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May 13, 2016
Literary Translation Workshop with Richard Dixon, Chantal Wright and Mila Milani
5 May 2016.
(Contribution by Paolo Vacca)
(photo credit: Gioia Panzarella)
How does translation work? Is it ‘a royal robe with ample folds’ that envelops the source text, or is it just a new skin? And, by the way, how does one become a translator?
These are only a few questions of the many that animated last Thursday’s collective exploration of the mechanisms behind the practice of translation. The event was part of the on-going Italian Research Seminar Series, beautifully organized by Cecilia Muratori and Alessandra Aloisi and kindly sponsored by the HRC. Standard seminar room, round table of roughly twenty people: teachers, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students. ‘How do you become a translator?’ Do not expect a conclusive answer, just plenty of food for thought: everyone’s story is different, after all.
Richard Dixon is a trained barrister and translator of big names such as Leopardi, Eco, Calasso. Chantal Wright is an academic and a trained translator herself, working from German, French and Spanish. Mila Milani is senior teaching fellow, with a remarkable background in the publishing industry. What ultimately counts, is ‘understanding how a language works’, Dixon says. In all its nuances. The flexibility of language was largely discussed in parallel with the specific cultural aspects that inevitably feed into the patterns of the publishing market. Milani notes: the reception of certain modes of expression, of certain figures of speech are perceived differently, depending on the target publisher. Chantal Wright looks, for example, at the translation process of German children’s books in the US, and explores how two different receptive sensitivities are at play. To what extent are we losing the original text? And to what extent are we creating a new one?
Dixon looks at sounds: the voicing of the author is crucial (‘if you are lucky enough to be working with authors that are still alive’): the challenge is not negligible – how do you render someone’s voice in a different language? (You can’t dream of someone speaking a language other than the one they normally speak, can you?). Read. Translate. Read again. A translator is a ‘really good reader’, Wright suggests. Translation is just reading, after all – a very close kind of reading, of course.
In the very last session of the workshop, Richard Dixon led his audience to the backstage of his translation performance, granting a unique opportunity to peek into his current translation project of Carlo Emilio Gadda’s La Cognizione del Dolore (not exactly the easiest literary prose in Italian to understand, let alone translate) – how can you translate ‘scaricabarilistico’? Well, I am afraid non-Italian speakers will just have to look past this word for now, because I certainly do not have a clue. But, after all, these are the challenges that make translation a fascinating process, a dynamism that enables the transfer of meaning across languages, a dynamism whose structure, and framework, determine its reception. Last Thursday, translator and audience played with language together, de- and re-constructed in a productive exchange of ideas. Those who were there will perhaps leaf through the Richard Dixon’s English published translation of La Cognizione del Dolore, and then spot that crucial word, that ground-breaking phrase or that essential sound everyone discussed about to then say: ‘I was there’. Does this sound a bit too pretentious? Never underestimate the power of translation!
February 25, 2016
MITN PG/ECR Meeting #3
Space, Place and the City
The third MITN PG/ECR meeting took place on Wednesday 3 February, and a new research cluster on ‘Space, Place and the City’ was introduced. The aim of the cluster is to bring together postgraduate students with similar or complementary research interests, with a view to facilitating fruitful discussion, collaboration and intellectual innovation across the Warwick and Monash campuses. As a student-led, interdisciplinary group, the cluster intends to provide a motivating platform for MITN members to share ideas and experiences around themes such as place and non-place, translation, third space, migration and wandering, among others.
The cluster organisers, Alice Whitmore (Monash) and Ayten Alibaba (Warwick), briefly introduced the aims and possible outcomes of the cluster. Inter-campus ‘Reading Group’ events, which will take place throughout the year, will see participants convene via the international portal to discuss seminal texts related to the cluster’s central themes. The first reading group event will take place on Thursday 10 March. Also discussed was the possibility of a ‘Space, Place and the City’ symposium towards the end of 2016, presenting some of the collaborative research outcomes achieved throughout the year.
Alice and Ayten proposed three research questions to get participants thinking about potential avenues of research and collaboration.
1. What is a ‘city’? How do we define spaces within, or outside of, the cityspace?
2. What kinds of translation occur within and between cities? Does this differ from place to place (i.e. in London and in Melbourne)?
3. How are spaces constructed through human interaction? How does our physical movement through a place, or between two places, affect our understanding of space and belonging?
The plenary participants discussed these questions and showed, once again, how interactive and productive inter-campus events can be. A number of fascinating themes - including public space, cartography, urban design and architecture, accessibility, eco-criticism, migration and identity, place and belonging, performativity, and ‘nation’ studies (the trans-city?) - were explored, setting the scene for more profound and nuanced discussions to come and provoking a number of unforeseen juxtapositions (de Certeau and Google maps, urban interaction and entertainment, among many others). Stay tuned!
January 13, 2016
November 19, 2015
MITN Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers
Event #2: Workshop with Dr Felix Nobis on Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Projects
Monash-Warwick International Portal, 28 October 2015
Our latest MITN event for postgraduates and early career researchers was introduced by Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, MITN project coordinator. He outlined the objectives for the group, including the long-term aim of producing collaborative projects funded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance. He then passed us over to Dr Felix Nobis (Monash Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies) who took us through an engaging and energetic workshop that established a strong standard to aim for in our future events.
Felix outlined some principles for interdisciplinary collaboration, emphasising that when two constituent bodies of knowledge come together they should aspire to meet on neutral terms, thereby establishing a ‘third space’ in which the collaboration takes place. The priority of each researcher in these collaborations should be to identify what their discipline may uniquely contribute to the collaboration. He gave us the example of his own collaborative project with Dr Chris Thompson from the Monash Faculty of Science, called ‘Open Space Learning: Chemistry Project’, which uniquely uses theatre techniques as a means of teaching elements of scientific knowledge, as well as seeking to equip science students to use performance techniques in the dissemination of their work.
Felix took us through a number of illustrative exercises from his project to teach some basic skills in understanding chemistry, utilising the Monash-Warwick International Portal’s renowned capacity for ‘embodied’ knowledge. Many thanks to Christian Griffiths on the Monash side for controlling the portal cameras so that we could engage more actively across the virtual classroom. The exercises certainly served to keep us alert and engaged, and it was clear that interdisciplinary engagement can lead to some startling and exciting results. Our hope is that Felix’s example will offer the postgraduates and early career researchers of MITN a standard to which they can aspire when forming research clusters and initiating collaborative projects.
Unfortunately, at the end of the workshop, the Warwick contingent had to vacate their portal room, and they consequently missed out on the discussion with Felix that followed. However, those that remained on the Monash end were able to draw some valuable lessons from the event.
- Regan Maiquez asked a pertinent question about the interdisciplinary structure of Felix and Chris’s project. He noted that while it interpreted chemistry through theatre techniques, it did not seem to offer the opposite approach of examining theatre through chemistry methodologies. He suggested that certain theatre works from the early-modern, medieval and ancient periods could be potentially subject to analysis from scientific points of view. Felix acknowledged that this would be an interesting area to pursue in future collaborations.
- Jessica Trevitt observed that Felix and Chris’s project combined two very disparate disciplines and therefore posed a challenge in terms of how they may be brought together. The collaborations that MITN is hoping to foster, however, take place between more closely-related disciplines, for example History and Literature, and so the specific benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary engagement may not be as apparent to participants. She suggested that by actively articulating and sharing our research methodologies, we might find ourselves in a better position to understand and embrace our potential as a network.
- Daniela Scarcella told us about her PhD project, which represents an interdisciplinary engagement between translation studies and radio studies. She observed that Felix’s claim that interdisciplinarity produces a ‘third space’, was pertinent as she often felt that her work does not fit neatly into either of her constituent disciplines. However, rather than seeing this as a drawback, she positively embraces the idea that one’s own form of knowledge is unique and not structured by institutional categories. The group discussed the possibility of designing exercises that engage the two areas of her study, similar to those Felix has used in his project.
- Angela Tarantini echoed Daniela’s thought and mentioned some educational initiatives in primary and secondary education where the idea of the ‘discipline’ has been eliminated from the syllabus, and is replaced by an interlinked domain of ‘knowledge’. Angela suggested that this radical departure from disciplinary thinking could represent a way forward in higher education also.
We are looking forward to our next MITN postgraduate and early career researcher event (date TBC), which will take the form of participant presentations and group discussion. Its aim will be to build on our newly-formed research clusters, introducing their designated facilitators, and it will offer the opportunity to discuss possible directions for future projects. We encourage all who are interested to attend, and if you would like to propose ideas for research clusters or projects, please contact Jessica (Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Gioia (G.Panzarella@warwick.ac.uk).
August 19, 2015
MITN Post-Launch Report
On August 10, Prof. Andrew Coats, the Academic Vice-President of the Monash-Warwick Alliance officially launched the Migration, Identity, and Translation Network (MITN):
MITN’s launch was held at Translating Pain: An International Forum on Language, Text, and Suffering, hosted by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC). Translating Pain brought together a range of researchers working in genocide studies, literary studies, history, translation studies, the medical humanities, and law, to look at how pain is ‘translated’; or, how we conceptualize, transmit, and receive notions of pain. On Aug. 10, the Forum was opened by Prof. Seàn Hand, head of the School of Modern Languages and Linguistics (Warwick) with an opening keynote on ‘Translating pain: from expression to ethics in genocide testimony’. Prof. Hand considered Elaine Scarry’s critical notion of the ‘inexpressibility’ of pain through the lenses of literature about three of the major genocides of the twentieth century: the Holocaust (Elie Wiesel, La Nuit, 1958), the Cambodian genocide, (Rithy Panh, L’Elimination, 2012), and the Rwandan genocide (Jean Hatzfield, La stratégie des antilopes, 2007). Hand’s lecture dealt with how his three texts approached the ‘translation’ of the incomprehensible: how does the act of translation (either specifically in a process of linguistic articulation; or in a more broad sense of the communication of the observed and the inner self to the outside world) attempt to re/mediate between victims and perpetrators, observers and participants? Hand also discussed the role of French as a post-colonial and occasionally guiltily collaborative linguistic heritage in all three texts. Prof. Hand’s opening keynote touched on a number of themes that came to typify the Forum: the re/mediation of pain; the role of the observer in trauma-translation; the geopolitics of pain and its expressions.
Following Prof. Hand’s keynote lecture, Prof. Coats and the ACJC hosted the MITN launch. Academic Co-Directors Prof. Rita Wilson (Monash) and Loredana Polezzi (Warwick) laid out the role of MITN in facilitating international research exchange on issues relating to migration, identity, and translation. They introduced the Network team (Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, project officer; Kerryn Morey, project administrator; Jessica Trevitt, Monash PhD representative; Gioia Panzarella, Warwick PhD representative) and invited expressions of interest for collaborations.
Prof. Coats marks the launch of MITN
Prof. Polezzi introduces MITN and invites contributions
On Aug. 11, Translating Pain hosted an academic colloquium designed to explore the ‘translation of pain’. With Noah Shenker (Monash) as chair, speakers discussed pre-circulated papers and define a shared sense of this theme. Papers dealt with a range of cultural, literary, linguistic, and sociological issues on Ebola in Sierra Leone, pyschoprophylaxis in the Soviet Union, the role of the archive in the Holocaust, portrayals of the Rwandan genocide, and memoirs from World War II.
Speakers: Rosanne Kennedy (ANU), David Simon (Yale), Beatrice Trefalt (Monash), Ernst van Alphen (Leiden), Paula Michaels (Monash), and Seán Hand (Warwick).
David Simon (Yale) discusses his paper, ‘Bounded Translations of Pain in Rwanda’
On Aug. 12, a wider group convened to hear papers presented in a traditional lecture format. The conference consisted of four sessions: ‘Narrating Pain’, ‘Interpreting Pain—medical and legal scenarios’, ‘Remembering Pain’, and ‘Representing the Pain of the “Other”’. The papers engaged most closely with representations of the memory of pain—the attempt to communicate the nature of prior suffering, either in interpersonal, intergenerational, or intercultural contexts.
Barbara Spadaro (Bristol/Transnationalizing Modern Languages) delivers her paper on transcultural memories of the Libyan-Jewish diaspora.
These themes were brought together neatly by Prof. Ernst van Alphen’s closing keynote, ‘Second generation testimony: the transmission of trauma and postmemory’. Van Alphen looked at Carl Friedman’s novel Nightfather (1994) and the complex traumas of the generation of Jews born after the Holocaust. Doubly burdened with traumatised parents and the terrible weight of events they themselves never experienced, how do post-Holocaust Jews deal with the traumatic past? Engaging closely with Marianne Hirsch’s critical framework of ‘postmemory’, the lecture was also well-attended by members of Melbourne’s Jewish diaspora—themselves members of this ‘second generation’. The discussion about the nature of Holocaust ‘postmemories’, whether transmitted or constructed, made for an apt close to the proceedings.
While Translating Pain officially concluded on Aug. 12, MITN and the ACJC hosted several more events related to the Forum and the launch of the Network. On Aug. 13,MITN hosted its first postgraduate virtual exchange and masterclass. Using the International Portal (a Monash-Warwick Alliance joint project), two cohorts of doctoral researchers at Monash and Warwick met to present their research and discuss possible areas for Monash-Warwick postgraduate and postdoctoral collaboration. Our MITN doctoral fellows (Jessica Trevitt and Gioia Panzarella) have written a post-exchange report that will be posted shortly. On Aug. 14, the final event of the week was a special screening of Peter Forgac’s 1997 film, The Maelstrom: A Family Chronicle. Like many of Forgacs’ works, The MaelstromForgacs used home films shot by two families: the Peerebooms, a Dutch Jewish family, and the Seyss-Inquarts, a German family tied to the Nazis.
Following on from Translating Pain, MITN is developing a number of projects and events that further explore our thematic strands in interdisciplinary contexts, ranging from work on the ‘global’ Renaissance to issues of multiculturalism in modern cities. MITN is also supporting developing projects on intercultural communication, blended learning environments, and cultural literacy. We are very eager to hear from potential collaborators from within Monash and Warwick as well as from external organizations. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website at www.warwick.ac.uk/mitn.
August 06, 2015
In my childhood home, Italy was locked up in glass cabinets, a universe of petrified leaf pendants and miniatures in gold: a shaving basin complete with brush and shearers, an ornate hand mirror the size of my pinkie nail, a parade of plumed horses pulling a Sicilian carriage, a Murano glass zoo of animal figurines, an abundant cornucopia given as a favour at a cousin's wedding from which burst a bouquet of grapes, apples, and mandarins. I knew where the key was kept and every bout of childhood boredom led me sneaking into this portal, which was not the past to the rural suburbia that curved and sloped out from our home, but one that I sensed was ever-present behind the veil of my waking world. The back of that imposing cabinet was mirrored, and as I played inspector my doubling mimicked me.
This temporal and cultural rupture resided within these objects, within the monochromatic prints of long-gone ancestors propped before stucco palazzi on the walls, within solid silver tea sets, one each for my brother and I once we came of age. Each relic was both beacon and tombstone, portal and artefact, inheritance and heritage of an origin that I seemed closest to when flung far from it. How to locate this absent presence, to grasp this shadow-land? Even as a child couching herself sensorially within the undefinable nostalgia of these relics, the anthropological evidence of this fleeting life only enhanced the suspicion that rather than carrying the ache of a phantom limb, my unmapped body was haunted, that a palintropic identity is only reachable at a remove.
These days that cabinet is unlocked yearly, when my mother polishes the silver to keep it from bluing. And I wonder whether our language isn't like that, cordoned off in museum-display stasis. Apart from picture books and an animated film adaptation of The Ugly Duckling, all our Italian-language literature and tapes were translations of English originals. Bookshelves boasted Hemingway, Joyce, Kerouac. My mother hated Neorealism, but we had in our collection the Julia Roberts catalogue. With the discovery of Fellini came the realisation that I was missing something, like context perhaps, or cultural currency. I realised that the life of language lay in nuances, idioms, references, which meant nil translated literally. Suddenly my Italian seemed skeletal, mere sketch. There are times when I feel dual fluency to be a grandiose claim, when a request to translate a phrase I have used my whole life leaves me stumped, when I want to say that translation is impossible, that the only way to understand is to flip one's brain to its underside, when I suspect my lingual legacy to be a 1970s-era souvenir incubated within my childhood home, and that there are turns of phrase I will never understand, not even with a dictionary. What is fluency? How does one translate the hidden fissures of both selves? We need a vocabulary for the intermediary slope between two points, for permanent residence in the halfway home, for the frictive path of lifelong transit where home becomes both plural and verb.
-Amaryllis Maria Pia Gacioppo
MITN PhD Researcher (Monash)