On November 25th, 2016, American Space Leipzig hosted an international symposium titled “Creativity and Crisis—China, Germany and the US in a trans(l)ational age” at the Deutsches Literaturinstitut. The symposium brought together scholars, editors, writers, translators, and students from multiple fields to consider new approaches of transatlantic and transpacific exchange.
The symposium was organized and moderated by Dong Li, the current German Chancellor Fellow from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, who resides at the Institute for American Studies at Leipzig University.
The event was well-attended and ignited intelligent questions and conversations among the audience. This symposium was a great attempt at gathering people from various fields to consider pressing issues and a great initiative of re-integrating arts and humanities into the larger conversations.
After a generous and warm opening remark from Prof. Crister S. Garrett, Director of the American Space Leipzig, the symposium unfolded into two panels. On the first panel spoke Paul La Farge, writer and current Picador Professor in Literature at American Studies Leipzig, Prof. Dr. Nahid Mozaffari, scholar, Senior Research Fellow in Kolleg-Forschergruppe “Multiple Secularities—Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” and Jun-Prof. Dr. Martin Roth, Review Editor of Asiascape: Digital Asia.
La Farge argued that writers are in constant crisis and fiction sets points in opposition and provides truth for us. Prof. Mozaffari drew examples of exiled writers and explained how that displacement and the attendant anxiety would spur writers to create works of beauty and clarity. Dr. Roth considered translators as either traitors or resisting forces that use the text as a vehicle to collect memory and translate that into historical experience. Crisis does seem to be a possibly generative force in creative practices.
On the second panel, professional translators Hannes Becker, Thandi House, Bradley Schmidt, and translation studies student Yamuna Gutwin gave us insights into their daily struggles and joys between languages and cultures. Then the second panel turned into a reading of Thandi House along with American Studies student Jingya Shao and Literary Writing student Katia Ditzler, who participated in a VERSschmuggel-program. This program was intended to engage students to collaborate on translations. The students presented their works-in-progress translated from Chinese into English and German.
The last part of the symposium was a screening of a Cinepoem called “Six Lives” by the writer and artist Sarah Riggs, whose film revolves around six writers, six texts by Virginia Woolf and six seaside landscapes. The symposium ended with a reception hosted by Prof. Crister S. Garrett.