Hans J. Vermeer’s Theoretical Proposal to Translation Studies
23-25 November 2018
It was almost 40 years ago that Hans J. Vermeer published his ground-breaking article entitled “A Framework for a General Theory of Translation” [Ein Rahmen für eine allgemeine Translationstheorie (1978)] in which, for the first time, he outlined his functionalist approach for a wide specialised readership. After initially being the subject of considerable controversy, this approach has become a theoretical mainstay in Translation Studies. As a consequence of the canonisation of Vermeer’s work, his theoretical contribution is usually reduced to the systematic establishment of a functionalist framework. However, Vermeer himself opposed this reduction. In particular, his ‘other’ publications (in translation history, translation education, translation ethics, and the philosophy of Translation Studies) reveal his commitment to an open approach to theory development in Translation Studies. By entitling his works “attempts”, “drafts” or “sketches“, he explicitly refers to the provisional nature of scientific knowledge, and encourages thinking along with, thinking beyond, and thinking differently from his ideas.
This conference takes the upcoming 40th anniversary of Vermeer’s ‘framework’ article as an opportunity to address his call. Hence, its purpose is not to offer a mere appraisal and examination of Vermeer’s achievements. Instead, the objective is to select certain ideas that are not immediately associated with the canonised Vermeer and to use them as a vantage point for new, perhaps even surprising reflections that further his efforts to frame, draft, and sketch a theory of translation.
Instead of suggesting general topics to align the contributions with the design of the conference, we propose some direct quotes by Vermeer representing the variety and diversity of his work. These are not meant to be read merely with, but also against the grain. Hence, the focus of the conference will be placed on reading Vermeer differently; a reading that can be used for debate within the field of Translation Studies. What we are looking for are creative contributions which, starting from the perspective of one of the following quotations, deal dialogically with Vermeer’s work or specific aspects of it.