Bennington Translates

In Spring 2015, Bennington College embarked on a highly innovative, multi-lingual, multi-disciplinary translation and interpretation project called Bennington Translates. This project, which spanned literary, humanitarian, medical, and legal translation and interpretation, has a special focus on those who work in conflict zones: a pre-eminent literary translator of Serbo-Croatian who also spent five years at the UN AdHoc Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; a Chinese-American poet who has translated Nobel Peace Laureate Li Xiaobo, dissident poet Bei Dao, as well as Confucius and the exquisite writers of the Tang Dynasty; the founder of Voice of Love, the first interpretation agency devoted to serving asylum seekers who are survivors of trauma (rape, torture, terror, displacement); and the founder/director of the multi-lingual interpreters training program for the Harvard teaching hospitals. The centerpiece of the 2015 Bennington Translates series was the visit by renowned long-form war correspondent Luke Mogelson (’05) and Habib Zahori, an Afghan physician who interpreted, translated, and acted as a cultural guide and “fixer” in Afghanistan for the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Christian Science Monitor. Dr. Zahori worked especially closely with The New Yorker writers Dexter Filkins and John Lee Anderson. 

Each of these distinguished visitors spent several days on campus, giving a large public presentation, meeting with classes, offering workshops, and advising students and faculty on proposed and/or ongoing research. New international and domestic contacts and possibilities were established for Field Work Term—the six weeks in winter when students are required to embark on internships, work with service/relief/nonprofit/cultural organizations, or conduct independent research.

Bennington Translates is embedded in the Bennington curriculum, amplifying the College’s range of studies, and extending our reach internationally and in the surrounding community. It also brings disparate populations together; Bennington's PostBac cohort heading to medical school has participated in a working group with literary translation students; anthropology students worked together with journalists; students focused on censorship were immersed in the specific contexts of China and the Balkans.

Bennington Translates is initiated and directed by literature professor Marguerite Feitlowitz, but faculty from languages, anthropology, history, and science work with her to co-sponsor events. Bennington Translates continues to develop within and beyond the College, including participation in a five-college consortium on responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, planning special events around the translation of sacred texts, and addressing the fraught dynamics of indigenous writers with their respective countries' literary mainstream. Marguerite recently wrote an article about Bennington Translates for Words without Borders.


ELLEN ELIAS-BURSAC is a pioneering translator of Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian literature, whose work has won numerous international awards. Also a scholar and author, she was for five years a translator at the United Nations Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

MARJORIE BANCROFT is the founder of Voices of Love (VOL), the first interpreting and translation agency devoted to helping survivors of torture, displacement, rape, and other crimes arising in conflict zones. VOL is instrumental in asylum hearings, trials, and clinical settings and has developed the first training programs in this new specialty.

CHAD POST is the Founding Director of Open Letter Books and the Three Percent blog, based at the University of Rochester. JENNIFER ZOBLE is a writer and Bosnian translator, the Co-Editor-in-Chief of InTranslation, and an editor at Brooklyn Rail. She teaches at NYU.

LUKE MOGELSON ’05 has won numerous awards for articles from the war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, and elsewhere. The Paris Review, The Hudson Review, and other journals have published his fiction. HABIB ZAHORI, currently a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S., interpreted in his native Afghanistan for Mogelson, Dexter Filkins, Steve Coll, and other preeminent reporters for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications of record.

EDUARDO BERINSTEIN is the founder of ebtranslations. He served as the Director of Interpreting Services at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital Boston and as a translator and interpreter at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Berinstein was instrumental in developing the first Standards of Practice for Medical Interpreters for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which were later adopted nationwide.

JEFFREY YANG, recipient of a 2014 NEA Translation Fellowship, has published three collections of original poetry. He translates ancient and contemporary Chinese and is an editor at New Directions.


SUSAN HARRIS is the editorial director of Words without Borders and the coeditor with Ilya Kaminsky of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry. She was previously director and editor in chief at Northwestern University Press, where she founded the Hydra imprint of literature in translation and published Imre Kertész and Herta Müller before their Nobel Prizes in literature.

JOHN C. PEACOCK is an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation. He collaborated with tribal elders to produce the first dual-language translation of fifty letters written in the endangered Dakota language by three dozen Dakota prisoners of war incarcerated at Fort McClellan, Davenport, Iowa, mostly on trumped-up charges of having killed non-combatants during the Dakota-US War of 1862, the first Great Plains Indian war. For the tribal elders, as Peacock will explain, these letters are not merely historical documents, they are sacred texts. Since 1986, Professor Peacock has taught at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where in addition to studio and criticism classes, he also teaches Native American Studies.

SARAH PONICHTERA began her translation career with the translation of Der Nister’s short story “The Green Man’s Tale,” in 2004. She received her PhD in Yiddish Language and Literature from Columbia University in 2012, where she focused her research on connections between experimental poetry in Yiddish and English. She was a Translation Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center in 2013, and has served as an editor of the Texts and Translations section of In Geveb, an online Yiddish scholarly publication, since 2014. She received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2014 to translate Aaron Zeitlin’s World on Fire, the first Yiddish spy novel. She currently works as the Project Manager of the Vilna Collections Digital Initiative, a seven-year project which aims to digitize the pre-war archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, currently held in both New York and Lithuania.

REBECCA PETRAS is Deputy Director of Translators without Borders. In 2013 she developed TWB’s Words of Relief, the first-ever global crisis translation network. Words of Relief was piloted in Kenya and has subsequently been deployed in West Africa, Burundi, Nepal, and Europe for the refugee crisis. Prior to TWB, Rebecca handled marketing and public relations for a number of localization and technology providers; she also served as vice president at Ketchum International, senior account manager at Dan Pinger Public Relations and professional writer at Andersen Consulting. She holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University in the City of New York and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. Rebecca currently resides in Moscow, Russia.


ESTHER ALLEN is a former fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Allen is currently working on a biography about José Martí, the founding father of Cuban political consciousness. Her most recent translation, Zama, a 1956 novel by Antonio Di Benedetto, was chosen by Publisher's Weekly as one of the top 20 fiction works published in 2016.

PETER CONSTANTINE is a Guggenheim Fellow and has translated work by Rousseau, Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Gogol, and Voltaire. He was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for Six Early Stories by Thomas Mann, and the National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov.

ELIOT WEINBERGER has translated Chinese poetry and Latin American literature, including The Poems of Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Non-Fictions. His work regularly appears in the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books.