analysis of two different translations of the flood narrative from Gilgamesh

analysis of two different translations of the flood narrative from Gilgamesh

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essay assignment is to compose an analysis of two different translations of the flood narrative from Gilgamesh. One translation is by Benjamin Foster and it is located in your text book. The flood narrative appears on pg. 143-48, lines 1-212, 0f Tablet XI in the 3rd edition of the Norton Anthology, volume A. The second translation is by N.K. Sandars, and it can be found on Blackboard by clicking on the ?Essay 1? folder and then clicking on the PDF file titled ?Sandars Translation: Flood Story.? The flood narrative in this translation occurs on pp. 35-38 of that document. For the Sandars version, you should read the two or three paragraphs before the start of ?book 5? and read through to the end of that book, up until the beginning of ?book 6.?
So, as mentioned above, you are being asked to analyze these two different flood narratives. In analyzing the differences between the two texts, you will seek to do two distinct things:
1) explain to your readers what the differences are between the two translations; and
2) explain how these differences help contemporary readers understand the original
work?or if they even help us to understand it at all.

Essay Assignment 1:  Translation Comparison
One of the major challenges in studying world literature is that we cannot read most of these works in their original languages. This may seem minor at first, but the process of translation is not just simply changing words from one language into another; in its very essence it is also an act of interpretation, if not an act of creating a new document in its own right. For example, the version of The Epic of Gilgamesh which you read for class is the result of the original tablets and previous translations having been read, re-read and interpreted–and perhaps rewritten to some degree–by a translator named Benjamin Foster. So with this mind, it is not hard to understand that the way we encounter and understand a translated text has a lot to do with the choices the translator made before we ever had a chance to read it.
Your first essay assignment is to compose an analysis of two different translations of the flood narrative from Gilgamesh. One translation is by Benjamin Foster and it is located in your text book. The flood narrative appears on pg. 143-48, lines 1-212, 0f Tablet XI in the 3rd edition of the Norton Anthology, volume A.   The second translation is by N.K. Sandars, and it can be found on Blackboard by clicking on the “Essay 1” folder and then clicking on the PDF file titled “Sandars Translation: Flood Story.” The flood narrative in this translation occurs on pp. 35-38 of that document. For the Sandars version, you should read the two or three paragraphs before the start of “book 5” and read through to the end of that book, up until the beginning of “book 6.”
So, as mentioned above, you are being asked to analyze these two different flood narratives. In analyzing the differences between the two texts, you will seek to do two distinct things:
1) explain to your readers what the differences are between the two translations;  and
2) explain how these differences help contemporary readers understand the original
work—or if they even help us to understand it at all.

What Makes My Essay Good?
Once you understand the differences between the two translations, your job is to explain what you have learned.  You should be able to tell your readers how these translations differ, and you should be able to help them understand why those differences exist.  A good analysis will not just explain what is different but will attempt to explain why those differences exist, what they mean, and how they help readers like you and your classmates form an understanding about the story of Gilgamesh.

Worried about how to do this? Here are some suggestions to guide your writing process:
A.    Read both translations for understanding; annotate while and after you read.
After reading and annotation both translations, carefully compare. Use your annotations to take more notes about the key differences you noted in the two different tellings of the flood story.  Brainstorm about what seem to be the major differences between the two translations and how your reading or understanding of the passage changes from one translation to the next. Think about the motives and goals of each translator and speculate about why they made the decisions they made to translate the story in the way that they did.

B.    Identify your audience
Think about to whom you are writing. Who will read this? Who would you like to read it? Aim for reaching an audience of not just world literature teachers like me, but also for reaching undergraduates like yourself who might want a deeper understanding of the epic of Gilgamesh. You might also think about family members or parents who would enjoy reading your analysis. To reach this wider audience, what kind of word choices will you make? What kind of strategy will you use to discuss your points of analysis?

C.     Identify your points of analysis
Start to analyze the translators’ choices in “rendering” the passages as they did. Consider the following questions to help you identify the points of your analysis:
•    What is your initial reaction to each translation? Do you like one better than the other? If so, why?
•    What tone does each translator establish? Is one more solemn than the other? What specific words does each translator use to create that solemn or not-so-solemn tone?
•    Do the different translations change the way you understand the characters? How would you describe Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim, or Ea, as Foster renders them? How would you describe them as Sandars renders them?
•    How does the form of the different translations affect their “sound”? Read them aloud and note the rhythm and sound of the two different versions. How does Foster’s attempt at mimicking the form of Sumerian poetry affect your reading of the passage? How does Sandars’s formal choice of prose paragraphs affect your reading of the passage? Does one translation use a simpler or more informal style than the other? Which do you prefer and why? Why do you think the translators chose the forms they chose?
•    What other important or noteworthy differences in specific details, figurative language (similes, metaphors), descriptions, or narration do you notice?
•    Think deeply about all the differences you have noticed… do any seem more important than others in helping the translator achieve his or her goals? What do you think the translators’ goals might be? How are these goals different? Do the translations speak to different audiences?

D.    Organize and Plan Your Essay
1)    Now that you’ve identified and analyzed several key differences to analyaze, use your points of analysis to characterize the major differences between the two translations: Which of the types of difference seems to have the most impact on your understanding?  Do you want to focus mostly on tone, and use the other differences to support that discussion? Do you see the differences in character as the most important issue? Or do you see the formal differences between poetry and prose as most important to constructing an understanding of the text?

2)    Building upon these basic ideas about the key differences between the two translations, plan an essay that explains these ideas and why they impact our understanding of the flood story in The Epic of Gilgamesh. In other words, your essay should seek to demonstrate how the differences between the two translations help us to understand the original work in different ways, or if they even help us understand it at all—perhaps you might argue that the differences that exist between the two translations make the original story even more mysterious or difficult to understand; whatever you choose, you will need to offer proof through your analysis.

E.    Draft Your Essay
1)    Consider what your analysis of the differences between the translations tells you.  Develop a working thesis statement based on that analysis.  The thesis statement will be the main argument which your essay will make.  A good thesis statement will attempt to answer the following question: how does an examination of the differences between the two translations help us to form an understanding about the original work?

2)    Draft the body paragraphs of your essay. Each body paragraph will help you support your working thesis. For each body paragraph:
•    Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that tells the reader the main idea of the paragraph (hint: it helps your readers if the topic sentence indicates how the main idea of the paragraph relates back to your thesis).  Also, in the first sentence or two of the paragraph, briefly describe the type of difference you will analyze in the paragraph.
•    Use evidence from the translations themselves to support your analysis. In each case, you will need to cite your sources using MLA, APA, or Chicago style citation.
•    Explain how your analysis confirms your thesis.
•    Use transition words and phrases within the paragraph to connect your discussion of the two translations (for example: in contrast, on the other hand, however, likewise, furthermore, moreover). These transition words indicate to your reader the relationship between the pieces of evidence you are using and they help your reader see how you are comparing the two translations.
•    End your paragraph with a reminder of how the paragraph confirms, supports, or explains the thesis.
•    Repeat these steps for each one of your body paragraphs.

3)    Compose an introduction paragraph which introduces your reader to the topic of your essay and the two texts you are going to analyze. Then tell your reader what the thesis of the paper is, and mention briefly the main idea of each paragraph.
•     Recall that above it was mentioned that the topic sentences of the body paragraphs should indicate how the main ideas relate to the thesis.  Here in your introduction, you can paraphrase and condense those topic sentences into one or two sentences which will provide a useful “essay map” for the reader.

4)    Plan a conclusion that reminds the reader of the thesis statement, recalls the main points you made in the essay (a restatement of your essay map, essentially), and ends with some ideas or suggestions about how comparing these translations offers a deeper understanding of the story to those of us who cannot read ancient Sumerian, Akkadian, or Babylonian cuneiform.

D.    Revision
1)    Once you have composed a rough draft of your text, you should share it with a friend or classmate for review. Remember that the goal of this type of review is not to correct grammar and punctuation, but rather to work on improving the essay’s argument and organization.
•    Be sure to ask your peer reviewer(s):
o    if you have explained how the translations differ and how those differences affect your interpretation of the text;
o    if you make clear claims and have enough support—including paraphrases and direct textual quotations—for each claim;
o    where there are ideas or stretches of writing in the draft that cause confusion;
o    which elements or sections in the draft are particularly effective;
2)    If you would like some help planning or drafting this essay, please come see me during my office hours, or make an appointment to come see me at a mutually agreeable time. I also encourage you to make an appointment at the Quality Writing Center, located in Kimpel Hall 315.

Documenting Sources
Use one documentation style (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago) consistently to attribute information and expression of ideas to your sources.  Every time you quote or paraphrase from the sources, provide a corresponding parenthetical citation.  The last page of your essay should be a “Works Cited” page, which, as the name indicates, lists the sources to which you made reference in your essay.

Formatting Requirements
Use Times New Roman, Calibri, or Cambria font and 11 or 12 point font.  Use 1 inch margins for the top, bottom and both sides of each page. Double space the entire document. Do not insert extra spaces between the title and the body of the essay or between paragraphs.  Use page numbers and place them in the top right corner of each page, except the first page of the essay. In the top left corner of the first page, include the following information (each piece of information should be on its own line and double spaced): Your name; the name of your instructor; the date; the name of the class.

Required word count/page length: 1200 words/5.25 pages (not including the Works Cited page)
Due date: Wednesday, February 18 at 11:59 p.m., via the Safe Assign drop box on Blackboard
Grade value: 10% of your final average