Susan Bernofsky Appointed August Wilhelm von Schlegel Visiting Professor in Poetics of Translation at Freie Universität Berlin

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Susan Bernofsky @Caroline White Image Credit: Caroline White
Susan Bernofsky @Caroline White Image Credit: Caroline White

Deutscher Übersetzerfonds sponsors honorary appointment during 2023 summer semester

American writer and translator Susan Bernofsky will hold the August Wilhelm von Schlegel Visiting Professorship in Poetics of Translation at Freie Universität Berlin this summer semester. Established in 2007 by the Deutscher Übersetzerfonds and Freie Universität Berlin, the honorary professorship is the first of its kind in the German-speaking world devoted to the art of translation. Every year, a new person is selected to come to the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature.

Susan Bernofsky completed an MFA in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis, followed by a PhD in comparative literature at Princeton University. She has been translating notable works of German literature since 1993, including classics by Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Robert Walser, as well as novels and poetry by contemporary authors such as Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, and Uljana Wolf. She has received numerous awards for her translations, including the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize and the 2017 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. She was appointed a Berlin Prize Fellow by the American Academy in 2020 to work on her new translation of Thomas Mann’s novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain). Bernofsky was chair of the PEN American Center’s Translation Committee in New York, served on the board of the American Literary Translators Association, and curated the "Festival Neue Literatur," which presents German-language writers to a New York audience. She is a professor of writing and directs the literary translation program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York.

The very name of the "Poetics of Translation" professorship speaks to its ambitious scope and aspirations. Since its establishment, the professorship has opened up a space and platform for reflection on historical methods and theories of literary translation, as well as the relevance of translation to literature and cultural history. The professor’s own translation methods as well as those of others become objects of critical reflection, while the technique of comparative text analysis brings original works into dialogue with its translation or examines different translations of the same text. August Wilhelm von Schlegel, the professorship’s namesake, was himself known for his talent of combining philological research, poetry writing, and literary translations. His remarkable translations from Sanskrit (Bhagavad Gita), Italian (Dante), Spanish (Calderón, Cervantes), and English (Shakespeare) made him a key figure in both literary theory and translation theory.

Susan Bernofsky will hold her inaugural lecture at 7:00 p.m. on June 5, 2023, at the English Theater, Fidicinstraße 40, 10965 Berlin (Kreuzberg). The event will be open to the public.