Monthly Archives: February 2013

Translation and Power

I printed up my dissertation last week and dropped it in all of my committee members’ mailboxes, which means that I have a few days during which I am allowed to think about something else. It’s lovely to remember, as one of my colleagues once mentioned, that there are other topics out there apart from the one I chose for my dissertation. She said it in the context of choosing entirely new material for conference presentations. I say it in the context of an encyclopedia article that I’m working on titled “Translation and Power.”

In some ways it’s a chance to look back at a topic that is fundamental to how I work with translation, but that I haven’t addressed explicitly in a very long time. It’s also a huge challenge, because I have to condense whatever thinking I come up with on the subject into a relatively small article with a limited number of references. I remember my advisor once discussing how she wrote an encyclopedia article on the topic of “Translation Theory” for the Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics and thinking at the time that I was glad nobody was asking me to do something like that. “Translation and Power” is certainly a smaller topic than “Translation Theory” in some ways (although perhaps not in others?) but now that I have it on my to-do list, I’m really glad that somebody did ask.


I am sure my thousands of loyal followers on this blog have been devastated by the recent lack of posts.

The past few weeks I’ve been doing the final pre-defense editing of my dissertation, and it has eaten up much of my time and all of my brainpower. I had submitted a relatively final draft to my committee back in October, so that I could focus on the job market while they looked it over, if they felt like it. I wasn’t too worried; each of my committee members had already seen most of the chapters, and the only things that nobody had seen yet were the introduction and conclusion. My hope was that in January and early February, if they had any comments, I could do another round of editing before the defense.

As it turns out, only one of them is giving me comments, although one other says he has some small observations that he’ll give me at the defense. The professor who’s giving me comments though is giving me very thorough comments, at least on the introduction and Chapters 1-3. I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve caught up with her comments finally (I only got them recently-ish), but it’s taken some doing. They’re predominantly stylistic, with a few requests for amplification or explanation.

And one request that I include the spreadsheets that I put together for a few of the texts. These are two different things, actually. One is a spreadsheet of manuscripts that contain Leonardo Bruni’s novella about Seleuco and Stratonica, and shows whether each manuscript also includes the frame narrative, a letter that may have been part of the text, a translation associated with the letter, or the text that the translation is based on. The distribution of these texts through the manuscript tradition is relevant to my argument about the construction of hermeneutic communities, but I hadn’t planned to include it. Fortunately, that one I had already straightened up and made pretty for an article that I submitted in January.

Unfortunately, I had not cleaned up the other spreadsheet, which is a chart of the 250-odd novelle in Franco Sacchetti’s Trecentonovelle, showing which of them use first-person singular pronouns or verbs and which include references to other novelle or to the structure of the work as a whole. Even more unfortunately, making it all pretty and ready to put into an appendix of the dissertation meant going and finding some additional information that I knew I’d have to find eventually but hadn’t planned to need at this stage. (For the book, maybe, I thought.)

I wish I could say that I have grown as a researcher through this process. My notes were clear enough that I could find exactly where I needed the extra information, which was good. I know more about what kinds of information I have needed for these particular data projects, but that won’t necessarily help me for the next project. The joys of research: looking through texts like this for the five things you think you need, and then doing it again when you discover one that you should have included but didn’t. And then maybe two more.

It’s a good thing I like this work.

In any case, the defense is scheduled: March 5. Because I had already sent them relatively final versions, my committee members have been flexible about when I need to get the edited text to them, so I have a few more days. So I print it, read it through a bit between handing it in and the defense, and in the meantime, work on two conference papers and an encyclopedia entry!

I might not have another blog post for a while. Priorities and all.


I had my first job interview yesterday, by Skype. It was a sort of fascinating experience in a few ways. First of all, it was an interview with people I’ve met, and some of whom I’ve worked with, and I hear that many people find it harder to interview with people they already know than with complete strangers.

I think the strangest part was my own reaction. I’ve always been comfortable with performance; I did theater in middle and high school, and while getting on stage always gives a few flutters, I don’t suffer from stage-fright or too much anxiety. The lead-up to the interview was pretty much in keeping with this knowledge I have of myself. I did my research, looked at the program of the school that the interview was with, looked at the courses, thought about what kinds of things I’d like to add or contribute to at the school, reread my application materials. All without much anxiety, maybe just a little edge of nerves that kept me working on it.

I was dressed, sitting at my cleaned-up desk in front of my computer, which I’d raised up on a book when I checked the previous day to see what exactly the camera would pick up, and discovered that it would be better a little higher. I was at the computer half an hour early, with Skype on, just in case, still not nervous but knowing that I had half an hour to occupy so that I wouldn’t spend it getting nervous. I chatted online with a friend from out of town, started a new knitting project, mentally reviewed some of my research and ideas.

When the call came, I had already put my knitting down and closed the chat window, and I was ready. I said hello through the strange introductions (strange because I already knew most of the people). With that little tingle of awareness that I was now performing but still not with real nerves. And then, as I began answering my first question, it all hit me.

I won’t say much about the interview itself; I think it went fine.

After we hung up, though, I was trembling. So much adrenaline! I had to sit quietly for 5 minutes just to be able to breathe properly, and then I knit for another 15 (well, knit and unraveled, Penelope-like, because it was the beginning of a pattern that I needed to figure out and kept messing up). And I was still pretty stunned after that, but needed to run some errands.

It’s strange to discover something like this. I felt like I knew all about myself in terms of performance–theater, music, teaching, conferences, grant application interviews–and now I find that apparently this is different enough that I react physiologically completely differently than I have to my other experiences.

Just goes to show that there’s always something else to work on and learn.