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Organizer: Cord-Heinrich Plinke

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The guiding idea of this panel is the notion of the eccentric, something that is ex-centric, meaning off-center, deviating from a norm. Drawing on Derrida’s notions of both language and naming, how can what is non-normative ––for instance what is queer or what is minor–– be expressed in language, if language needs to be comprehended by others? How can a writer put eccentric poetics and politics into language, and subsequently, how can a translator make them legible in another language?


A suggested starting point for inquiries is what Emily Apter calls the “Untranslatable,” words that resist comparatism and substitution. How can we think about the translation of words that are marked by a lack of specificity, those that are ambiguous, open (cf. Eco), or abstract in their meaning and that therefore invite a multiplicity of simultaneous interpretations, for instance when a source text engages in unexpected or playful ways with the relationship between signifier and signified?


A suggested line of thinking lies between poetic opacity and a kaleidoscopic multiplicity of meaning: When a word is ambiguous or enigmatic in a source language, when it carries several meanings at once, with associations that branch off and that invite associations to sprout like weeds, a strain arises in the task of the translator: To choose one meaning over another, so as to trim the weaker growths and create a strong branch for the translation to rest upon, or to remain in the weeds and find words in a target language that are similarly ambiguous. A potential question to consider here is where one might locate readerly affects, sentimentality, and agency in the eccentric.


This panel seeks to bring together current debates in translation studies with scholars working on minor literature, queer thought, and affect studies. Invited are examples of ex-centric, non-normative texts and/or translations, readings that see things in a text that other readings do not, and that reflect upon this difference between eccentric and canonical.

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