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Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Center for Writers & Translators

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The Center for Writers & Translators – or CWT– is celebrating its 10-year anniversary! For anyone who doesn’t know what the CWT is, here is a little back story:

The CWT began as the brainchild of AUP Professor Daniel Gunn, the Center’s director, who saw a very particular need at AUP. “I had noted over my years at AUP that many interesting, talented writers and academics came to AUP. They talked or read, but no trace remained of their passage. I had the idea of starting a center that would make more of the visits of literary and academic dignitaries to the campus and commemorate their visits with an edition which became the Cahiers Series.”

From the Cahiers Series sprouted a second idea: one for a center that would combine the efforts of writers and translators. “Why a center for writers and translators rather than just writers? Well, translating seems to be the central AUP activity across all disciplines because we are constantly translating. Most of the people here have more than one language, students as well as faculty, and we are constantly performing one form of translation or another.”

Over the course of the last decade, Gunn says, “The current focus of the Center hasn't actually changed from its initial focus – it's still focused on writing and translation.” However, there has been a slight shift of emphasis in that the CWT now works more closely with the Creative Writing program. In fact, this semester, not only are the three guest writers of the CWT giving a public talk, they’re also teaching a class within the Creative Writing major.

It’d be fantastic if we could continue in the same path, especially as creative writing becomes ever more central to AUP.

Daniel Gunn Director of the CWT

Students and faculty have been heavily involved throughout the life of the CWT. One full-time student helper is tasked every semester with helping Gunn and his associate Daniel Medin to edit the Cahiers Series. Students are also involved in other activities associated with the CWT, such as the arts journal Music & Literature, while over the course of many years of editing the four volumes of Samuel Beckett’s letters, Gunn had over sixty student interns assist him with primary research.

“Over the course of the Beckett project, around sixty students worked with me on background research, and they were all acknowledgement by name in the volumes of the letters themselves. That's been very good for their CVs, especially if they were going on to graduate school. It’s something that caught the eye of graduate school committees.”

AUP faculty have involved themselves by suggesting invitees for the lecture series, others have helped curate the artwork appearing in the Cahiers Series, while still others have suggested writers for the CWT to invite to campus or publish, and many, many other AUP faculty have brought their great ideas to the CWT.

“Anyone can be involved if they want to be,” Gunn says. “It's not at all exclusive.”

This collaborative spirit ripples out beyond the CWT and AUP and into the real world, where Nobel Prize winners and students sit down and do something simple: share a meal. In fact, Jan Steyn ’10, who interned with Gunn, had just such an experience. Gunn recalls him saying that, at the end of his time at AUP, Steyn had sat down to dinner – and not a big formal dinner, but an intimate dinner of a half dozen people – with not one but two Nobel Prize winners, Gao Xingjian and J.M. Coetzee.

In a typical 365-day stretch, you can expect to see CWT sponsor numerous talks, lectures, and readings around campus with world-renowned writers, thinkers, and artists. Many other literary figures appear in new editions of the Cahiers Series, as well as in ventures directed by Daniel Medin, including the arts journal Music & Literature and the annual translation issue published by The White Review.

With a decade like this already behind it, we can be hopeful that the Center will continue its success in bringing writers and artists into our circle. “It’d be fantastic if we could continue in the same path,” Gunn says, “especially as creative writing becomes ever more central to AUP.” The Center marks a milestone this year and with three new cahiers coming out this year.

Come celebrate the 30th edition of the Cahiers Series on November 21st when Sylvia Brownrigg, a former AUP professor, reads from and launches her cahier, Invisible Countries.