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"Training, Translation and Tourism in Venice", Venice, Italy, 5-19 July 2014: EU Erasmus Intensive Programme Report.

A mysterious city on water, Venice has always been one of the most attractive cultural and touristic destinations in Europe. It has widely preoccupied Western imagination, which can be seen in many literary and visual artworks, from William Shakespeare and Thomas Mann to J. M. William Turner or Antonio Lucio Vivaldi. "Training, Translation and Tourism in Venice," a two-week project of the EU Erasmus Intensive Programme that took place from 5th to 19th of July 2014 in Venice, was equally meant to spread and revise the cultural myth of this Venetian space. The summer course was coordinated by Milan State University (Italy), in partnership with the University of Warwick in Coventry (United Kingdom), the University of Szeged (Hungary), and the University of Venice Ca' Foscari (Italy).

The aim of this multidisciplinary programme was to make sense of Venice's unique multi-layered environment. Accordingly, the teaching staff that consisted of internationally recognized scholars attempted to highlight Venice on page and on screen in the context of multilingualism; within the frame of translation itself as a means of cross- cultural encounters; and as a site of identity (re)constructions of contemporary Venetian locals and nomadic tourists alike. English was the common language of the twenty-two participating instructors and the twenty-four students from four universities, but they altogether had dozens of nationalities and native languages through which the programme, relying on their close cooperation, managed to break down the hegemony of English. In light of this, alternative passages between languages--in the case of untranslatable terms and contexts-- were always in the foreground of the lectures. Languages and dialects not spoken by participants, such as Venetian, were also introduced and used during the varied exercises and workshops. While the lectures and workshops were held in Warwick's Venice Centre, Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, the Intensive Programme also offered a few guided tours to lesser known areas of the city and the lagoon, including the multilingual Ghetto and the cultic bookshop of Libreria Acqua Alta, run by Luigi Frizzo.

With my apologies for not being exhaustive, I would like to give the reader a brief summary of the programme. The themes of a few fairly theory-oriented lectures ranged from the representation of translation and of the translator in Anglo-American cinema and theatre (Mariacristina Cavecchi, Milan State University), and the cultural and national significance of the translator, of maps, and of multilingualism across the Mediterranean (Loredana Polezzi, University of Warwick), to literary translation from a gendered point of view (Eliana Maestri, University of Warwick), and sharing personal experiences of translation and editing as a profession with the students (Maureen Freely, University of Warwick, an author, journalist, and translator). The practice-oriented lectures that constituted the greater part of the programme served to prepare students to perform their tasks and exercises. After translation had been examined within the frames of language philosophical investigations (Anna Kerchy, University of Szeged, Hungary), students had to translate "Jabberwocky" (1871), a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, into their native languages. Following discussions on the methodology of ethnographic interviewing (with Erzsebet Barat, University of Szeged), students were ready to interview people from the local community in the San Pietro area of Venice and tourists in San Marco Square and Rialto. Having examined media literacy as well as the preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage through digital humanities (with Larisa Kocic-Zambo, University of Szeged), students were able to write daily diary entries (blogs) on their experience. Last but not least, thanks to discussions on staging techniques of multilingual short plays (Margaret Rose, the Erasmus coordinator, Milan State University, and Paolo Puppa, Venice's Ca' Foscari University), the group successfully performed their self-invented shows in Teatro Santa Marta on the last day of the programme. They were also encouraged to make group portfolios containing photographic and creative writing material. The results are available at the service of an extended online learning community on the programme's website at erasmus.html.

Outstanding artists were also invited to participate in the programme. There was a master class on verbal and body language in the theatrical genre of comedy with Adriano Iurissich, actor, director and teacher in Italy, Spain, England, and Israel. Tiziano Scarpa, a novelist, poet, essayist and dramatist, discussed his representations of Venice in some of his works. Giampaolo Seguso, poet and descendant of an ancient glass-maker family on Murano, presented his bilingual book of poetry, "My Page is Glass" (2008), and invited students to talk about its various translations into different languages.

The most rewarding part of the programme was the creation of a cohesive community made up of a multinational student group. Owing to the resulting ease, trust and cooperation among the members of the group, the multilingual theatrical sketches created and compiled by these enthusiastic amateurs proved to be an interesting reflection on the multi- layered spatial and cultural marvel of Venice.

Zsuzsanna Toth

University of Szeged, Hungary
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Author:Toth, Zsuzsanna
Publication:European English Messenger
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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