Clarissa Botsford Speaks at JCU about her English Translation of Novel "Sworn Virgin"

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Sworn Virgin Panel

Sworn Virgin Panel

On Tuesday, November 11 the Institute of Creative Writing and Literary Translation sponsored a reading and panel discussion of Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones. Dones is a US-based Albanian author, but she wrote the novel in Italian (Virgine giurata). Clarissa Botsford, who translated the novel into English, led the discussion.

Professor Carlos Dews, Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature and Director of the Creative Writing Institute, introduced the event and the panel participants. JCU student Loredana Mihani, who is from Albania, gave a brief presentation on writer Elvira Dones. Clarissa Botsford followed with an introduction to the novel and her experience in translating it.

The story follows the life of Hana Doda, a young woman in 1980s Tirana, Albania. It is based on the Albanian tradition of the “sworn virgin” in which families without a male patriarch may nominate a girl to take on a male identity. These “sworn virgins” take on all the responsibilities of the male head of family, such has doing business, owning property, and voting. Hana takes on the identity of Mark and the novel follows his/her journey to understand true femininity and masculinity versus their shadow versions.

Botsford, who teaches English and Translation and the University of Rome “Roma Tre” incorporated the photo essay “He/She/He” by Jill Peters into her lecture, giving the audience visual examples of actual sworn virgins. Then she and Charles Lambert, author of With a Zero at its Heart, read excerpts from the novel.

A question and answer session followed in which Professor Botsford took questions about the novel and the challenges involved in the process of translating it.

Learn more about studying English Language and Literature at John Cabot University.