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The culmination of the 2024 Jed Deppman Translation Symposium: Katrina Dodson's keynote address, "The Paradox of the Untranslatable." 

Lists of untranslatable words, multilingual texts, idioms, jokes, neologisms, wordplay, poetry—to call something untranslatable suggests a failure of translation, an impasse between languages. Yet these sites of incommensurability hold the most vital potential for expanding what we understand translation to be and what it can do. In this talk, Dodson considers how various translators, from Walter Benjamin to Ann Carson, locate renewed possibilities for language in the seemingly untranslatable, and discusses how she reinvented her own rules of translation in translating the notoriously “impossible-to-translate” 1928 Brazilian modernist novel, Macunaíma: The Hero with No Character, by Mário de Andrade.

Katrina Dodson is the translator of The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector (New Directions, 2015), winner of the PEN Translation Prize and other awards. Her translation of Mário de Andrade’s 1928 Brazilian modernist classic, Macunaíma: The Hero with No Character, received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and was published by New Directions in 2023 and by Fitzcarraldo in the UK. Dodson holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and teaches translation at Columbia University. 

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