Translation Beyond Nostalgia

with Dr. Aaron Hostetter

Old English Translation Beyond the Horizon

This event will take place in person in the Writers House, 305 Cooper Street. Please adhere to all university COVID guidelines when planning to attend.

The history of the Western world is intimately bound up in translation. Translation allowed the ancients to speak to later centuries. It allowed modern nations to form their legendaries as those myths emerged from medieval texts. It gave the colonial powers institutional authority over the ideas & histories of their subjected peoples. Even now, the fantasy of neutral translation lubricates the gears of global capitalism — and is grist for many amusing misunderstandings arising out of Google Translate. 

But translation was never static, objective, valueless, or innocent. Lawrence Venuti observed that it often emanates out of cultural stereotypes — how a target culture perceives the other — and how it organizes a source text’s thoughts according to the needs of the dominant. Translation is ugly and weird. It is fragrant with desire, tangled in ideology & imperialism, complicit in innumerable acts of theft and misappropriation. 

In this talk, part presentation and part performance, Dr. Hostetter would like to base a critique of academic translation more broadly in the local — the preciously small relics of Old English poetry. Why do these translations all sound the same? What ideological work do they perform? Whose voice do they speak? How can these dusty old translations ever facilitate new thinking about these old poems, this old culture? Can they ever hope to attract new students and new, diverse voices into what might be a dying field? Can new strategies and protocols of translation be developed to negotiate the treacheries and imbalances of the field? 

Date & Time
November 3, 2021
11:20 am-12:20 pm

Event posted in Old English, scholarship, translation.