Jan 31 2005

U.S. Exposure to Foreign Literature Promotes Tolerance in Multicultural World

Published by at January 31, 2005 10:15 pm under Cross-cultural Training,Global Culture,Globalization

It seems every aspect of American life is undergoing a “Globalization” except one — our literary culture. Explanations for this phenomenon vary, from lack of interest to lack of availability, but one thing is certain: A majority of Americans have a profound disinterest in the literary and cultural works of other countries.

Just think about it — aside from African-American and Anglo-Saxon literature, how many translated foreign works did you read throughout your education? According to Wayne State University literature experts, the chances that you’ve read any are pretty slim.

Robert Elsie, a German anthropologist, came to Wayne State Thursday as part of The Humanities Center’s Brown Bag Lecture Series. Elsie, a specialist in Albanian culture, has translated over 35 Albanian books into English.

According to Elsie, foreign language works comprise only 2-3 percent of the American literature market.

Walter Edwards, an English Department linguistics professor, suggests “the principal reason for the lack of interest in foreign literatures is the economic, political and cultural dominance of the United States … There are exceptions, of course, but typically the dominant culture is often ethnocentric.”

Anca Vlasopolos, an English professor and director of the Comparative Literature Program at WSU, suggests that the problem lies more in the fact that “literary translation is a thankless, ill-paid endeavor, often entailing difficulties of obtaining permission, etc., so few people who are not masochistic engage in it.”

A third factor, according to Russian professor Ken Bronstrom, “is the gradual movement toward visual media as the preferred forms among Americans, especially film and television.”

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