American higher education and dramatic literature in(to) English

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Abstract

In 2011 and 2012, I undertook a two-part survey to answer some large questions about the use of plays in translation in the higher education drama classroom in Anglophone North America and to test my ideas regarding the simultaneous ubiquity and invisibility of translation there. My project here is to report on that survey and to make clear why translation studies is ready to take a prominent role in theatre studies. U.S. colleges and universities constitute one of the largest single markets in the world for drama translated into English. Most U.S. theatre history classes include plays from the world canon, and many specialized classes in theatre departments focus on plays from non-Anglophone cultures. In English departments, where other genres in translation (e.g., the novel) may be approached with caution, drama seems to be offered a pass because the notion of being dramaturgically literate depends on some knowledge of a sizable canon of non-Anglophone plays. Yet despite its ubiquity, translation is often so normalized as to be invisible to those who depend on it. As Laurence Senelick notes, For most students, a work exists wholly in its translated form, spontaneously generated. Translation, as the survey confirmed, is part of the DNA of theatre studies. As such, I argue, it needs to be brought to the foreground of the field. In saying this, I am not unaware of the rich work undertaken by scholars, editors, and practitioners who are enmeshed in the difficult issues involved with translating plays, which include pressing for greater attention to cultural sensitivity and literacy. My focus here is on the academy and the classroom, where, for better or worse, the vast majority of future dramaturgs and audience members will cut their teeth on a critical mass of plays and where no single language or production entity or publisher can claim pride of place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-438
Number of pages20
JournalTheatre Survey
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2013

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