School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Translation, Transmission, and Cultural Transfer

Joint research seminar for Modern Languages and Comparative Literature

This seminar series aims to create a space for conversations about translation in the widest sense of the word – translation as an encounter between two or more cultures as well as languages, and translation as the cultural transmission of concepts as well as words. We are interested in questions of translation history (historical translators; translation practices and cultures), methodology (developing new approaches at the interstices of literary, historical, cultural, and linguistic studies), theory (engagement with theorists from Cicero and Bruni to Steiner and Venuti; interaction with other theoretical foci such as gender, race, medical and environmental humanities; new developments in theorisations of multicultural and multilingual translations), and the specific translation cultures of any given language or language environment. We are hoping to promote dialogues between scholars working on different languages, between theorists and practitioner-based research, and across the wide world of cultural engagements in history from ancient Greece to contemporary dialects.

In addition to traditional research papers, we welcome works in progress as well as novel approaches to engaging with scholarly research: explorations of research-informed teaching or teaching-informed research on translation, discussions on accessing and using digital resources, and bringing Translation Studies to a wider audience through public engagement activities.

Seminars will take place on Wednesday evenings at 18:00 at QMUL (ArtsOne 1.28), Mile End, London. Refreshments will be provided, and an evening meal/visit to the pub is likely to follow.

26th September 2018 - Dr Roel Konijnendijk (University of Leiden)

‘Reading Clausewitz to Understand Thucydides: Prussian Militarism and the Modern Study of Ancient Greek Warfare’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Abstract

The earliest academic experts in the field of Ancient Greek military history were Germans with often close ties to the military, and they studied the subject from a very particular perspective. They understood warfare through the lens of Prussian professionalism, the military academy, and 19th-century technology. But the Greeks they studied were amateurs, who had no professional army or officer class or military theory. The result is that these German scholars felt compelled not just translate and interpret sources from Greek to German (and, in the case of their Anglophone successors, from Greek to English), but to translate them from the imprecise and open-ended language of the citizen-soldier to the specific terminology of modern military textbooks. An important element of the way we now (mis)understand Greek warfare is this distortion that lies at the foundation of all our theories.

24th October 2018 - Dr Adhira Mangalagiri (QMUL)

'Unfriendly Comparison: Antagonism in China-India Literary Relations'.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Abstract

Comparative Literature excels at studying connection, dialogue, exchange, translation, and other positively-valued modes of relation. In contrast, this paper questions whether the method of comparison can be harnessed to study “unfriendly” relations such as hostility, tensions, anxieties, and the absence of dialogue and exchange. I explore this question through the case of twentieth-century China-India literary relations. Reading Chinese and Hindi texts, I consider how comparative methods can sustain and apprehend antagonism on its own terms instead of aiming to resolve or erase conflict.

14th November 2018 - Dr Cathy McAteer (Bristol)

‘Red Books and Russian Agents: Behind the Scenes at Penguin's Russian Classics’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Abstract

This paper examines Penguin’s twentieth-century re-launch of the nineteenth-century Russian literary canon. Drawing on previously untapped archival material (letters, memos, readers’ reports, reviews, adverts), this paper reveals a previously undisclosed ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at Russian-English literary translation in the mid-twentieth century. It offers new insight into Penguin Classics luminaries: Penguin founder Allen Lane, the editors EV Rieu and ASB Glover, and the early translators Elisaveta Fen, David Magarshack and Rosemary Edmonds, whose work also enjoyed frequent airings on national stage and in BBC Third Programme broadcasts. I will examine how these agents pooled their expertise and abilities to bring an accessible form of Russian literature to the mass lay reader. I will be drawing on archive- and text-based materials – a micro-historical approach, as advocated by Jeremy Munday – to explain how translators’ personal/professional backgrounds shaped their translation practice and, in doing so, determined the Anglophone reception of classic Russian literature for almost half a century.

12th December 2018 - Dr Rachel Scott (KCL)

‘Translating an Oriental Frame Tale in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia and Beyond’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Abstract

This talk will address several of the medieval and early modern translations of Kalila wa-Dimna – a famous Arabic collection of exemplary fables set within a framed narrative. Kalila wa-Dimna was composed in the 8th century by Ibn Al-Muqaffa, a convert to Islam, and was itself a translation of a translation that originated in 4th-century India, known as the Panchatantra. My research takes it cues from scholarship that has conceptualised translation as a political and ontological act of identity formation. I am concerned not with translation techniques but translation as a form of intercultural encounter, as a means of dealing with a culture/society’s relationship with the Other, with its own past and heritage, and constructing an identity for itself in the present. I see translation as a form of storytelling, ultimately. I consider Kalila wa-Dimna and the texts that descend from it as case-studies of relations between cultures, particularly on an East/West axis. My aim is to explore how perceptions of the ‘Orient’ evolved, and how cultural forms and practices that originated in the East were appropriated and in turn used to define social and national groups in western Europe.

23rd January 2019 - Dr Marta Marfany (Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona)

‘Translating into Catalan 19th-Century French Texts in Prose: Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Abstract

The friendship between the two French writers Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) and Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is well known. In 1859 Charles Baudelaire published a biography of his friend and inspiration Théophile Gautier. Years later, on the death of Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier reciprocated by writing a biography to introduce the posthumous edition of Baudelaire’s complete works (1868).
In this seminar I will present both biographies, which I am translating into Catalan, for publication in a volume along with other works by these authors. I will explore the main translation challenges posed by these texts, especially those that arise from the chronological gap between the original texts’ mid-nineteenth- century French writers and the twenty-first-century Catalan readers. This historical and cultural distance has repercussion for the translation process. The translator must reproduce the flavour of the language and reconstruct cultural codes that are practically unknown by today’s readers.
Some of the translation solutions that I suggest are of course not restricted to Catalan but can be applied to translation into other languages.

27th February 2019 - Dr Ricarda Vidal (KCL) and Dr Madeleine Campbell (Glasgow)

‘The Translator's Gaze: Intersemiotic Translation as Transactional Process’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Abstract
Communication happens on many levels, the gestural, the olfactory, the visual, the linguistic etc. While word-based languages are confined to linguistic borders, which often coincide with national or even regional borders, non-word-based forms of expression can transcend such borders, while, of course still being influenced by cultural traditions. Intersemiotic translation (e.g. the translation of a poem into dance, or a short story into an olfactory experience, or a film into a painting) opens up a myriad of possibilities to map form and sense between cultures beyond the limitations of words. Such exchanges impact on both the translator and the source artefact enriching them with new layers of understanding. At the same time, current terminologies and metaphors associated with translation imply certain unexamined assumptions about the nature of the source, the translator and the transaction between them.
Challenging boundaries between source and target, we make a case to reposition Roman Jakobson’s seminal structuralist definition of intersemiotic translation more as a subjective, synaesthetic and relational experience to be rendered, and less as a message or content-and-form package to be carried across modal or medial boundaries. As a transactional process intersemiotic translation is different from adaptation, illustration or interpretation: the artist must adopt the technique of the literary translator, the deep engagement and immersive reading of the source text as well as the loyalty or duty to its prior form. Hence what makes intersemiotic translation ‘translation’ is not so much the end result but the process and the translator’s gaze. As praxis it can be a way of creating new work within the limitations presented by the source text, while at the same time exposing its multiple facets and ‘truths’. We willillustrate our argument with examples from our own practice as (intersemiotic) translators.
This talk is based on the first chapter of our edited volume Translating across Sensory and Linguistic Borders: Intersemiotic Journeys between Media (Palgrave, 2018).

20th March 2019 - Professor Theo Hermans (UCL)

How to Write Translation History?’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

Translation history received only intermittent attention in past decades but is currently popular again. Several substantial historical surveys have appeared in recent years, including some multi-volume works. Methodological reflection, however, has lagged behind; although various scholars have addressed individual issues in a range of essays, the only book-length treatment in English dates from twenty years ago. In the seminar I will begin by setting out my own stake in this discussion, before going into some of the standard questions concerning periodization, agency and the possibility of a transnational translation history. The main part of the seminar will involve an invitation to think about the relation between translation and history in more comprehensive terms. Perhaps the history of translation is the easy part? What about the translation of history? How much history is there in individual translations, and how do we tease it out? In thinking about the historical significance of translation, are we thinking primarily about history or about translation? The aim is to address questions like these interactively.

24th April 2019 - Dr Elettra Carbone (UCL)

'Mapping Nineteenth-Century Scandinavia: Edward Price’s Norway and Henry Clark Barlow’s Denmark'. 

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

From the end of the eighteenth century, Norway became an increasingly popular destination for British travellers in search of ‘a new and intriguing alternative to the more well-trodden paths’ (Fjågesund and Symes 2003: 39). The artist Edward Price (1800-1885) is today all but forgotten, but his major enterprise, a journey to Norway in 1826, remains immortalised in his illustrated journal Norway. Views of Wild Scenery. The seven engravings of Norwegian landscapes that are today part of the UCL Art Museum’s collections were made by the British painter and engraver John Linnell, The Elder (1792-1882) after drawings by Price but were not used as illustrations when Price’s book came out in 1834. The book included, instead, 21 engravings by the British artist Davis Lucas (1802-1881). Later Thomas Forester (dates unknown), who visited Norway in 1848, included Price’s journal in his Norway and Its Scenery (1853) and made use of the same engravings by Lucas.

Drawn to Norway by ‘the promise of a superabundance of material’ for his pencil, Price makes a number of references to his sketches and the process involved in their creation.  Together, the text and the illustrations ‘map’ Norway, as they construct and communicate spatial knowledge of a region that was still little known to the British reader (Cosgrove 2012: 1). In my paper I will explore the relationship between Price’s written account, often focusing on the difficulties of the journey as well as the dramatic nature of the Norwegian landscape, and the two sets of engravings by Linnell and Lucas. What made Norway an exceptional motif for Price?

29th May 2019 - Dr Victoria Moul (KCL)

‘Why Latin? Verse Translations from Vernacular into Latin in the Seventeenth Century’.

Room: ArtsOne 1.28
Time: 18:00

The literary culture of seventeenth century England was bilingual, with significant consumption and production of verse in two languages above all: that is, in English and Latin. The literary bilingualism of this period is particularly visible in surviving manuscript sources - ranging from scribal presentation copies to personal notebooks and letters. Drawing on the findings of a large Leverhulme funded project on Latin verse in manuscript sources, as well as on print culture, this paper will explore one particular facet of seventeenth-century literary bilingualism: namely, the phenomenon of verse translations from vernacular languages (especially English, but also including French, Dutch and Italian examples) into Latin. Examples range from topical and satiric epigrams through to Latin translations of the work of major authors, such as Du Bartas, Milton and Cowley. The paper will aim to give an overview of this material, and also the questions it raises about what literary translation, and Latin verse, were “for” in seventeenth century England.