Masterclass – Literary Translation and Creative Writing (with Dr Cecilia Rossi, UEA)

Date: October 21, 10:00-17:00
Venue: Utrecht University, Ravensteijnzaal, Kromme Nieuwegracht 80
Open to: PhD candidates and RMa students; members of OSL will have first access
Organisation: Prof. Ton Naaijkens & Eva Wissenburg (MA)

EC: 2


This event will consist of a lecture by Dr Cecilia Rossi (University of East Anglia) on the ‘creative turn’ in Translation Studies and a masterclass and discussions with dr Rossi. (Please note that this event takes place independently from the course ‘Creative Writing: Practice, Research and Reflection’!).

10.00 – 12.30   Lecture: Literary Translation and Creative Writing: Disciplinary Boundaries

This talk, followed by a discussion with the students, will address the following points:

  • The ‘creative turn’ in Translation Studies (see Loffredo and Perteghella 2006, Nikolaou 2006 and 2008);
  • The historical roots of the relationship between the two disciplines;
  • The mutual borrowings from the pedagogies and conceptual frameworks of the two disciplines;
  • The creative process: the translator as writer and the writer as translator;
  • The creative writing workshop model in literary translation training. Here I will look in particular at ‘literary creativity’, part of the ‘transfer competence’ in the PETRA-E Framework;
  • The institutional housing of the two fields. I will look in particular at the programmes, both at MA and PhD levels, in Literary Translation, at UEA.

12.30 – 13.30    Lunchbreak

13.30 – 15.00    Creative Writing Exercise for Translators: Feedback on the exercise proposed and which students should bring to the session. The discussion will aim to cover the following points arising from the exercise:

  • working with texts
  • reading as a translator
  • constraints and creativity
  • translation as creative rewriting

15.00 – 15.30   Coffee break

15.30 – 17.00   Creative Writing Workshop



  •  On the ‘creative turn’ in Translation Studies:

Loffredo, E. and Perteghella, M. (eds.) (2006), Translation and Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies. London and New York: Continuum.

Nikolaou, P. (2008), ‘Turning inward: Liaisons of Literary Translation and Life-Writing’ in Nikolaou, P. and Kyritsi, M. (eds.), Translating Selves. London and New York: Continuum, 53-70.

Bush, P. (2006), ‘The Writer of Translations’ in Bassnett, S. and Bush, P. (eds.), The Translator as Writer London and New York: Continuum, 23-32.

  • On Creativity and Constraints:

Boase-Beier, Jean and Holman, Michael (eds.) (1998), The Practices of Literary Translation: Constraints and Creativity. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing. Clayton: Monash University Publishing.

Wilson, R. and Gerber, L. (eds.) (2012), Creative Constraints: Translation and Authorship.

  • On Creative Writing and Literary Translation Workshops:

Jose, Nicholas. ‘Translation Plus: On Literary Translation and Creative Writing’ The AALITRA Review: A Journal of Literary Translation 10 (Melbourne: Monash University, May 2015): 5-17.

Sedarat, Roger (2015), ‘Translation vs. Creative Writing Workshops: Structural Differences’ in:      



Creative Writing Exercise for Translators (to be completed for feedback and discussion at the 13.30 – 15.00 session on 21/10/2016)

Workshop on Creative Constraints (the pdf-file with G. Perec’s poem will be made availbe to the participants before the workshop)

In preparation for this workshop I would like you to consider the following point: It is often believed that writers enjoy complete freedom to write whatever they want in whichever way they choose to, while literary translators are constrained, that is, limited or bound, by the source text.

In the Introduction to the book The Practices of Literary Translation: Constraints and Creativity editors Jean Boase-Beier and Michael Holman affirm that it is not necessarily true that “the translator is subject to constraints which do not apply to the original author” (p. 1) since

“original writers do not simply write what they want: they are bound by all manner of constraints: political, social, poetic and linguistic, as well as the constraints of the text itself, which creates a context potentially confining and determining the form and meaning of every utterance.” (p. 6)

The main aim of this workshop is to show some of the constraints original writers work with and how being bound by constraints can, and in fact does, release the writer’s (or translator’s) creativity.

For the exercise I would like you to focus on formal constraints, that is, constraints which operate at the formal or structural level of the text.

Exercise ‘On the Difficulty of Imagining an Ideal City’

Read the English version of Georges Perec’s ‘On the Difficulty of Imagining an Ideal City’ translated by John Sturrock in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (London: Penguin Classics, 2008), pp. 186-187 (see pdf file).

  • What formal constraints can you find in this text?
  • Re-write the poem following these constraints. You can keep the title as it is or change the word ‘city’ for a word of your choice. For example, you can write a piece entitled ‘On the Difficulty of Imagining an Ideal Book / Poem / Author / Editor / Reader/ House / Lover, and so on.
  • The important thing in this exercise is to keep to the formal constraints in Perec’s text.