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Translation and Feeling

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Organizer: Marie Ostby

Co-Organizer: Anna Ziajka Stanton

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How does it feel to translate a text from its native language into another that is foreign to it, or to translate words composed by someone else into one’s own idiom? Arthur Sze describes the translator’s feeling as one of “disorientation, the losing of one’s bearings.” Solmaz Sharif, in her poem “Into English,” writes: “It is very / private / to be in another's / syntax.” The subjects of this seminar are the concomitant feelings of distance and intimacy that permeate the task of the translator. It is surely no accident that there are so many vivid bodily metaphors for translation, as with Elina Katrin’s series of images in her poem “On the Other End of Translation”: “I can’t scrape off the hardened glue / of Arabic from the tip of my tongue, / can’t pull out the rope of right words / stuck down my throat.” Does translating invoke feelings of connection and empathy; harmony and fulfillment; inadequacy and shame; loneliness and exile; anger and frustration; or all of the above? Finally, has the increasing global dominance of machine translation altered the emotional life of the human translator? “The more invasive the role of AI in our lives, the more we need to understand both what makes human action different from machines, and how machines can become more sophisticated in imitating humans,” Kaisa Koskinen writes in Translation and Affect (2020). What is at stake in this potential evacuation of human affect from the translation process?

Possible paper topics might include:

The role of the translator’s body in the practice of translating, or of the reader’s body in reading translated texts.
Sense-based or sensory translation.
Somatic translation (as theorized, e.g., by Robinson 1991).
The translator memoir as “a relatively new publishing phenomenon” in the Euro-American literary field (Polizzotti 2018), including papers examining specific work(s) in this genre.
Ethical considerations related to thinking of translation as a process informed by feeling, affect, or embodiment. 
Translations that activate embodied or sensory modes of practice to negotiate differences in time, space, culture, or language separating the source text from its target audience.
Recent developments in the theory and/or practice of translation that call for rethinking the involvement of the translator’s feelings in the translation act, including the rise of machine translation. 

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