[Event] Theories and Methods for History of Translation

Theories and Methods for Translation History

University of Zurich, 15-16 April, 2019

Conference Committee:

Tatiana Crivelli Speciale (Full Professor, Romanisches Seminar, UZH)

Riccardo Raimondo (Post-Doc, University of Zurich)

Thomas Vuong (Post-Doc, University Paris 13)


Romanisches Seminar (UZH, Zurich)
Doktoratsprogramms «Romanistik: Methoden und Perspektiven» (UZH, Zurich)
Équipe de Recherche Pléiade (Université Paris13)
University of Ottawa

Call for Papers:

In the first lines of his essay, L’épreuve de l’étranger (1984), Antoine Berman states that ‘the constitution of a history of translation is the first step for a modern theory of translation’ (Berman 1984: 12). This reflexion, after thirty years, cannot but appear prophetical: the study of translations shows us new ways because it thinks and rethinks itself through the lens of other disciplines and, most particularly, because it aims to be an integral part of Literary history. In 1998, in a pioneering work, Anthony Pym sketched a series of paradigms for Translation history: not only he reflected on this discipline from an epistemological perspective, but he also presented to readers a first real ‘methodology’ (Pym 1998). The scientific imperative represented by this new research field has changed the point of view of the international academic community, and one can now consider the ensemble of translated texts not only as ‘literature’ (to which the study of translations is all too often restricted) but also as a ‘cultural heritage’ that plays a crucial role in the history of knowledge and ideas (Ballard 2013).

Several papers, research articles, PhD dissertations and other much more ambitious enterprises have been led during the last years. For instance, we can mention two broad collective projects in order to give to readers an enough representative taste of the theoretical soul of our time: two series, in English and French, the The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English series, edited by Stuart Gillespie and David Hopkins (Oxford University Press, 2006-2010), and the Histoire des traductions en langue française edited by Yves Chevrel and Jean-Yves Masson (Lagrasse, Verdier, 2012-2016).

However, despite the richness of academic outputs, the epistemological, theoretical and methodological issues seem to be too often ignored in works that aspire to carry out a history of translations. The challenges of every method in Translation studies influence radically the approaches and results of every research: it seems that the most careful authors and researchers would benefit significantly from an epistemological inquiry.

This International Congress aims to offer to academics an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on purely methodological aspects. Apart from the study of the oeuvre, text, genre or corpus, it will be necessary to pay particular attention to an overall view, that is to say to be carried away by a cartographical inspiration.

As argued by Astrid Guillaume (2014), it would be necessary to consider as starting point, obviously, source-texts and target-texts, but also to not be limited to the text, corpus, and genre: the study of translations should envisage ‘entire eras […] from the perspective of the duration and contrastivity, the history of mentalities in its chronological development, and the times that form the soul of civilisations or influence entire generations’ (Guillaume 2014: 381-382). François Rastier has already emphasized, in 2011, the necessity of an interdisciplinary vision of historiography: ‘languages are all too often limited to dictionaries, grammars, or syntaxes. It is nonetheless decisive to take into consideration, other than the system, also the corpus (working corpus, and referring corpus), the archive (then also the historical language), finally the social practices in which and through which the linguistic activities take place’ (Rastier 2011: 14).

The future histories of translations would be confronted with theoretical tools that can allow us to describe complex historical processes, as well as to look at the socio-cultural dimension. The historiography of translation should not thus delay the dialogue, even the shock, with the founding notions of historiographical methods and literary criticism. One could mention, for instance, the issue of establishing a translational canon, the identification and the study of different ‘translation traditions’ (Venuti 2005) from a diachronic perspective, or also the possibility of distinguishing ‘imaginaries of translation’ (Raimondo 2016) that allow us to model the translators’ subjectivities in the first place (‘imaginaries of translators’), and then the various conceptions and theories of translation (‘imaginaries of translation’) involved in the re-mediation and transmission of texts.

The history of translators cannot thus lightly dispense with the history of translation considered as a chronicle of the ‘culture of translation’ (Burke 2007). Finally, the history of translation opens up new innovative perspectives in relation to the very status of Translation studies, a discipline that is evolving not only toward a ‘comparative new historicism’ (Coldiron 2001: 98) but also toward ‘Comparative Translation Studies’ (Tyulenev and Zheng 2017; Van Doorsler 2017).

Due to the redoubling of sources and the difficulty in establishing corpora, the multiplication of textual references and paratextual elements, due to the several linguistic, interlinguistic and translinguistic issues that it poses, Translation studies is a privileged field for rethinking the foundations of literary and historiographical approaches. The task of the translation critic is made difficult because the history of translations is confronted not only with the alterity of the author but also with that of the translator, into a dynamic process of doubling horizons. The consciousness of every historiographer dizzily swings between the need of erudition and the necessary risk of narrative fiction, which is a dissidio involving a heuristic prudence. We thus wish not only to draw the contours of a learned history but also to consider the opportunity of rewriting a new history, another history, even maybe a ‘natural history of translation’ (Le Blanc, forthcoming 2019).

Researchers are invited to elaborate theoretical tools and methodological solutions for Translation history. A list of guidelines is proposed below, without any claim to be exhaustive:

  • epistemological reflections for Translation history;
  • new theories for Translation history;
  • historiographical methods;
  • constitution and evolution of corpora;
  • solutions for chronological division;
  • translation studies through the lens of history of knowledge and ideas;
  • dataset and “digital historiographies”
  • reading, digital mapping, and interpretation of historiographical data;
  • history of translations and transmediality;
  • history of inter-semiotic translations (cinema, television, visual arts, etc.);
  • canons of translations
  • imaginaries of translators and imaginaries of translation

Proposals should be submitted in English, Italian or French to the e-mail address below not later than the 1st of February 2019. Proposals should include an abstract (max. 300 words), un title, a short biobibliography and contacts (e-mail, telephone, etc.). Selected candidates will be informed during the first week of February. The Congress will be held at the Romanisches Seminar (University of Zurich) on the 15th and 16th of April 2019 and will conclude with a Lecture given by Charles Le Blanc (Full Professor, University of Ottawa) on the occasion of the publication of his new essay Histoire naturelle de la traduction (Paris, Les Belles Lettres, forthcoming 2019).

Proposals can be the object of a publication in a conference-proceeding volume. These texts need therefore to be previously unpublished, should pass through a further selection and will have to be sent during the months following the Congress.

Proposals can be submitted to ths.vuong@gmail.com and riccardo.raimondo@uzh.ch.

Conference website: https://imagotrad.hypotheses.org/284?fbclid=IwAR1wu3ETuJ4DEnKK8Yo87GsgA0mjo66cLIdzFArFAYxYtBasaSGAFkjlOks