On the return to tuition in class


Turning from online to classroom teaching

Dear readers of my blog,

direct contacts still being limited to occasional conversations over the phone, particularly if to meet traveling across borders would be involved, it is only rarely that I actually speak to one or the other of you. I did, though, last week, and several people – as had happened in my immediate environs before the shutdown – encouraged me to devise the next blog.

It may sound strange to you that someone who likes to discuss things literary and political as much as I do should find it difficult to come up with more than two blogs in the past nine weeks of limited movement in Germany. Actually, I had thought I might provide a regular up-date on what is going on here in the light of Oscar Wilde with a special focus on his annus terribilis in the spring of 1895. It is quite simple: the times we are going through at the moment have made me think of many more things than just those events my online calendar for 2020 seemed to record for another year of commemorations of different sorts.

In a personal vein, I was able really to come to terms with writing a foreword and an afterword for the edition in German of Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris – 1482, while also starting to edit a translation first published in 1969. At a certain point, however, I had to stop this “grand” project and “fill the time” outside online teaching and family life with other matters that I hoped to be able to tackle when recovering from the extraction of a wisdom tooth. In fact, integrating bit and pieces from the estate of my late mother involved rearranging my study so that, suddenly, I was able once again to have free access to my shelves where I keep my Joyce and Ireland collection of books. And it was this small-scale rearrangement that triggered my research both into the reception of Alexander Somerville's Letters from Ireland during the Famine of 1847, a translation of which I had edited in 1996, and the reception of the narrative poem The Deserted Village (1770) by eighteenth-century Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith.

Since working on the Irish Famine revived memories of my own early days as a translator and editor, I decided to study some of my diaries and journals of the time to unearth evidence about how and when I did all that editing and translating work. While recovering from the extraction meant I had to renounce doing sports or physical work, I had leisure, sometimes even when lying in the dentist's chair, to recall early experiences as a translator, certainly those events primarily of which any documentary evidence would be hard to find. At the end of now almost three weeks of convalescing, I am pleased to be able to say that I have managed to recount in about ten twelve typewritten pages the basic events of my life as a translator and editor. Having done so in German for a collection of essays on writers I have either studied intensely and or translated into German, I can only sum up this activity by saying that it has led as organically as can be to the first three classes I taught this week.

And since you always know better afterwards let me tell you what I found out in the process. I had readily adopted all the advice given by the administrator and some of my students to start online teaching and live chats, excluding video conferencing which seems too much of a nuisance if there are technical problems or too many students who fail to have the facilities at home. So, in a way, four weeks into online teaching I have been through the most intense phase of sustained IT formation on the job. What we do is writing each other in French and English, more rarely in German on subjects such as Covid-19 in Africa – since the set text in my French class is the novel Petit Pays by Gaël Faye which, being about the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi in 1994, is also about how the majority of Hutus were infected by the racist radio propaganda propagated unceasingly in the winter and spring 1994 without the world at large realizing what was going on the the little countries of the continent since everyone was raving about the first free elections held in South Africa.

I remember having been too much into the preparations for the Aldous Huxley Centenary Symposium held at Münster University that summer and my own plans for the immediate future as well as a flight to Seville via Barcelona to attend the Joyce Symposium in mid-June to understand that another event ought to have arrested my attention as well. At the time, though, at age 32, I was only about to realize that an academic career would not be possible and that I needed to reorient myself.

Doing translations seemed an option, and so I had eagerly agreed to do one of Daniel Defoe's collection of narratives entitled A General History of the Pyrates (1724). This had been in early 1993, and in the summer of 1994 I was finally heading for completion, doing a real manuscript first before typing up the results in my room at the university. At the time and up until 2005, I did not own a PC, nor did I have any access to e-mails until 2002 on starting teacher's training when I used a friend's PC at Munich to register for my first e-mail address. So from 1994 through 1995 when I finally left the university, I was technically dependent on its facilities, refusing to buy a new type-writing machine – as which I had used the PC before – every six months because it was at that rate then that novelties seemed to come on the market.

Doing translations also meant working on my own and at home once the office had to be vacated, and it also entailed reducing contacts to the minimum of visits to the local publishers' offices that I knew might help with one or the other contract and concentrating on what I could achieve when not preparing language classes for law students and the odd evening class or one class of English for students of design or the odd seminar on short stories by George Moore, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett.

Neither activity was well-paid at the time – doing a seminar on short stories was not even remunerated. However, I had an idea that with one or the other translated book published I might get better contracts from other companies elsewhere. This also meant establishing contacts and staying in touch while having hardly any chance to meet editors and publishers on a regular basis. It is a period when I also learned to find out over the phone when people started lying for in one case I met the editor on roughly the same day when I had had my first and only meeting with the translator I was collaborating on a book with who had told me just the opposite. It was about allowing the translator royalties rather than just paying him a lump sum. The other translator had been sent a different contract from the one they wanted me to sign so that I told my editor about that. Having denied that over the phone earlier, he did so once again to my face when I had actually seen the other contract when being with the other translator. Later, over the phone, I always knew when I was in for another lie. Needless to say, but I do for the record, that this contract was the only one I have ever had with this publisher.

Originally written on 15th May after one week of teaching proper classes

Dear readers, this was written over a month ago, and I have only today had the chance to reread the text, so I take advantage of it being Bloomsday to point out some current matters to you. It was on 16th June 1954, the year of Oscar Wilde's centenary that a first pilgrimage along the lines set out by James Joyce's novel Ulysses presumably stopped at 1 Merrion Square North where the Wilde family had lived. So, in a sense, on Bloomsday, the two writers for me are necessarily coupled – something I would not be able to point to in W. B. Yeats's and Joyce's case, nor with Joyce and Beckett. This it is pertinent to announce that in late May a new edition of Feuerstuhl, an irregularly published magazine, edited by Egon Günther and Jürgen Schneider, was issued. I did a piece on parody as Joyce's means of securing his own survival based on motifs taken from my biography of Joyce and, in particular, his brief spell spent at Pula, today in Croatia, that was the Naval Port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Joyce's time. Here are the publishing details:

Feuerstuhl No 3, Magazin für Spötter & Feuervögel

Herausgegeben von Egon Günther & Jürgen Schneider
Titel & Umschlag von Peter Schneider-Rabel
1. Auflage 2020
ISBN 978-3-946685-35-7, 136 S., 21 €

If you'd like a copy and if you don't mind my donating the complete proceeds to financing upcoming exhibitions featuring Tanya Josefowitz and Anne Frank, do not hesitate to order them by contacting me. I should also mention in passim that it was through Egon Günther's call for papers that I took interest in looking at Joyce once again, and I was able to link recent discussions in class and elsewhere on the history of Europe as seen through the eyes of a social-democrat with moments of Joyce's early on the Adriatic Sea. Across the ocean of the internet, I now heartily thank two students of my class – now sadly to be dissolved without any chance of a “family reunion” – for their never-ceasing enthusiasm.

Another matter, again the material concerned is not in English, but the aesthetics of the moving images may even be enjoyed by someone who does not have much or only little German, is the film made by the Cameroon director and script-writer Bako Moustapha. Its script, the one I originally translated into German, is entitled: “La Rue, Notre demeure”, in English: “The Street, our Home”. It was to have been uploaded in 2017.

Actually, it was only in 2019 that we received a French version with German sub-titles that failed to match the French text. So it had to be redone – in much rougher German than in the original translation. What can now be watched when you type in “Unser Zuhause, die Straße Youtube”, is a 26 minutes short film using the Fufuldé regional language of Cameroon with the occasional French inserted whenever the children are at school. In fact, the whole film is about allowing children to go to school, something which has become a very current topic over here, too, in recent months.

It was first uploaded from the Afemdi website on 12th June, coinciding with the global day concerned with the struggle against child labour. And I hope that many of you are going to watch this film and spread its message.

Perhaps, one day, there will also be a version with English sub-titles. Personally, I like the idea of having it in the language spoken by the people concerned, even though it means in this and other cases that the original creator needs to prepare a script in a more widely used language than his or her own before the work can be shown elsewhere.

If ever you want to help Afemdi or are interested in their work or even funding their work both in general and in terms of the film, do not hesitate to contact them or their chairwoman Elke Scheiner.

I hope to be back sooner than last time and to be able to finish the next blog without the hiccup of a complete month between beginning and ending it. To be sure, I enjoyed reading the blog posts written in French by my students while I was unable to think of my own, and I hope to have profited from their ideas in order to make my own posts interesting and lively.

Wishing you all the very best,

keep well,

Jörg W. Rademacher, 15th May & 16th June 2020



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