Dear Colleague,
Thank you for your interest in our NEH Summer Institute, "The Centrality of Translation to the Humanitites: New Interdisciplinary Scholarship." Our Institute considers translation as a scholarly craft and a cultural dynamic, examining its historical, philosophical, political, and poetic dimensions through an introduction to translation studies and four case studies. In the first case, we explore the role of translation in the rise of a 20th c. inter-American literature, focusing on the figures of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. The Bible is the focus of the second case. Here we examine both the King James translation and contemporary efforts to uncover the authorial voices of the Hebrew Bible. In the third case, we look at the way translation has shaped the reception of Sigmund Freud, considering a new translation aiming to recapture the literary-humanistic dimension of Freud’s work. Finally, we turn to the poet Rainer Rilke, examining the interplay of reading, interpretation, and translation at the level of the poetic line.

To lead us through these cases, we have assembled a faculty comprising some of the world’s foremost translation scholars and practitioners. UIUC is represented by ourselves along with Valerie Hotchkiss and Joyce Tolliver. Our distinguished guest faculty is comprised of William Gass, Suzanne Jill Levine, Adam Phillips, Gregory Rabassa, David Rosenberg, and Rainer Schulte. Of course, it is ultimately the interest and expertise of the summer scholars that will drive this collective inquiry. In addition to working through the four cases together, each summer scholar must also come prepared to develop a further case, examining questions of translation as they arise in the context of his or her own teaching and scholarship. Projects may build on existing research, lead to new research programs or translation projects, or yield new or revised courses and curricula.

We welcome applications from faculty at a variety of institutions and all stages of their careers. We are also delighted to extend this invitation to three advanced graduate students. The institute is designed for scholars from across the humanities and humanistic social sciences, for example those who teach history, literature, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, religion and multi-disciplinary core humanities courses (e.g., topical freshman seminars, great books courses, world culture surveys). The institute may hold special appeal for scholars working on topics related to literary cultures, cultural history, reception, adaptation, re-translation, hermeneutics, interpretation of texts, and translation practice. At the same time, we are looking less for specialists in translation as for bright, curious people whose teaching and scholarship (and life) have raised questions of translation they may never have had the opportunity to explore. We presume no background in the case material (Freud, Rilke, the Bible, and the Latin American Novel), nor do we require knowledge of German, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Spanish. We do expect summer scholars to have some mastery of a second language and therefore some personal experience of the challenges and rewards of crossing linguistic and cultural horizons. And summer scholars must have proven interest and ability to engage across disciplinary boundaries. We seek a cohort who can sustain a dynamic interdisciplinary dialogue that enriches our scholarship and our understanding of the texts we teach.

The Institute will be held on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The University of Illinois provides exceptional resources for such a program, including its Center for Translation Studies, one of four comprehensive translation studies programs in the United States, housed in the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, where 37 languages are taught. The renowned University of Illinois Libraries, with its own translation studies resource section and its “crown jewel,” the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, contain one of the nation’s most significant collections of foreign language, area studies, and translation materials. The University is also home to the Dalkey Archive Press, an educational partner of the Center for Translation Studies, and an award-winning publisher of fiction, poetry, literary criticism and translation scholarship. The institute includes a chance to work with a Rare Book and Manuscript Librarian, an opportunity to meet the Dalkey editors, and a trip to Chicago (on Sunday-Monday, July 21 and 22) featuring a tour of the Art Institute and a visit to the Goethe-Institut for a presentation on their renowned translation program.

The Institute will run for three weeks (July 7th through July 26th). We will begin with a welcome reception on Sunday evening, July 7th and end with a farewell dinner on Friday evening July 26th. Summer scholars must therefore arrive in Champaign-Urbana on or before July 7th and plan to depart on or after July 27th. Our formal sessions will begin on Monday, July 8th at 8:30 AM with an orientation session, followed by the launch of our regular sessions. On most days, morning will be devoted to two 2-hour seminars, one at 8:30 AM and one at 11 AM. Most afternoons will be free for individual work. On Wednesday evenings, we will gather for a “Stammtisch” at a local restaurant for a social hour. On Friday afternoons, summer scholars will share cases in progress in working groups. In the final days of the institute, all summer scholars will make brief formal presentations of their case studies. We will also highlight these projects on the Institute website and provide online space where participants may continue to stay in touch and collaborate on conference presentations and publications. The Institute will end in late July, but the research community we build may continue for years to come.

Those who accept an offer to participate in the institute must agree to participate fully. Specifically, the responsibilities of each summer scholar are to:

  • Attend all institute sessions, prepare all assigned reading, and participate thoughtfully.
  • Develop a case study about translation, help to develop each other’s projects in the working groups, and present your work to the Institute.
  • Serve in two of the following institute roles:
    • initiate discussion of a text with a brief précis and some questions;
    • provide the morning recap of the previous day’s work;
    • introduce a project faculty member;
    • kick off a panel with a prepared question for the panelists;
    • offer a toast at the Stammtisch to share observations about the institute.

All summer scholars are also asked to submit online evaluations, immediately following the institute, reviewing their work during the summer and assessing its value to their personal and professional development. These evaluations will become part of the project's grant file and may become part of an application to repeat the institute.

NEH provides each summer scholar with a $2700 taxable stipend. This is intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, books and other research expenses, and living expenses for the duration of the period spent in residence. NEH does not offer any supplementary stipend regardless of your actual costs. We have arranged discounted, dormitory style, on-campus lodging and will recommend affordable restaurants to help you live within the stipend budget.

We hope that you will find our project interesting, and we will be delighted to see your interest in our Institute translate into an application to participate. Note that the application deadline is March 4, 2013. Successful applicants will be notified on April 1 by telephone or email and will have until April 5 to accept or reject the offer. In the pages that follow, you will find more about the project, people, place, program, logistics, and application process. We hope this information proves helpful, but please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.


Chris Higgins
Associate Professor of Philosophy of Education
Dept. of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership
Center for Translation Studies (affiliate)
Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory (affiliate)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



Elizabeth Lowe
Professor and Director,
Center for Translation Studies
School of Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
(217) 244-7455