How Asymptote Can Teach You

Teachers of literature, culture and writing: rejoice! Asymptote will soon offer free lesson plans

“If there were any journal that should have an educational branch, Asymptote would be it.”

So said a fellow poet, teacher, editor and friend, when I mentioned that we at Asymptote are launching an online bank of teaching plans and materials. For anyone to use, for free.

Why Asymptote? Because of its quality, depth, and range. As a truly global literary journal—we’ve featured work from 95 countries and 67 languages, at last count—that also publishes writing of many genres, Asymptote is already a veritable goldmine for teachers of literature. World literature (not to mention translation, creative writing, composition, cultural studies, and multimedia). Online, at no cost, students and teachers can read (and often listen) to both the original work and the translation, then explore links about the writer/translator(s) and their work.

Now, it’s even easier. Members of the Asymptote educational team (themselves teachers and professors) have compiled themed ‘units,’ complete with readings and assignments. Designed with both high school and post-secondary students in mind, these resources can easily be adapted to the needs of each classroom and instructor. Writing prompts, discussion questions, and small group activities are meant to stimulate discussion and debate by comparing and contrasting readings, questioning their place in global contexts, and recognizing the role of language and translation throughout.

Readings are chosen with an eye (and ear) for diversity in terms of perspective, area/country of origin, and the gender and background of the writer and translator. So far, the units are War & Conflict, Nature & the Environment, Coming of Age/Education as Transformation, Sex & Gender, and Pop Culture.

To get a sense of the range of these materials, the War & Conflict readings include poetry from Raúl Zurita (Chile) translated by Daniel Borzutzky, Che Lan Vien (Vietnam), translated by Hai-Dang Phan, and Husam Al-Saray (Iraq), translated by Alex V. Gubbins. Not to mention fiction—“The Invasion of the Cows” by Karim Zaimovíc (Bosnia), translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac and “Like Bats” by Etgar Keret (Israel), translated by Sondra Silverston, among others.

Nature & the Environment includes fiction like “The Mole and Other Very Short Animal Stories” by A. L. Snijders (the Netherlands), translated by Lydia Davis, Chang Hui-Ching’s “War Among the Insects” (Taiwan), translated by Lee Yew Leong, and The Tree,” a short story by Torgny Lindgren (Sweden), translated by Erika Sigvardsdotter and Bradley L. Garrett. Some of these have already proven themselves in writing classrooms, as the Asymptote team begins to put the units to use.

In hindsight, the idea seems inevitable. Asymptote is staffed by readers, writers, translators and educators who understand the current teaching climate and the labour of love that is lesson planning. Everyone at the journal is passionate about fostering art and ideas across language barriers—across every kind of border, really—and expanding and enriching traditional literary canons. The easier it is for readers, students and teachers to access diverse literature and perspectives, the better for the global community. We want to champion the writers and translators we publish, cultivate an awareness and appreciation for the vital art of translation, and share stories that matter. What better way than offering our resources to—and literally reducing the workload of—teachers of literature worldwide. Hooray, internet! 

For more information about Asymptote’s Educational Arm—questions, suggestions, comments, anything—write to us at


If you like the idea of an Asymptote educational arm, please consider donating today. We need funds to continue developing as well as to actually implement it on our website; setting up a publicity unit just to promote it around the world also requires money.

Just THREE DAYS remain to the end of Asymptote‘s fundraising campaign! Thanks to 181 of you, we’ve now collected $15,651, which is more than 63% of our goal! Taking into account a few pledges and stray donations collected on our website and via checks, we’re looking at about $7,000 left to raise in our final stretch of 66 hours. We’ll be starting our 48-hour liveblogging countdown here, and over at our Facebook and on Twitter in just 16 hours. Please join us as we celebrate our four years and help us with one last push for the campaign! If we reach our goal we will be able to keep operating beyond January 2015 and continue bringing you the best in world literature. 

Donate to Asymptote today!