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Synopsis of discussions


Roots of Rootlessness?:

Translations in Times of Disruption

2nd Conference of the University of Oxford’s
Interdisciplinary Research Network


The Dorfman Centre, St. Peter’s College, Oxford,  10 May 2014


Panel 1: Translating Constitutions in the Age of Revolutions

Proponent/Chair: Dr. Graciela Iglesias Rogers

Speakers: Prof. Horst Dippel, Dr. Graciela Iglesias Rogers, Prof. David Hook, Dr. M.C. Mirow, Dr. Eduardo Posada-Carbó.

Numerous comments were made regarding the role translated versions of the Cadiz Constitution and of other constitutional texts, such as the US Constitution, had in shaping and/or instigating political crises at both local and transnational level. In Germany, Professor Dippel noted, the Cadiz Constitution attracted much interest during the turbulent 1820s and was still doing so at the time of the Revolution of 1848. There were notable distinctions between different versions and these tended to reflect contrasting political views: for example, terms such as nación in connection with phrases relating to the concept of national sovereignty could appear as volk in liberal and/or progressive translations and as nation in more conservative texts. The motivation of translators was explored; few of these men (female translators were rare) gave explanatory statements, and even fewer a clear statement, of their reasons and aims. The perspective of a translator approaching a text from “outside” the culture that produced it was the product of a significant gulf. It was queried whether any translations undermine the sense of the original, but the consensus was that all seem to be trying to reflect faithfully the source text, despite misconceptions and mistranslations. Publishers’ motivations, including cases of abridgments of texts for commercial rather than political/philosophical reasons, were also considered.

Panel 2: Translating Medical texts during epidemics and imperial crises

Proponent/Chair: Dr. Erica Charters

Speakers: Ms. Edna Bonhomme, Dr. Teodora Daniela Sechel.

It was pointed out that the official language of the Habsburg army was German, and that therefore material had to be extensively translated into the various minority languages spoken by the ordinary soldiery. Poverty of vocabulary and high costs of printing were important factors. The role of the central authorities in organising translation was discussed, as was the social, cultural and religious background of the personnel involved.
Discussion also raised the question of when printing was introduced in Tunis (the 19th century), and on the history of successive theories of contagion and the development of ideas on length and nature of quarantine, and different means of disinfection. The question of contacts with European medical thought, and the routes of its transmission, were mentioned.

Panel 3: Translating for war and for peace in the 19th century

Chair: Dr. Graciela Iglesias Rogers
Speakers: Dr. Jo Crow; Dr. Alicia Laspra-Rodríguez.

Much interest was provoked by questions surrounding the identity and status of those who fulfilled the role of translators between Spanish-speaking and Mapuche delegations during negotiations, and issues of protocol and social symbolism at these parlamentos. Interpreters did not translate just words, but also customs. During the Spanish period, interpreters came from within the community (not Spaniards) and exercised power within their own group. Post-independence, the Chilean authorities established the role of a ‘language inspector’ and there was no longer oral but written mediation in Spanish. In the case of the Peninsular War, the range of languages was extremely wide because of the large contingents and number of individuals from various European countries who participated in the conflict; again the identity, degree of professionalization, and social status of translators were points of interest. The question of female participation in this activity was also raised.

Panel 4: Literary translation confronted to the challenges of war, radicalism and globalization

Chair: Dr. Jonathan Thacker
Speakers: Dr. Agustín Coletes-Blanco; Ms. Tamara de Inés Antón; Dr Gemma Martínez-Garrido.

When asked about other periods than that covered in her paper, Dr Martinez-Garrido clarified that her research had not involved earlier periods and areas of film production: its focus was contemporary Catalonia. She thought that Catalan film had not been particularly interested in winning Oscars but had other priorities. Analysis could easily be extended to political and ideological aspects. She perceived different approaches in film translation: domestication of texts in the minority language, or stressing the foreign nature of a film from a foreign language. Her focus was on the international dimension of the question. Ms. de Inés Antón, answering a series of questions on translation of the Nicaraguan textual material, thought it relevant to enquire whether the impetus for translation came from an individual translator, the author, or a publishing house. The English translators were mostly US or English nationals; the quality and nature of the translation tended to vary according to the translator; there was a difference between academics and poets acting as translators, for example. It also varied according to context (time available for translation, political or poetic orientation in the publishing process, involving translator, publisher, and intended readership…). Replying to a question about the use of L3 texts such as Greek and Latin poems on the Peninsular War in English journals, Dr Coletes-Blanco thought that though such poems were a conventional exercise in the English education system of the time, they found a completely new content in this context.

Panel 5: Dynastic wars, post-revolutions, and resistance

Chair: Prof. David Hook
Speakers: Dr Emily A. Winkler; Dr. Jennifer Rushworth; Ms. Katarzyna Szymanska.

Dr Winkler’s account of exaltation of Norse-Irish dynastic origins in chronicle accounts of a Welsh ruling family as a counter to Norman pretensions led to consideration of narrative motifs, legitimation devices, and other aspects commonly encountered in medieval chronicles. Dr Rushworth responded to a question on whether any of Petrarch’s works had been listed in the Roman Catholic Church’s Index of prohibited and expurgated books by distinguishing the likely status and effect of content from different works within his poetic production in the context of their relevance to Avignon and the Papacy. She outlined 19th century French treatment of the topic. Ms Szymanska’s treatment of multiple versions of a text by the same translator, involving different modes of linguistic manipulation of an artificial futuristic language, raised various issues of political significance, it was thought, as well as of translation practice.



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