School of Modern Languages

First-year MLAC students publish their research and are offered work as poetry translators.

Esmée Charley and Juliette Holland, studying Afro-Hispanic literature, have published an article in a recent Special Issue of the online African Studies publication Pambazuka.

The students’ article, entitled Fighting talk: How the people of Western Sahara use poetry for liberation, departs from their studies on the module Conflict and Violence in the Spanish-Speaking World, which focused on a group of Spanish-speaking poets from Western Sahara.

Teaching Fellow Joanna Allan arranged for a Skype interview with poet Bahia Awah to take place during lecture time. All students were encouraged to ask questions, and to – if they wished – get involved with transcribing, translating and publishing the interview outside of class time. “The idea was to encourage students to develop primary research skills and to produce knowledge themselves,” says Dr Allan.

Of the interview, Ms Charley says, “it was incredibly refreshing to have such current, first-hand information come from someone who had direct experience of the conflict.” Says Ms Holland, “hearing [Bahia] speak of and recite his own poetry that we had studied was very poignant.” She adds, “working [with Esmée] as a pair allowed us to combine different approaches and views on the topic.”

The students’ article, and their English translation of Mr Awah’s poem ‘Laayoune or Beirut’, has been spotted by the publisher of an upcoming e-book of Friendship Generation poetry: the two Durham students have been offered a contract to act as translators for a section of the book.

A similar teaching model was used in the module Identity in the Spanish-Speaking World, in which students interviewed Equatoguinean feminist and writer Trifonia Melibea Obono Ntutumu. One student has transcribed the interview and another is currently preparing an article focused on African feminist writing for publication.



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