Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center and Sterling Professor of Political Science. “Increased study of translation’s structure and impact in the world is vital to understanding how entities function in a global and demographically changing environment.”

The Initiative has established a Working Group and will hold its first three seminars in Room 103 of Henry R. Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Avenue. These events are open to all members of the Yale community:

October 29 at 5:30 p.m., Nicole Doerr, author of Political Translation: How Social Movement Democracies Survive (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

November 5 at 5:30 p.m., Emily O’Dell, Research Scholar in Law, and Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at the Yale School of Law, on “Translating Transexuality in Iran”

December 3 at 5:30 p.m., Mark Polizzotti, author of Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto (MIT Press, 2018)

In addition, the Initiative’s website will provide extensive links to outside resources, including publications, organizations, corporate and governmental entities, and other articles of interest. It plans to initiate research projects in various disciplines represented at Yale.

All Yale programming in translation can be publicized through the Initiative, which maintains a campus-wide email list of people who work on or are interested in translation.

For more information, visit:

Watch Professor Kaplan talk about her recent book titled Looking for the Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic and some of the issues involved in translating books on The MacMillan Report.

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