ASU alumna and Fulbright Scholar presents research on Colette

By

Kimberly Koerth

Arizona State University alumna Shannon Ditto, who is currently studying at the University of Strasbourg in France on a Fulbright Scholarship, recently presented her research at a conference and a seminar.

Ditto graduated from ASU in May 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in French and German — she also speaks Russian and Italian — as well as a minor in global studies. Her current research builds on her Barrett, The Honors College thesis project, a translation of the French writer Colette’s 1910 novel "La Vagabonde."

She spoke in March on a panel at a conference at the University of Strasbourg called “Colette … persiste et signe.” Ditto talked about Colette’s legacy and the importance of translating her work. Shortly after, she presented at the 65th annual Berlin Seminar, a gathering of Fulbright Scholars. That presentation focused on the lack of representation in the publishing world of translated novels written by women.

Ditto first encountered "La Vagabonde" in a course taught by Frédéric Canovas, an associate professor of French and faculty head of French and Italian in the School of International Letters and Cultures. She took the initiative to read the text in both French and English and noticed a discrepancy between the two editions.

“The translation was clunky and awkward; it seemed to butcher the sensuous but simple style of Colette’s French,” Ditto said. “I briefly thought that it was a shame that there wasn’t a better translation.”

When it came time to complete her honors thesis, Ditto decided to make that translation herself. She recently finished the first draft and hopes to get it published, in part so that English-speaking audiences can understand “why Colette’s words still ring so true today.”

Canovas said Ditto’s work goes above and beyond the caliber of work undergraduates typically produce.

“I hope this new translation of 'La Vagabonde,' close to the original spirit of Colette’s text, will allow English-speaking readers to rediscover Colette as a powerful feminist and advocate of women’s rights,” Canovas said.

Ditto is now pursuing a master’s degree in French and comparative literature at the University of Strasbourg. Her master’s thesis explores the link between another novel by Colette, "La Chatte," and a novel by another French writer, "L’Animale" by Rachilde. She is studying with Guy Ducrey, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Strasbourg who organized the conference about Colette that Ditto presented at.

She has also been accepted into the International Letters and Cultures doctoral program at ASU, for which Canovas says Ditto will study and compare French women’s experiences during La Belle Époque and German women’s experiences during the time of the Weimar Republic.

Much of Ditto’s work engages with tensions in feminist thinking and the way women have been treated by men and society at large.

She said she hopes that contemporary feminists realize how much they have in common with other women who fought for their rights throughout history and who shared many of the same experiences. Women’s contributions have historically been ignored, Ditto said, so people need to read novels by women to understand what life was like for them and what they accomplished.

“The only way to rectify this problem is to reconnect women to their heritage of womanhood,” Ditto said. “So much effort has gone into these women being forgotten or ignored, and even more effort needs to go into them being remembered.”