Self-Introduction: Sneha A. Desai

One way to describe my project as a Digital Humanities fellow this year would be that I’m exploring the connections between the impossibility of translating poetry and the assessment of what would be lost should we cease to learn languages. To put it another way, my project is to confront the mourning, the sense of dread—the language of betrayal and death—that hangs around translating poetry with a productive darkness. If I use the terms of Eduaord Glissant’s counter-intuitive assessment of the Middle Passage, I’m venturing into an abyss which is also a womb. More literally, I will be working to create a multi-modal treatment of an early twentieth century Hindi poem translated through both the lacunae of language learners, and those of the target language as assessed by a translator. With the basic recognition that digital media frees us from the necessity of fitting poems and their translations on two facing pages–or worse, the expediency of omitting the language of composition entirely–also come the gestating potentials within a medium’s allowances. For translation, the concurrent allowances of a translator’s terms for commensurability and incommensurability are immediately significant. At minimum, by replacing print with digital media, the dualism of equivalences would be replaced by networks of relation—or Relation, another important term for Glissant. In addition to acquiring some of the skills to compose within and manipulate this medium, I am hoping to explore the computational and aesthetic shape of what I’m calling “network poetics,” until I find a better word.

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