LISTEN: Radiolab on Translation

When Bosnian writer Ajla Terzic visited Chapman for the John Fowles Center Literary Series in February, we spent some time discussing the nuanced art of translation. This Radiolab episode explores the various challenges (and creative opportunities) that arise as one attempts to render a “true” or “authentic” translation when the nature of language is more fluid and complex than it is steadfast and concrete:

“How close can words get you to the truth and feel and force of life? That’s the question poking at our ribs this hour, as we wonder how it is that the right words can have the wrong meanings, and why sometimes the best translations lead us to an understanding that’s way deeper than language. This episode, 8 stories that play out in the middle space between one reality and another — where poetry, insult comedy, 911 calls, and even our own bodies work to close the gap.” — via @Radiolab

Head over to Radiolab to hear the full episode!  Enjoy!

On the Modernist Roots of Revision

As discussed this week at workshop, some scholars believe our current beliefs about the importance and necessary depth of revision derive from the practices of Modernist authors at the turn of the century in conjunction with one very significant invention: the typewriter. Below is an excerpt of Craig Fehrman’s fascinating article for the Boston Globe discussing Hannah Sullivan’s new book, The Work of Revision, and the evolution of the writing process throughout history:

“It’s easy to assume that history’s greatest authors have been history’s greatest revisers. But that wasn’t always how it worked. Until about a century ago, according to various biographers and critics, literature proceeded through handwritten manuscripts that underwent mostly small-scale revisions.

Then something changed. In a new book, “The Work of Revision,” Hannah Sullivan, an English professor at Oxford University, argues that revision as we now understand it—where authors, before they publish anything, will spend weeks tearing it down and putting it back together again—is a creation of the 20th century. It was only under Modernist luminaries like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf that the practice came to seem truly essential to creating good literature. Those authors, Sullivan writes, were the first who “revised overtly, passionately, and at many points in the lifespan of their texts.”

What caused these writers to put their faith in revision as the key to good literature? In part, it was the philosophy of Modernism—the idea that a novel or poem should challenge the reader, break with tradition, and, in the words of Pound, “Make it new.” But Sullivan, who belongs to a new wave of scholars trying to understand literature through the physical and historical realities of its creation, finds that our value of revision was also driven by something else: the typewriter.

It might seem strange to think that we owe the high style of Modernism—and the notion that even a book titled “Dad is Fat” requires strenuous reworking—to a machine. But “The Work of Revision” makes a case that what we write often comes down to how we write. Careful revision isn’t automatic or even automatically useful. And that means, as our technology changes once again, that literary style may already be undergoing another transformation.” — Craig Fehrman, “Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists,” 30 June 2013.

Follow the link above to enjoy the rest of the article–which goes into greater detail about the typewriter’s impact on the writing/revising process and reveals the revision practices of some of our most beloved authors–over at the Boston Globe.

Do you have a revision ritual or writing process that works for you? Strange habits that help you create? We want to hear from you, so please share in the comments below! 

‘The Art of the Final Sentence’ via The Millions

“For writers, the last sentences aren’t about reader responsibility at all — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stop worrying about what comes next, because nothing does. No more keeping the reader interested, no more wariness over giving the game away. This is the best time for a writer to get real, to depict reality as they see it, without compromises, without fear.”
                           – Jonathan Russell Clark
Read the rest of Jonathan Russell Clark’s “The Art of the Final Sentence” at The Millions, and be sure to check out other essays in Clark’s “The Art of…” series, perhaps “The Art of the Opening Sentence” for the sake of balance.
What’s your favorite final sentence?


An Animated Webcomic by Lilli Carré via the NY Times

Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist and illustrator Lillie Carré’s innovative webcomic, “The Bloody Footprint,” uses GIFs and animation alongside her two-dimensional drawings and text. Not only is the content moving, but the webcomic itself literally moves.

Rather than give anything away, we’re posting only this mysterious selection from the comic, the rest of which you can find at the NY Times.




Be sure to check out Lilli Carré’s website or Tumblr for more information and examples of her work.



‘On Animals and the Human Spirit’ via @LARB

by Allison Hawthorne Deming // Milkweed Editions, 10.01.2014.


Los Angeles Review of Books on Alison Hawthorne Deming’s Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit:

“…Deming loves the interrogative mood. It’s one way she deepens the meaning of her essays. Questions allow her to imagine historical events: “What bird sang on this stream bank at dawn and dusk in those years when hunters flensed meat from gigantic bones and hung it over pine rails to dry?” Questions guide her into scientific lines of inquiry: “Why do some animals mate for life?” Questions frame moral issues: “Is it ethical to ask animals to grow organs for human transplantation?” And questions move the concrete to the metaphorical. In a chapter on ants, they lead to queries about art: “Why is it that the arrangement of the petals is so symmetrical? The pattern of cone building repeated with such precise craft?” Deming’s questions — and there are dozens of them throughout the book — remind us just how full of wonder humans are about the world, about themselves, about animals, about the intricacies of language.” — D.J. Lee, Los Angeles Review of Books

Check out the the rest at LARB.

Try a Different Perspective

Sometimes in writing–or any creative activity really–seeing something from a different perspective can make all the difference. In his short film, A Different Perspective, Chris O’Hara forms this idea into a literal concept, wherein an alien somehow ends up on a 2-D Earth and ends up changing how everyone else sees the world.

“The original idea spawned from a little sketch I did, where I had this giant character bumping into the sun, like the alien does with the moon,” O’Hara explains. “This led to the idea of playing with perspective and depth of field, and then I built a little story around those ideas. The flat, graphic nature of the design was implemented as it best served the concept, and helped to sell the perspective gags and ideas—the camera needed to stay straight on for the perspective gags to really work.” — Chris O’Hara, via @FastCo.Create

Check it out below, and head to FastCo.Create for the full article.

A Different Perspective from Chris O’Hara on Vimeo.