Translation is poised to become the metaphor of our times. Things change, metamorphose, become other. But the dynamic is not random; the new is always modelled on the old, reformed in accordance with changing circumstances – a constant process of becoming that is constitutive of languages, knowledge and cultures.
This was how ‘translation’ was understood in the medieval period before representation was installed as the dominant theory of meaning in the Western world. It was an embodied performative concept, which was vertical as well as horizontal in that it involved change over time.
In Middle English, flowers, bishops, captured peoples, and the relics of saints are all translat from garden to garden, see to see, kingdom to kingdom, shrine to shrine; the soul is translat to God in mystical rapture or at death; and learning, culture, political power, and divine covenant are translat from east to west, pagan to Christian, Old to New Testament, in various manifestations of ‘translatio studii et imperii’, the translation of learning and empire (Watson 2008:76).
Today, translation is again being used in senses that take it far beyond the merely textual. In philosophy, it is ‘understanding, interpretation and hermeneutics’; in linguistics it is ‘meaning, conceptualization, construal and metaphor’; in anthropology ‘an encounter with others and oneself’ (Blumczynski 2016: ix). In biology, genes are translated into cells and bodies, while in medicine, scientific findings are translated into enhanced health and well-being. For Douglas Robinson (2017: x), translationality is ‘transformationality: the constant emergingness of everything through embodied, situated, performative interactions’ [my emphasis].
This strand seeks to explore the transformative processes at work within the Centre’s specific domains of interest. It looks not only at how texts metamorphose in different linguistic, cultural and semiotic settings, but also at how concepts, models and codes migrate and evolve over time.
It therefore contemplates a range of perspectives from the theoretical, descriptive and critical to the practical and pedagogical. Initiatives proposed under its auspices include not only research into various forms of translational behavior, but also practical training sessions designed to complement the courses currently offered on our degree programmes.
Blumczynski, Piotr (2016) Ubiquitous Translation. London and New York: Routledge.
Robinson, Douglas (2017) Translationality: Essays in the Translational-Medical Humanities. London and New York: Routledge
Watson, Nicholas (2008) ‘Theories of Translation’. In the Oxford History of Literary Translation into English, Vol. 1. To 1550. R Ellis (ed.) Oxford University Press. 73-90.
International interdisciplinary conference: “A host of tongues…”: Multilingualism, lingua franca and translation in the Early Modern period (co-hosted with CHAM and CEL). 13th to 15th December 2018. https://ahostoftongues.wordpress.com/