Rebecca Whittington

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PhD, South and Southeast Asian Studies

Rebecca Whittington earned her PhD in 2019 from the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds an MA and BA in South and Southeast Asian Studies from UC Berkeley. She has worked as a graduate student instructor in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, as a research assistant translating Tamil, Bengali, and Hindi materials for several faculty and student researchers at UC Berkeley, and as a private instructor of Hindi and Urdu. Her publications include Time Will Write a Song for You, an anthology of contemporary Sri Lankan Tamil writing that she translated and co-edited, forthcoming from Penguin India in 2014; and “Patni (Wife),” a translation of a Hindi poem by Gopal Prasad, excerpted in Zan Boag’s “Alienated from the pleasures of work” in NewPhilosopher. In addition to Tamil, Bengali, and Hindi-Urdu, she has a working knowledge of Persian, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and Icelandic. Her interests include comparative literature, literary translation, literary modernisms, and South Asian studies. 

Rebecca’s research explores an understudied aspect of modern South Asian literature: the representation of dialect and colloquial language. Literary representation of these speech forms is often seen as a simple technique to lend the narrative authenticity. Her research asks whether dialect, as a bearer of the speaker’s lifeworld, offers something irreplaceable in a literary text. She suggests that the seeming untranslatability of dialect into standard language raises questions about the power, aesthetics, and ethics of the representation of speech forms. The interplay of standard and non-standard forms heightens the reader’s awareness of the materiality of language. 

Area of interest:

Bengali, Tamil, translation studies, comparative literature


PhD Candidate, SSEAS

The Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center
Institute for South Asia Studies
UC Berkeley
10 Stephens Hall, Berkeley, CA  94720-2310

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