Call for papers: Translation talk

Posted on Monday 9th June 2014

A 2-day international conference to be held at the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU, UK, on Thursday 23 - Friday 24 April 2015.

Can translation be said to define the contemporary ethos (Alexis Nouss, 2007)? This conference asks to what extent the concept of ‘translation’ and images of translators and interpreters have been employed to talk about ideas well beyond the activity of rendering a text into another language. Is the early 21st Century a time of especially intense ‘translation talk’? Have there been other times and places in which one can identify a similar cultural fascination or anxiety connected with the idea of translation? This conference explores the idea of ‘translation talk’, in other words, the many and varied ways in which translation as an activity and the translator as a figure have been interpreted and given cultural significance. The focus of this conference will therefore be on discourses about translation, rather than on translation in and of itself.

We invite papers on subjects from any period or cultural context that consider one or more of the following areas of investigation:

  • Literary, autobiographical, religious, historical, anthropological or other narratives about translation
  • The image of the translator or interpreter as, for example, mediator, traitor, informant, smuggler, collaborator (in all senses), hero/villain, resister/oppressor 
  • Are translators seen as autonomous individuals or as representatives of a group, institution, or culture? Professional or amateur? Free or constrained? Neutral or partisan? 
  • How do translators talk about their own, or others’, work? Are there clashes between writers, speakers, translators, publishers and scholars? 
  • What stories are told in order to guarantee or undermine the authenticity of a translation or the integrity of a translator? 
  • What metaphors are used to describe the relationship between writer/speaker and translator/interpreter, source text and translated text? 
  • Translation as metaphor: what is discussion of translation really about? 
  • Institutional translation talk: how do libraries, universities, research councils, archives, publishers, and other political and cultural institutions, view translation and translators? 
  • What terms are used to describe translators’ work, and what status do their products have? 
  • The status of translation and translators in the cultural and political media 
  • Translation scandals and the interests behind them

Abstracts (max. 300 words) for 20-minute papers or proposals for thematic panels should be sent to both Prof Peter Davies (peter.j.davies@ed.ac.uk) and Dr Angela Kershaw (a.kershaw@bham.ac.uk) by 1 July 2014.

The conference is jointly organised by the Birmingham Centre for Translation, University of Birmingham, the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, and the IMLR.