MFA in Literary translation

Page 1

The Iowa Translation Workshop master of fine arts program

About Beginning with the country’s first translation workshop over fifty years ago, literary translation has long been an integral part of the conversation about writing at the University of Iowa. The MFA program in Literary Translation combines creative practice, and international literature in-the-making, with training in world languages, literatures & theory. Any given year, it is not unusual for our student cohort to translate from six or more source languages into English. Our focus is on creating works that convey both the distinctness of the original and the immediacy of contemporary language. In the Workshop and a variety of translation-based seminars, we reflect on ideas of literariness, cultural history, cultural politics, and authority as we consider the relationship between authors and texts, authors and translators, translations and readers, and the media landscapes in which they circulate.

MFA PROGRAM The MFA is a two-year program and requires 48 semester hours of coursework. The core of the MFA experience is the Translation Workshop, the 'creative commons' where the students gather every week. Translating from their source languages into English, they review and comment on each other's manuscripts, and discuss practice and methods, in the process developing a keen eye for both precision and aesthetic fluency in translation. Along with creative writing courses, two additional types of translation workshops are taught regularly. Translator-in-Residence Workshop features a renowned literary translator who holds a five-week residency in Iowa City and conducts an intensive workshop with second year students. In the International Writing Program Translation Workshop, a truly unique experience, students collaborate with and translate works by noted and emerging international writers who hold two-month residencies each fall semester.


Coursework Complementing the translation and creative writing workshops is the Craft of Translation course, which focuses on: • how to write about translation • editing, publishing, and making the perfect pitch • translating grammar and punctuation • preparing the prospectus and the long manuscript • emerging voices and approaches to translation • translation as global engagementmand the literary/cultural scene of translation here and overseas Students are expected to become familiar with the history of the discipline and the broader context of their practice. This is normally accomplished through guided reading or by taking topics courses such as Issues in Translation; Translation and Globalization; Prizes, Prestige and Publishing; and others across the division or the college.


The culminating experience of the program, the MFA Thesis is a translation into English of a collection of poems, literary essays, or short stories; a short novel; or a play, with a critical introduction that sets the work in context. The Critical Introduction is strongly recommended for students interested in pursuing doctoral studies in comparative literature, language and literary studies, or creative writing.


Translation: Iowa City The MFA in Literary Translation program, the largest in the United States, is at the center of a vibrant translation ecosystem fast developing at the University of Iowa, making Iowa City a destination for the study and practice of translation at both the graduate and the undergraduate levels.

Translation in the Undergraduate Curriculum The University of Iowa offers a minor in Translation for Global Literacy, as part of our rich curriculum in global humanities. True to the character of The Writing University, these programs focus on translation both as a form of creative writing and as a form of cross-cultural communication.

The Graduate Certificate Available to students who are enrolled in other Writing MFA programs, including Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Theatre, Spanish Creative Writing, and Book Arts, or to those in graduate programs in World Languages and Literatures and other Humanities programs, the graduate certificate brings together translators, creative writers and literary scholars who wish to make transla-tion a part of their writing life.

Translator-in-Residence Each year, we select two renowned literary translators who hold five-week residencies in Iowa City and conduct intensive workshops with the emerging literary translators. Past resident translators have included, Man Booker Award winners Deborah Smith (translator from the Korean) and Jennifer Croft (program alum and translator from the Polish), and National Translation Award recipients Ellen Elias Bursac (translator from the Croatian) and Eliza-beth Harris (translator from the Italian), and PEN Translation Prize winner Katrina Dodson (translating from the Portuguese).


Writing at Iowa

Students in the program have opportunities to meet and work with the many poets, writers, playwrights, and translators on campus and in Iowa City. The University of Iowa is known as The Writing University; it is home to the Iowa’s Writers Workshop and the International Writing Program, with which we enjoy a close relationship. Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO “City of Literature” means that there is always something going on for writers in town–public readings, writing groups, networking events, and opportunities for publishing.

by energetic and admirably “ Guided invested mentors, I benefited from many years' worth of growth as a translator, as well as formed precious friendships with fellow translators and writers whose wisdom continues to inform my work.

Iowa Translation Workshop “ The helped me develop a new creative writing practice in community: one that brings together my love of writing poetry with my love of languages.

- Kelsi Vanada, Alumn

- Jennifer Shyue, Alum


Publications Celebrating in 2021 its 30th year of publica-tion, Exchanges: A Journal of Literary Translation, is entirely managed and edited by graduate students who produce two issues each year. The journal is a vibrant source of international writing and offers students hands-on editing and on-line publishing experience.

Inaugurated in 2020, Ancient Exchanges is dedicated to contemporary translations from ancient world languages and the pedagogy of literary translation in classical studies.


Translators Note, our newest venture, is an audio podcast series, again produced entirely by student editors, and features interviews, readings, and discussions with US and international translators, editors, and publishers at the forefront of international literature circulation.

Program Faculty


Aron Aji, Director of MFA in Literary Translation, joined the faculty in 2014. A native of Turkey, he has translated works by Bilge Karasu, Murathan Mungan, Elif Shafak, LatifeTekin, and other Turkish writers, including Karasu’s The Garden of Departed Cats, (2004 National Translation Award); and A Long Day’s Evening, (NEA Literature Fellowship; short-list, 2013 PEN Translation Prize). His forthcoming translations include Ferid Edgü’s Wounded Age and Eastern Tales (NYRB, 2022), and Mungan’s Tales of Valor (co-translated with David Gramling) (Global Humanities Translation Prize, Northwestern UP, 2022). Aji was president of The American Literary Translators Association between 2016-2019. He leads the Translation Workshop, and teaches courses on retranslation, poetry and translation; theory, and contemporary Turkish literature. (+)

DIRECTOR Jan Steyn is a translator and critic of literature written in Afrikaans, Dutch, English, and French. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. His academic work focuses on translation theory, critical contempo-raneity, and world literature. He is currently translating the FrancoSenegalese author Fatou Diome’s first collection of short stories for Archipelago Books and a short story by the Dutch writer Haro Kraak for the forthcoming Best of Europe-an Fiction 2019 from the Dalkey Archive Press. He is also working on chapters about translation and comparison for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to J.M. Coetzee from CUP and the Handbook of Anglophone World Literatures from De Gruyter. (+)

JAN STEYN Adrienne Rose is an interdisciplinary scholar, translator, and writer. Her academic work focuses primarily on Latin, Greek, and Classical Chinese languages and literatures with special emphasis on the poetics of retranslation, experimental, intersemiotic, multimodal translation practices, east-west cross-cultural literary studies, translation and humanitarian crises, and world literatures. Rose is also interested in book arts and the intersections of material culture and reading. From time to time, she writes a column on translation, poetry, and classics for the Society for Classical Studies’ blog. (+)



Natasa Durovicova grew up in Czechoslovakia and Sweden. She has studied at the University of Lund, University of California at Santa Barbara and at UCLA. She divides her time between editing, teaching, scholarly work, and translating. Her courses include the IWP Translation Workshop, Translation and Globalization, and Translation and Media. She edits the IWP's digital humanities project, Walt Whitman--Song of Myself, that brings together translations of the poem across world languages. With Kathleen Newman, she co-edited World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives. (+)

NATASA DUROVICOVA Sabine I. Gölz is the author of The Split Scene of Reading: Nietzsche/ Derrida/ Kafka/Bachmann, numerous articles that have appeared in PMLA, New German Critique, Germanic Review, Substance, Public Culture, Benjamin Studien, and edited volumes. Her advanced and graduate courses have focused on Fyodor Dostoevsky, Søren Kierkegaard, Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Ingeborg Bachmann, and on topics such as “The Gender of Language” and “Geometries of Literary and Cultural Spaces.” Gölz also works in visual media. Her photographs have been exhibited in Russia, France, and the U.S, and several of her documentaries have won awards and were screened at festivals in Europe and the US. (+)


AFFILIATED FACULTY Along with faculty who regularly teach translation courses, the program is supported by a cadre of affiliate faculty -translators, creative writers and scholars -- throughout the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

CINZIA BLUM Professor Department of French and Italian

WALTRAUD MAIERHOFER Professor Department of German

KENDALL HEITZMAN Associate Professor Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures

ROXANNA CURTO Associate Professor Department of French and Italian

BRIAN GOLLNICK Associate Professor Department of Spanish and Portuguese CHRISTOPHER MERRILL Professor International Writing Program DENISE FILIOS Associate Professor Department of Spanish and Portuguese YASMINE RAMADAN Assistant Professor Department of French and Italian


ANA RODRIGUEZ RODRIGUEZ Associate Professor Department of Spanish and Portuguese ANA MERINO Professor Department of Spanish and Portuguese PAUL DILLEY Assistant Professor Classics and Religious Studies

Alumni The Program has a strong placement record. Our alumni continue to receive translation awards, including the Man Booker International Fiction Award, Best Translated Book Award, Pen/Heim grants, and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. They go on to teach writing and literature, work in the world of professional publishing as free-lance translators, or pursue Ph.Ds in related disciplines at Iowa and elsewhere. In recent years their works have been published by Graywolf, Seven Stories, Autumn Hill Books, Melville House, Words Without Borders, The Iowa Review, 91st Meridian, TWO LINES, Circumference, Asymptote, The Literary Review, Passport, Absinthe, and many other venues.

I was an MFA student in Nonfiction at Iowa, but couldn't stop taking MFALT courses--not just because I loved translation, but for the incredible and supportive community, mentorship, and impact translation had on my own writing.

- Julia Conrad, Alum

When I went to Iowa, I was hoping to wrap up a little project I’d been thinking about for years. By the time I left, I had a lifetime’s worth of projects and was equipped to pursue a host of new avenues I’d never known before. - Derrick Mattern, Alum




Interested students should start the process in UI Admissions, where they can find information on the

The majority of the

Graduate College Admissions requirements, including English Proficiency Requirements.

students admitted to the Translation MFA receive

Our successful candidate is one who has an excellent proficiency in the source language; a deep and sustained

financial aid, such as the

passion for literature, literary study, and creative writing; a compelling portfolio that shows promise in the art of

Iowa Arts Fellowship,

literary translation; and an abiding interest in international literature and global literary exchanges. Many of our

research assistantships,

applicants have spent a semester or a year in a country where their source language is spoken. We welcome

or teaching assistant-

bi-lingual and multi-lingual applicants as well as those with a strong and active heritage language. We also


admit international students who possess near-native proficiency in English. Alongside valuing creative writing and foreign language skills, we also value analytic and critical skills, as we hope to produce translators who can

A teaching appointment

translate but also reflect and write about translation.

that is a quarter-time or more qualifies students

We welcome graduates of world languages, comparative literature, creative writing, and literary studies, but also

for in-state resident

of programs in the social sciences, fine arts, and natural sciences who demonstrate commitment to the literary


arts. Grants and fellowships Additional Application Requirements Include: • Portfolio of Writing - 8-10 pages of literary translations into English (along with source texts); •

through the International Programs Office provide

6-8 pages of original writing in English, critical or literary.

support for summer

Statement of Purpose - In a well-organized essay (600 words, written in English), describe why

research and residency

you are seeking admission to our MFA in Literary Translation program; how your current and past


experiences have prepared you for graduate study in this field; your future academic and career plans; and any additional information that may aid in evaluating your candidacy. Include in your statement your address, telephone number, and e-mail address. •

Three Letters of Recommendation - To be uploaded by the recommenders, these are signed

For more information: Contact Aron Aji,

letters on official letterhead to assist us in judging the applicant's potential for graduate study. Letters should include the basis for the recommenders' judgment and, particularly, their assessment of the applicant's strengths and weaknesses, ability and motivation to succeed in graduate school. •

Supplemental MFA Application Form - Complete and upload it to your Admissions Profile.


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.