John Balcom
McCone Building M117
(802) 443-5286

Professor Balcom began studying Chinese several decades ago in a summer intensive language course at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. He has lived and worked in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and joined the MIIS T&I faculty in 1993. As a translator he has worked in-house and as a freelancer. Balcom is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association and co-chaired the first Salzburg Global Seminar on literary translation. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, including an NEA Translation Fellowship, his translations have won or been nominated for many awards: his Taiwan’s Indigenous Writers: An Anthology of Stories, Poems, and Essays and There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night by Cao Naiqian both won Northern California Book Awards; his translation of Huang Fan’s Zero won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award; and his translation of Ya Hsien’s Abyss was a finalist for the PEN Poetry in Translation Award and a Northern California Book Award.

Courses Taught

Course Description

This course is the counterpart to Advanced Translation I. Students are expected to translate texts of considerable difficulty and complexity and to cope with the types of operational challenges that are likely to be encountered in professional translation settings, such as working in teams or coping with multiple technologies. Emphasis is on particular text categories and subject-matter knowledge that are pertinent to current market demand for the specific language combination and direction in which the course is being taught. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments are at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record, but will include projects that simulate, as closely as possible, the professional translation environment, as well as at least one midterm and one final exam.

Prerequisite: Advanced Translation I or similar background.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

The translation of literary and philosophical texts; modern and contemporary Chinese poetry and fiction; Modernism and the international avant-garde; Taiwan studies; comparative literature studies; translation studies.

Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D. in Chinese and Comparative Literature, Washington University, St. Louis
  • M.A. in Chinese, San Francisco State University
  • B.A. in Chinese, Monterey Institute of International Studies
  • B.A in History, California State University, Fullerton

Professor Balcom has been teaching at the Institute since 1993.


  • Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry (contributor)
  • Wintry Night by Li Qiao (co-translator)
  • The City Trilogy by Chang His-kuo
  • Taiwan’s Indigenous Writers: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems
    (Winner of the 2006 Northern California Book Award) 
  • Driftwood (A book-length poem by Lo Fu)
  • An anthology of Buddhist literature (pre-Han to the present)
  • “Translating Modern Chinese Literature” chapter of The Translator as Writer, edited by Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush

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