‘Difficult Pasts’ in Translation

December 12, 2022
By SRS 10th Biennial Conference

Seminar Leaders: Alejandro Nodarse and Sara Petrilli-Jones
Hybrid seminar at the Society for Renaissance Studies 10th Biennial Conference, Liverpool
Thursday 20th July, 2023, 14.00-16.00
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Translation must continuously adapt to the needs of the present. It cannot divorce itself from the moment at hand, for its goal is to reach readers, to gain a contemporary audience. That is why even the greatest works of translation are always replaced by others. Translations are dispensable, but the truth is that they are also indispensable. The ongoing, updated echo of translation is critical to sustaining great works of literature, to celebrating and spreading their significance across space and time.

Jhumpa Lahiri, ‘In Praise of Echo: Reflections on the Meaning of Translation’ (2019)

History and translation go handinhand. This session offers an opportunity for historians to reflect on translation as a central, though often overlooked, element of their own working practices. It will consider, in particular, challenges of translation which arise in the context of ‘difficult pasts.’ How, for example, are historians to balance a perceived need for neutrality in relation to past actors and events with responsibilities to present readerscolleagues, students, and the public at large? If translation is a ‘carrying across’ (translatio), how should we write and teach difficult pasts in the present? We believe that translation will prompt new reflection upon, and intervention in, moments of difficulty at every scalefrom the single word or passage to the body of work. By confronting the complexities of historical language as an integral part of the writing of history today, we hope to formulate new solutions, together, for the page and the classroom alike.

Seminar participants will be asked to engage with moments of difficulty in translating, or reading translations of, early modern sources. They should submit their own translation, or a passage selected from anothers translation (up to five pages in length, 10001250 words). We also ask that participants provide commentary and/or reflection on their submissions (twothree pages, 500750 words). Please submit translated passages in both their original language as well as in English. All participants will read one another’s translations and commentaries prior to the session.

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