Arizona State University professor Cynthia Hogue

ASU author receives NEA Literature Translation Fellowship

By

Peggy Coulombe

Arizona State University professor Cynthia Hogue has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Literature Translation Fellowship for 2015. Hogue was one of 20 who received funding to support the new translation of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry from 12 different languages into English.

Hogue’s project is to complete the translation of a book-length work, "Jeanne Darc" (Joan of Arc), by the experimental French poet, Nathalie Quintane. Quintane is an important contemporary writer, previously untranslated into English (except for a few poems translated by Hogue herself with her co-translator, professor Sylvain Gallais of the School of International Letters and Cultures). Joan of Arc is made up of 50 prose poems which reconsider Joan in terms that resist historical and contemporary narratives of extreme nationalism. Quintaine’s revisionary character study is a feminist corrective of an iconic national heroine, written in the margins of the dramatic, inherited myth of Joan of Arc.

“One of the fascinating aspects of Quintaine’s work is that she writes from inside Joan’s embodied experience, re-imagining what she heard when she received the charge to ‘lift the siege of Orleans, and have / the king crowned at Reims,’” said Hogue, referencing her working translation. “Quintane asks real-life questions, posed in the interstices of the myth, such as: What was entailed in tending a flock and training a sheepdog? Was being a shepherd considered by her parents and the villagers work or was Joan said by gossips already to be a shirker? What was it like to don armor for the first time and ride a horse, or to learn to read?”

Hogue hopes to consult with Quintaine in person and translate the French author’s work in ways that capture the narrative arc of Joan’s transformation from shepherdess to military strategist.

We have a great cultural – and economic – need for people with deep translation skills,” said George Justice, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The university has launched a graduate certificate in literary translation this fall. The five-course transdisciplinary certificate complements studies of students pursuing advanced language training, with support through ASU’s English program, School of International Letters and Cultures, School of Transborder Studies, School of Theatre and Film, and the Masters of Liberal Studies program.

“Translation is a technical skill requiring high proficiency in language. It also requires the highest levels of cultural knowledge and sensitivity, whether one is translating literary works, historical documents or technical manuals,” noted Justice. “ASU is a leader in translation as a skill and an art, and Cynthia Hogue is one of our greatest teachers of translation and proponent of cross-cultural communication in its myriad forms.”

Cynthia Hogue has published 12 books, including "Revenance, When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina" (interview-poems with photographs) and the co-translated "Fortino Sámano" (The overflowing of the poem), by Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy (Omnidawn 2012). For this translation, Hogue and her co-translator, Gallais, were awarded the 2013 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. Among Hogue’s other honors are an earlier fellowship from the NEA in poetry, a Fulbright Fellowship and a MacDowell Colony Residency Fellowship. She is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry in the Department of English, where she teaches in the MFA program.

"The NEA's long history of supporting literary translation is one of the most important ways we can broaden our nation's perspectives while also making the work of these talented writers and translators more available," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "This recommended award will go a long way in fostering a sense of empathy and understanding for how people from different countries and cultures connect with each other and live their lives."

The Department of English is an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.