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  • August is Women in Translation Month. For this post we have Penny Hueston, translator of the forthcoming Being Here Is Everything: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker by French author Marie Darrieussecq. Penny discusses translating this book, as well as providing biographical information on Marie Darrieussecq, and the subject of the book, Paula Modersohn-Becker.

    Marie Darrieussecq reads the testament of Modersohn-Becker—the letters, the diaries, and above all the paintings—with a burning intelligence and a fierce hold on what it meant and means to be a woman and an artist.’—J. M. Coetzee

    A brief, powerful artistic life that went painfully unrewarded—until after the painter’s death.’—Julian Barnes, Guardian

    The prose of contemporary French writer Marie Darrieussecq is a joy to translate. It is elliptical, spare, supremely clever, slyly comic, and brilliantly structured. Translating it sends me into a heightened state that is both trance-like and electrically charged. In the mysterious process that is translation, I try to enter this zone in which both languages hover in my mind, until the patterns and style of each emerge, and I feel I have reached some way into the author’s mind. As Marguerite Yourcenar said, ‘translating is writing’.

    Darrieussecq is a classicist (she has translated Ovid), a translator from English (she has translated James Joyce and Virginia Woolf into English), and she has written a brilliant study of literary plagiarism. In her novels, Darrieussecq often uses words and expressions that connect with her Basque origins. She uses dialect to express obscene or sexual layers of expression and is fascinated with the ways in which language shapes us and our dreams—she is also a psychoanalyst. In her novel All the Way (2011), fault lines between language and sex are a source of comic confusion for the character of the adolescent Solange as she negotiates her sexual initiation. Translating the plays on stock phrases and stereotypes, or word plays, double-entendres and jokes, is like working out a complicated puzzle.

    Posted at 11:45 am on Tue, 22 Aug 2017 in art, gender, Semiotexte
  • On August 5th, VICE reported on a controversial document that espoused sexist beliefs written by a Google employee and circulated within the company . Jennifer Lieberman, author of Power Lines weighs in on "memogate"arguing against the widely held belief that technology always leads to progress.

    This has been an exciting few weeks for those of us who think critically and historically about technology. My newsfeed has been abuzz with editorials about an event some are now calling “Memogate.” This story concerns a Google employee who wrote a sexist manifesto claiming that women were largely absent from technological fields because of biological differences. This software engineer was subsequently fired and then quickly rehired by Julian Assange.

    “Memogate” has made very public a fact that surprised many, though it was apparent to science and technology studies scholars and to minorities and women working in technical industries: advancements in science and technology have not erased America’s prevailing social biases. Rather, these advancements continue to recapitulate or reinforce existing prejudices. A number of important editorials came out in response to this series of events that address these problems. I recommend recent pieces by The MIT Press’s own Marie Hicks, of Programmed Inequality fame, and by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on these issues, and here I add my own voice to this conversation.

    Posted at 11:20 am on Fri, 11 Aug 2017 in current affairs, gender, technology
  • This Oscars weekend Hidden Figures, the previously untold story of three brilliant African-American women working at NASA during the Space Race, is a favorite to win best picture at the 89th Academy Awards. Marie Hicks's new book Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing tackles similar issues of forgotten history, exploring how Britain lost its early dominance in computing by systematically discriminating against its most qualified workers: women.

    Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Raceon which the movie is basedhas praised Programmed Inequality, saying, "Marie Hicks’s well-researched look into Britain’s computer industry, and its critical dependence on the work of female computer programmers, is a welcome addition to our body of knowledge of women’s historical employment in science and technology. Hicks confidently shows that the professional mobility of women in computing supports the success of the industry as a whole, an important lesson for scholars and policymakers seeking ways to improve inclusion in STEM fields.” 

    In this post, Marie Hicks explains why, even today, possessing technical skill is not enough to ensure that women will rise to the top in science and technology fields, how the disappearance of women from the field had grave macroeconomic consequences for Britain, and why the United States risks repeating those errors in the twenty-first century.

    Posted at 09:00 pm on Fri, 24 Feb 2017 in gender, technology


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The MIT PressLog is the official blog of MIT Press. Founded in 2005, the Log chronicles news about MIT Press authors and books. The MIT PressLog also serves as forum for our authors to discuss issues related to their books and scholarship. Views expressed by guest contributors to the blog do not necessarily represent those of MIT Press.