Translation, Reception and Appropriation

Project Leaders: Marianne Ailes, Adrienne Mason, Neville Morley

Additional project team member: Jonathan Campbell

All translation is interpretation and a form of cultural exchange: embedded and entangled in structures of power and discourses of identity, constantly negotiating between past and present, local and global, and similarity and difference, domestication and alienation. The ways in which a text is translated are thus an essential element in its reception; they reflect and reveal the translator’s assumptions and intentions, and by making the text – or a version of the text – available for wider consumption and appropriation, they shape its subsequent influence. The ways in which texts from other cultures are ‘received’ by modern readers is a vital issue in a pluralist and increasingly globalised world; these workshops aim to analyse the underlying dynamics of this process by exploring issues of cultural identity in the translation of texts and the reception and appropriation of translated material. In order to focus the research in its early stages the initial concentration will be on material produced in or for the British Isles. In the case of workshop 3 this will be expanded by links with the visiting Benjamin Meaker Fellow working on the appropriation of the same material in a different culture (the Hispanic World).

Each of the workshops will be centred round a text or group of texts which are already the focus of research within the faculty, encouraging dialogue and the exchange of methodological and theoretical approaches as well as setting the projects within a broader focus. These texts would be the starting point for broader discussion where we would expect colleagues across the faculty to offer different perspectives on these questions. Setting chronological and geographical limits means that there is a common base in the target culture for each text/group of texts: largely, but not entirely, an English language context and a Christian culture. The source texts, on the other hand, have European, if not global, significance. The tripartite structure is itself an appropriation of the three groups of three which made up the Nine Worthies: classical, biblical and chivalric.

Speakers at each workshop will be asked to consider the same research questions concerning the extent to which linguistic translation also implies cultural appropriation: How far are texts altered to accommodate political or cultural issues and norms? How far do literary genres affect the adaptation and/or reception of these texts? Is it possible to identify different forms of mistranslation as distinct from adaptation? All of these texts are translated into insular vernaculars from high status languages; how far should this be understood as ‘vulgarisation’, and does this have any implications for our attitude to translation and translation studies today? How important was the translation of high status texts into the vernacular for a sense of national linguistic identity?

The workshops will bring together researchers interested in reception and translation from across the faculty. They relate to two of the University Research Themes, Reception and Medieval Cultures, and involve collaboration between two current AHRC-funded projects, on the reception of Thucydides and on Charlemagne in England. They will be relevant to PGT students on four different programmes, MA in The Reception of the Bible, MA in translation, MA in Medieval Studies and MA in Classical Reception, and to PGR students working in these areas. They also offer an opportunity for exploratory discussion of themes and ideas in preparation for a funding bid for a network under the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ theme. For such a bid we will be considering a series of case studies within an over-arching framework, similar to the one proposed for this series. The workshops will help identify additional case studies and define areas to focus on and establish more clearly which research questions and methods would be the main framework of the bid.