SPECIALIST SEMINAR: ‘Translation and Jewish texts in different languages’, 6/12/2012

The aim of the workshop is to explore the methods we use in studying and translating texts (by Jews, for Jews, about Jews, etc.) in various languages, and to be challenged by the ways in which scholars in Humanities disciplines other than our own approach to the study of texts and the art of translation. ‘Translation’ – defined here as broadly as possible – plays an important, but often hidden, role in our scholarship, and the goal of this workshop is to foreground its effects and consequences both in the texts that we study and in the methods that we employ. In other words, we are aiming in this workshop to foreground the effects of translation in the different disciplines we work in.

 ‘Jewish texts’ is widely conceived. Texts may be written by Jews as Jews, by Jews with Jews as an intended audience, in ‘Jewish languages’ and translated into ‘non-Jewish languages’, texts may be about Jews but not necessarily addressed to Jews, or texts may concern ‘Jewish things’ or be seen to concern Jewish matters, etc.

We split into the following discussion groups:

Translation and identity

This group addresses translation in the widest sense, ranging from the task and study of the action of translating from one language to another, to cultural exchanges which require the translation of concepts and ideas from one context to another in various social, textual and literary situations.

 Genre, type of text

This group looks at the effects of text-type on translation and vice versa, asking whether there are shifts in textual genre and function in concrete translation situations: for example in the demands of translating literary, autobiographical, religious or other texts from one language and cultural or historical context to another, or in multilingual communication situations.

Reception of translations

Questions pertinent to this group concern the translation and retranslation of texts across different times and in different locations. What does it mean to translate or retranslate a text? How does a translation affect the reception of a text? What happens when one compares translations made in different contexts and at different times? How does this affect the reading of the original text in its language of origin?

This is a workshop primarily on methods. This does not mean that the content of the texts you are working with does not matter, but that what we want to share and reflect on are the various ways of approaching texts, languages, and translation. The workshop intends to bring together scholars of various disciplines who work on very different texts written across the ages. We are asking participants to teach and learn, and thereby critically reflect themselves, on the ways in which we approach our subjects. This means a conscious effort to articulate and think about the methods we take for granted in our respective disciplines and elucidate them for others. Thereby we aim to foster critical thought about our own working practices and fruitful discussion which challenges disciplinary assumptions.


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