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13 Jun 2008

Some literary translation news – In a previous note, I mentioned that I was going to be teaching an intensive translation course at the KLTI (Korea Literature Translation Institute) this summer (looking back at that note now, I see that I still haven’t put up any of the content I promised. Oh well). Well, that course started this past Wednesday. It runs for ten weeks total, and I will be teaching for eight of those weeks (there is a “translation camp” in the middle, and the last week there are no individual classes by language). There are four students in my group, Korean-to-English translation, and we are translating a short story by Kwon Yeoseon.

“It looks like things are picking up on the literary translation front, which is good.”

Each class runs for four hours, and I have to admit that I wondered if I would be able to fill the entire four hours. Our first class was only three and a half hours, due to a half-hour orientation, but I think it is safe to say that we will have no problem filling the time—we actually went ten minutes over time and we still didn’t have enough time to get to everything. Now that I have a better idea of what to expect, I think I will be able to pace the class better next time.

It’s definitely different from teaching at HUFS. For one, there are only four students in the KLTI class, whereas my translation classes at HUFS have from ten to twelve students in them. The major difference, of course, is that I taught technical translation this semester at HUFS, not literary translation. It looks like that is going to change next semester, though. I spoke to the head of the English department the other day, and he told me that I could teach “practicum” next semester, and that I could use that class to teach literature.

I wasn’t sure what “practicum” was, but after asking about it I found that it was originally supposed to be an opportunity for translation students to translate “in the field.” That is, they would go to locations where translation takes place (law offices, magazines, etc.) and practice translation there. It sounds good in principle, I guess, but apparently it doesn’t translate too well into practice (thus ends the most punning sentence I have ever written in my entire life). Not only is it quite a pain to try to find a different place to translate each week, but apparently the translation sites weren’t too pleased about the arrangement either—as soon as they got one group of students up to speed, they would leave and another would come along. So practicum ended up being “whatever you want to teach,” which gives me an excuse to teach literature.

I am pretty excited about this, in part because I wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to teach translation until next year. But it looks like I will get the chance to do it unofficially before we attempt to officially launch a literary translation program. I’ll be doing a lot of reading over the summer, searching for a good short story to translate. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the students do. They’ve done well with a wide variety of texts covering a number of different fields, but it will be nice to be able to focus on a single text for the course of the semester. While my science and technology classes, for example, have been unified by a vague, general topic, the literature class will be unified by a single work. There will be no guesswork as to what comes next, which is a blessing for both my students and me. Did I mention that I am really psyched about this?

So, anyway, it looks like things are picking up on the literary translation front, which is good. Now to get moving with my own literary translation. I’m working on a translation project for the KLTI that has suffered due to my busy schedule this semester, and I’m hoping to kick start that once the semester ends (along with a number of other really-big-but-must-get-done projects, like my dissertation, the history of Korean literature book, etc.). I also want to see about publishing a translation I did a number of years ago. It is a novella from the 1920s, and I think I stand a chance with this one because a translation of another well-known work by the same author was published a few years ago. I have the contact information for the publishing company in the U.S., so all I need to do is exhume my translation, fix up the first chapter or so, and then send that off to them to see if they are interested. I hope they will be, because it would be nice to actually publish something.

I still feel sometimes as if I am standing on the brink of something. It’s strange, because I’ve now started teaching at a university and am being tapped for things like the intensive course at the KLTI. It would seem that I have actually embarked on this grand adventure, yet I still feel as if I am sitting at home, smoking my pipe, and waiting for a wizard and a bunch of dwarves to show up and drag me off to fight a dragon. It must be the dissertation. That has to be it. It hangs over me like an black cloud—a very impatient, scolding black cloud. Truth be told, I have made zero progress toward that goal since the start of the semester. I keep telling myself that I’ll work on it over the summer, but the harsh reality is that summer isn’t all that long. Grades have to be submitted on the 27th of June, and that same day Hyunjin and I leave for a weekend in Guam. It will be July when we come back. My folks will be coming for the last two weeks in August, so realistically speaking, I have six weeks of summer to do stuff (yes Mom, I still want you guys to come, don’t worry).

On the bright side, I will only be teaching five classes next semester (as opposed to the six I taught this semester). I put in a request and wasn’t really expecting to receive a positive response, but the head of my department quite readily gave me the go ahead. I suppose they can’t really force me to teach six classes—my contract states that I am only obligated to teach four—but if they had asked me to teach six I really couldn’t say no. But that doesn’t matter now, because I don’t have to. So I’m happy about that.

Ah, I’m just babbling now. I’ve got a lot on my mind. But things are looking good, so no worries. For the curious, we did indeed make the trip to Gangneung last weekend—the grueling, snail’s pace trip on those wonderful parking lots they have here, the ones they call “expressways” (I kid you not—our average speed for the entire trip on the way there was somewhere below 35 kph). But that’s a story for another day. I have a bunch of photos I’m going through, and hopefully I can put together a nice gallery for that soon. Until then, stay sane, and I’ll try to do the same.

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