Make America Smart Again: Senior Thesis Update

Name: Alexander H. Slotkin

Majors:  English (Concentration in Writing and Communications) & Philosophy

Thesis topic/title if it currently has one:Much to the dismay of foreign language students, my thesis follows the premise that true translation is impossible. I demonstrate that translations are pieces of art, not ‘copies’ of foreign works, by critically studying different translations of Plato’s book, ‘The Republic.’”

How did you get interested in this/find your topic?: “I became interested in this topic after getting into an argument with my advisor about whether or not Plato wrote that poets should be censored. It was a pretty heated debate. She pulled out her copy of ‘The Republic’ while I pulled out mine, and we realized that her translation did not include the word ‘censorship’ while mine did. It was pretty eye-opening to know that although we thought we were talking about the same book, our ideas could not be any more different.”

What sort of research did you need to do for this? Did you apply for any grants?:  “I started by reading seven different translations of ‘The Republic.’ Fortunately, I was already familiar with ‘The Republic’ as a philosophy major, and having presented a paper on Plato’s philosophy at a philosophy conference, much of my reading was review for me. The connections I made at the philosophy conference allowed me to discuss my ideas with professors at Moravian College in Pennsylvania and hear their feedback. Afterward, I reached out to Dr. Patrick Phillips, a translator and translation theorist, to learn about the field of translation theory. I did not need to apply for any grants, since the books on translation theory and the journal article commentaries on ‘The Republic’ I need to use could be found at the Drew library.”

What has been your favorite part so far?: “At least one part of every thesis explains other scholarly opinions, but my favorite part of writing my thesis has been creating my contribution to the field, arguing and defending my own original ideas and doing things that others have not done before. Coincidentally, it is great to know that, after I defend my thesis, there will not be too many people on Earth that know as much about the topic as I do.”

What did you not expect to be as challenging as it is?:  “Because my thesis will count for honors in two majors, English and Philosophy, it has been surprisingly challenging at times to make sure I have the right balance of ‘English’ and ‘Philosophy.’ But the process, like walking across a tightrope, has been exhilarating!”

Who/what has been instrumental in your process thus far?:My committee members, of course, have helped me when I needed it, but I think my mom and dad have been the most instrumental in writing my thesis. They did not know what an undergraduate honors senior thesis was at first, but they are two of my biggest supporters and take an interest in what I am doing.”

Do you plan on submitting your thesis (either chapters or in full) to journals (like the Drew Review) or present it at a conference?: “I hope to publish my thesis (or parts of it, anyway) in an academic journal not attached to Drew. Having now been published twice in ‘The Drew Review,’ and having now served as an editor for the second year in a row, I think it’s time to give someone else a chance!”

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