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Berlin Neden Çıplak or How do you answer such a question? by bayripley
03/05/2011, 06:09
Filed under: art, college | Tags: , , , ,

Part 1: Literature in Practice

One day, a professor of mine walked in the class with a bunch of books in his hands, and asked: Do you think those books should be translated? Why and why not? 10 of those books were in German, 3 in Turkish, and one in English. They were trapped in the language they were written in. He let us chose one, and we would come up with our answer after two weeks. I came up with these blog entries, which are a little more than my specific answer to his question.

This first entry is going to cover my ideas about a literature course. Second will be based on my actual answer to the question of “Nedim Gürsel’s Çıplak Berlin, should it be translated to English, and/or German? If yes, why?”

This main idea of this entry is of course influenced by this very course: German 506: Representing the Other. We have done similar stuff, like organizing a mini-symposium. I believe, especially in upper division of undergraduate education, such a course would be fun to teach, and very useful to take.

Working in the field

I have had a rigorous political science education during my undergraduate years in Galatasaray University and Sciences-po de Paris. Practice was sometimes more useful than the theory. I took classes in which we focused on practice of whatever we were learning. My active years in a student club, which underscored practical learning, also helped me in coming up with this idea. I suggest there is a course, which lets the student “practice” literature—or at least get accustomed to some professional activities in the literary field. Maybe professors around the world are doing it, and I don’t know about that yet but I think there should be a class called “Literature in Practice”.


In that class, there should be an assignment each week: One week, students should be the editors of their classmates, suggesting their insight about a pre-written work. They can also come up with a book idea, develop it with all the aspects, and maybe “design” the book rather than writing it. Another week, they can get into translation, and compare two forms of translated texts or two translated versions of one single text. They might investigate how writers interact with their translators, or how they get involved or stay out of the whole translation process. If they were a translated author, how would they react to the intervention of other agents? Even a little assignment could be designed on that: Some students would write stuff, others would translate it, and some others would conduct the translation process. Another week, they should come up with ideas on how “marketable” a literary work is, or design some campaigns for the promotion of the work. A week can be wholly invested into international and national copyright issues, covering mainly literary works with different examples. This last suggestion is the subject for a semester-long course in Law Schools, but maybe a lecture covering basic issues in intellectual property law, especially on written works, can be useful. Another week can be devoted to the presentation of recent debates, or documenting latest discussions in the field. Creating a calendar, marking the award deadlines or book fairs, can also be an assignment in the course. There can be many other examples to diversify and enrich the content of the course.

Total BS or an alternative?

I can hear some literature devotees screaming, probably cursing me or taking me as one of those douchebags who are trying to commodify the literary field more than it is now. I assure you I am not. I am strongly bounded to literature, and profoundly believe in its non-professional, authentic core—where writing only serves itself and is done for the sake of the writer’s intention, not the publisher’s benefit calculations. However, such practice can be really helpful for students who are thinking about working in publishing or even thinking of becoming academics, who will one day eventually have to work with some publisher for his own work.

What do you think folks? Would you take such a course?


4 Comments so far
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Develop a syllabus of this course for your Teaching Portfolio. Maybe post it up here for folks to look at?

Comment by livelongday

I will do that in summer! It will be so much fun.

Comment by bayripley

I’d take it, enjoy it, delight in it – and then find a way to teach it myself! In Colombia, in order to be a writer you need to starve to death writing awesome stuff only to hope to win an international prize one day which will “pay you” to continue to write… or give up. Or leave the country – as I did. It would be GREAT if we could teach a course like this, encouraging people to look at the BUSINESS part of literature, not only the bohemian, cigarette-smoking, wine-drinking, silly-clothes-wearing, big-word-taking part of literature.

Comment by Natalya

I love your description: “the bohemian, cigarette-smoking, wine-drinking, silly-clothes-wearing, big-word-taking” Natalya! It seems like there is a trans-border/ocean pact among writers on that very description! 😉

Comment by bayripley

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