Davis is interested in the problems language helps to overcome and to create. The essay which won Sweetland's award explores this duality and the exile of a somewhat famous Uruguayan author named Mario Benedetti. As you read this, he will be studying in Buenos Aires and, with luck, translating more of said author's work.
- Where are you from? What is your Major/ Minor? What year are you graduating?
I’m from Orchard Lake, an easy forty-five minute drive from Ann Arbor. I’ll be graduating in the Spring of 2021.
- How does your major/minor fit together and why did you choose them?
Coming to U-M, my two majors—Comparative Literature and Environment—were only united by my interest in each subject. I started reading very young and have never stopped. This cultivated, nearly by accident, an appreciation for and respect of language. I found the English department too restrictive and landed in the Complit office. The Environment major came about through my appreciation for the outdoors and desire to preserve it. Now, after a few years, the connections have become, sometimes through force and sometimes organically, clearer. I plan to write a thesis comparing the environmental legal structures of Latin America and the United States, especially focusing on the somewhat recent codification of environmental rights.
- What was your favorite thing about CompLit 322? Would you recommend this class and why
The most enjoyable aspects of 322 are the freedom you are given as a student and the practicality of the course. Students can pick nearly any source text in any language and have the entire semester to produce a translation and their reflections on it. There is little distraction from the work. Through this largely independent task, you begin to hone a tangible and pervasive skill—the ability to translate well. It turns out to be harder than it sounds.
- Can you briefly describe what your essay was about and what inspired you to write about this topic?
The essay is a critical introduction to the translations I produced for the class. Broadly, it relates the linguistic exile we each experience as citizens of a multilingual world and the physical exile of Mario Benedetti, the author who wrote the source texts for my translation project and was forced to remain outside of his home country of Uruguay for over a decade.
- What was the creative process like for you as a translator during this paper?
It is largely a process of revision. The initial translation, which seemed fine while it was underway, was comically bad when I sat down to read it over. With each round of edits the translation became a fairer compromise between the original meaning imbued in Spanish and comprehension for readers of English.
- What do you hope to do after you graduate and how will your major/minor help your goals?
I plan on attending law school after graduation. Comparative Literature not only sharpens rhetoric, comprehension and critical thinking, as many humanities departments can claim, but fosters second (or third or fourth) language acquisition. This is a skill that is becoming fundamental in an increasingly smaller world.