Amores: On Translation

A conversation with Paul Muldoon and others about writing, translating, and Ovid's Amores


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Pedagogy

Organizing Institutions



Jean-Michel Rabaté


Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


25% Formal - 75% Informal

  • Translation

Slought is pleased to announce "Amores," a conversation about writing and the art of translation with Paul Muldoon and translator Dan Gunn on Thursday, February 5, 2008 from 7:00-8:30pm. A poem by Ovid from Amores will serve as the starting point for the discussion.

Amores 1.5

It was already well into the afternoon on a day that was boiling hot
and I was lying on a couch in a half-slumber,
the shutter half-open, sunlight slanting through the slats
as it slants through a stand of timber,
so it might have seemed like a still-glowing gloam
or a dawn in which there's still some murk–
the kind of light in which shy young things are at home
since it throws some semblance of modesty over their work.
Right on cue, Corinna appeared, her dress undone,
her hair piled up to show off a throat as creamy
as that of Semiramis, the Babylonian queen
arrayed for her bridal, or Lais of Corinth, who took on half an army.
I tore off that flimsy excuse for a dress
which she'd fought to keep on until
it was clear she really wanted me to press
my advantage. She'd been betrayed by her own weak will.
She stood before me without a stitch of clothes,
her body without the slightest blemish.
I saw, then touched, her shoulders and arms so smooth,
her nipples to which I would pay homage.
Below her breast lay her slender, flat mid-section.
The curve of her haunch. Her youthful thigh.
Must I list every feature? Each in the pink of perfection.
I held her naked body by-and-by.
The rest I'll leave to your imagination. We'd soon be dog-tired, suffice to say,
dead to the world. If only more afternoons would turn out this way.

Translation by Paul Muldoon

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Paul Muldoon was born in 1951 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he is now Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor at Princeton University and Chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. In 2007 he was appointed Poetry Editor of The New Yorker.

His main collections of poetry include New Weather (1973), Mules (1977), Quoof (1983), Meeting The British (1987), The Annals of Chile (1994), Hay (1998), Poems 1968-1998 (2001) and Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Muldoon was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature for 1996.

Dan Gunn joined the faculty of the American University of Paris full-time in 1989 after four years of teaching at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. From January 2007 he has been Director of the Center for Writers & Translators at the American University, and Series Editor of the Cahiers Series.

He is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. Beneficiary of a Florence Gould award, he is the Paris Director of the Correspondence of Samuel Beckett, an international project based in Emory University, whose aim is the publication of a selection of Beckett's voluminous correspondence.

"Translation is not the transfer of a detachable "meaning" from one language to another. It is a dialogue between two languages. It takes place in a space between two languages. And most often also between two historical moments. Much of the real value of translation as an art comes from that unique situation. It is not exclusively the language of arrival or the time of the translator and reader that should be privileged. We all know, in the case of War and Peace, that we are reading a nineteenth-century Russian novel; it should not read as if it was written yesterday in English. That fact allows the twenty-first century translator a different range of possibilities than may exist for a twenty-first century writer. It allows for an enrichment of the translator's own language, rather than the imposition of his language on the foreign original.

Translation is the mediation between the plurality of cultures and the unity of humanity . . . the astonishing phenomenon of translation is that it transfers the meaning of one language to another or of one culture to another, not making them identical, however, but offering only an equivalent. Translation is the phenomenon of equivalence without identity. In this it serves the project of humanity, without breaking down the initial plurality. That is a figure of humanity engendered by translation in the very flesh of plurality."

-- Richard Pevear

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