Moderated by Matthias Göritz and Prof. Ignacio Infante, the roundtable discussion featured Stephen Schenkenberg, who edited and published The Ear’s Mouth Must Move: Essential Interviews of William H. Gass and who runs the Reading William Gass website; and Lorin Cuoco, who co-founded the International Writers Center with William H. Gass in 1990 and was its associate director until 2001.
Cuoco gave a brief history of the International Writers Center and explained its mission, perhaps best personified in the IWC’s advocacy for the writer Salman Rushdie, both at the beginning of the organization, in 1990, and at its conclusion, in 2001. Schenkenberg followed with an explanation of his interest in Gass as a “literary enthusiast”–rather than a scholar–who through his website and publications aims to connect Gass to other readers around the world. Göritz and Infante continued the discussion with follow-up questions, and the session ended with questions and comments from the audience.
The symposium’s keynote address was by Susan Bernofsky, director of the Columbia University Literary Translation program and distinguished alumna of Washington University’s MFA program, with introductory remarks from Kurt Beals, assistant professor of German at Washington University.
In his introduction, Beals recounted his first encounter with Bernofsky while working for New Directions publishing company. He praised her numerous contributions to the field of translation as evidenced by her wide range of publications with New Directions.
Bernofsky began her keynote speech entitled “Translating in Rhythm With Gass” with the explanation that she would “talk about inheritance and coming up.” She described her experience of discovering translation in the midst of her education as a writer, working alongside Stanley Elkin, Howard Nemerov, Angela Carter, and William H. Gass. She noted the particular influence of Gass’s seminar “The Aesthetic Philosophy of Paul Valéry,” which she proclaimed was “the single most influential class [she] ever took with regard to [her] education as a translator.” In the words of Bernofsky, Gass spent “the entire semester” teaching his students to become more attentive readers, “to stop reading for content and start reading for everything else.”