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Victorian Cultures of Translation

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Organizer: Yopie Prins

Co-Organizer: Stefano Evangelista

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The Victorians translated more than in any previous period in British literary history; their highly eclectic canon ranged from (re)translations of European and non-European classics to modern literatures translated from diverse languages and genres. As London became a publishing center and hub for foreign writers looking to establish international connections, new trends in Victorian translation changed the exportation of British literatures abroad as well as the importation of foreign literatures into Britain.
This seminar proposes to examine the internationalisation of English literary culture in the Victorian period by focusing on the period’s cultures of translation. We want to explore not only what and how the Victorians translated, but what was at stake, aesthetically and politically, in their acts of translation. What were the cultural politics of Victorian translation? What stylistic challenges and opportunities did Victorian translators face? How did translation shape domestic literary taste? How did imperial encounters affect patterns and practices of translation?  
We have selected 12 papers, focusing both on the aesthetics and the complex material culture of Victorian translation, and examining how translations were embedded in the national and international markets of books and periodicals. The papers are organized into three seminars that highlight key areas of innovation within Victorian cultures of translation.  Seminar 1 ("Philology and the Poetics of Translation" with papers by Martin, Hickey, Van Dam, and Drury) explores how the rise of philology revolutionized the translation of prosody and poetic form. Seminar 2 ("Translating Beyond Europe" with papers by Bubb, Wage, Jabbari, Lecourt) considers how the experience of Empire and global trade created a literary culture of translation that was increasingly keen to look beyond Europe, especially through the 'invention' of non-European classics. Seminar 3 ("Fin-de-siecle Translations" with papers by Herold, Vadillo, Dessy, Coste) demonstrates how various internationalist experiments of the fin de siècle triggered a moment of acceleration in international literary relations.
Across the three seminars, contributors cover a broad linguistic and geographical range, which spans four continents and goes from French, German and Norwegian to Arabic, Cherokee, Chinese, Persian, Sanskrit and Swahili. Analyzing nineteenth-century theories and practices of translation that differ from more recent critical paradigms, the papers exemplify new work in critical translation studies. Discussion will be moderated by Yopie Prins and Stefano Evangelista, to highlight the importance of a comparative approach to these histories of translation. 

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