MT 2016 Week 5 Updates

On Monday of Week 6 the OCCT Discussion Group will have its fortnightly meeting at St Anne’s to discuss “Allegories of Comparison: Benjamin and Hölderlin” with David Ferris, Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities, University of Colorado at Boulder. For further details, see:

In Week 5 the workshop “Salons, Circles, Majalis: The Sociable Side of Literature” took place. This workshop looked at literary gatherings from a wide variety of different cultures, both as elements in the process of creating and experiencing literature and as practices of sociability with aspects that went far beyond the literary.

OCCT's long-standing collaborators CERC-Paris III invite us to join them in a serial seminar on the topic of 'Dialogue entre traductologie et littérature comparée' at the first 'Congrès mondial de traductologie', Paris-Nanterre, 11-14 April 2017. It is the usual format of 20-30 minute presentations. Do please think of coming: it's a nice topic; there will be interesting interlocutors; it will be Paris in the spring. If you are interested, please write to Matthew Reynolds by 19th November ( Info about CERC is here. And about the congress here.


Events and CFPs

1.Tony Harrison at 80: British Academy Conference Registration

A limited number of places for public registration are now open for this landmark conference at the British Academy, co-organised with the Classics Department at King's College Lobndon, to celebrate Tony Harrison's life's work in his presence on 27th-28th April 2017. Papers will illuminate previously neglected aspects of the work of one of Britain’s greatest living poets. An international and transdisciplinary team will analyse Harrison’s more recent creativity, his continuing relationship with ancient theatre, his extensive body of poems written for film, and international perspectives. Emphasis will be laid on his representations of gender and sexuality, his commitment to the ‘public’ role of verse, his evocation of time, imperialism and the southern hemisphere, his personal heroes Heine and Hugo, his debts to material science and materialist philosophy, and his formative encounters with the metres of Dante, Byron and the English sonnet. Registration via the Academy website at only (NOT via the Convenor, Professor Edith Hall).  Speakers include:

Professor Simon Armitage, University of Oxford
Dr Josephine Balmer, Translators’ Association & Society of Authors
Dr Jacob Blakesley, University of Leeds 
Dr Rachel Bower, University of Leeds
Dr Sandie Byrne, University of Oxford
Professor Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge
Dr Giovanni Greco, La Sapienza
Lee Hall, Cross Street Films
Professor Fiona Macintosh, University of Oxford
Dr Cécile Marshall, Université Bordeaux-Montaigne
Professor Hallie Marshall, University of British Columbia
Professor Blake Morrison, Goldsmith’s London
Professor Christine Regan, Australian National University
Professor Antony Rowland, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Henry Stead, Open University
Mr Peter Symes, BBC
Professor Oliver Taplin FBA, University of Oxford


2. The Graduate Forum at the Institute of Modern Languages Research hosts its seminar session on Thursday 17th November, 2016, at 18:00-19:30 in Room 246, Senate House, London. The Forum is a great opportunity for postgraduates across languages and universities to come together and support each other's research.

Our session will feature presentations on Linguistic Genericity and Translation, by Sascha Stollhans (Manchester) and Jenny Harris (Cambridge)

Jenny Harris, University of Cambridge - 'Benjamin and the Broken Vessels: Imagining a fragmented future for translation'

At the heart of Walter Benjamin's influential essay on translation, The Task of the Translator, there is a metaphor of fragmentation:
Just as fragments of a vessel, in order to be fitted together, must correspond to each other in the tiniest details but need not resemble each other, so translation, instead of making itself resemble the meaning of the original, must lovingly, and in detail, fashion in its own language a counterpart to the original's mode of intention, in order to make both of them recognizable as fragments of a vessel, as fragments of a greater language.(Benjamin trans. Steven Rendall, TTR : traduction, terminologie, rédaction, vol. 10, n° 2, 1997, p. 161.)

This paper seeks to explore the implications of this metaphor, and by doing so tease out Benjamin's future-oriented view of translation. For Benjamin, this vase is not the object of a nostalgic longing, nor a melancholy of the picturesque. Rather it is the site of labour, specifically by translators, making parts that will fit together to form a vase in the future. I intend to trace a line in the preoccupation with fragments that passes through Jena romanticism, where Schlegel considered fragments to be supremely important, but wrote that they must be 'entirely isolated from the surrounding world'. In order to consider Benjamin's modernist reception of these ideas, I will examine the theological perspectives contained in the essay by reading this and other metaphors through the lens of the Jewish mysticism which so fascinated him. The broken vessel, indeed, relates to a story in the Kabbalah. Rabbi Isaac Luria, a mystic known as the father of modern Kabbalah, writing in the 16th century, has a story about ten vessels containing divine light at the creation of the world. On their way to earth, the vessels were broken and sparks or shards of light were scattered all over the earth. The mission of the Jewish diaspora, therefore, is to gather these sparks because when enough of them are gathered together the world will be redeemed by the coming of the Messiah. As this paper will explicate, Benjamin offers a mode of engagement with fragments of the past which is future oriented,
potentially optimistic and based in a theory of translation shot through withthe theological notion of redemption.

Sascha Stollhans (Manchester): 'Dinosaurs are extinct and Brits love tea...?' On Linguistic Genericity in English, French and German, and its Implications for Language Acquisition

Genericity is the way in which we refer to a general fact, a habit, a group, kind or collective. When we make statements such as "Dinosaurs are extinct.", "Brits love tea." (apologies for the rather shameless use of a stereotype, but linguistically speaking this is a great example!), we are not talking about any specific dinosaurs, Brits or tea, but we are rather referring to generic groups thereof.
In this paper, I will present some initial results of a cross-linguistic analysis of English, French and German generic noun phrases, focussing specifically on the selection of articles. I will focus on three sub-groups of generics (cf. Krifka et al. 1995):

(1) Kind-referring noun phrases, ie. noun phrases which do not “refer to an ‘ordinary’ individual or object, but instead […] to a kind” (Krifka et al., 1995, p. 2):

a. Dinosaurs are extinct.
b. Dinosaurier sind ausgestorben.
c. Les dinosaurs ont disparu.

(2) Characterising sentences, in which genericity is a feature of the sentence as a whole:

a. Brits love tea.
b. Briten lieben Tee.
c. Les Britanniques aiment le thé.

(3) Kind-denoting objects, which can be subsumed as kind-referring noun phrases; however, due to the different nature of the verbs with which they tend to occur (i.e. verbs from the semantic field of (dis)liking), they permit exceptions. In French, kind-denoting objects always require the definite article, whereas in English and German a generic interpretation requires the use of no article:

a. Brits love tea.
b. Briten lieben Tee.
c. Les Britanniques aiment le thé.

Genericity presents a challenge even for advanced learners of a foreign language. Despite the structural similarity, this also seems to be the case for native English speakers of German. To date, there are very few studies dealing with the second language acquisition and hardly any focusing on the third language acquisition of generics. I will conclude by presenting an idea for an experimental study design seeking to fill this gap.


KRIFKA, MANFRED, FRANCIS PELLETIER, GREGORY N. CARLSON, ALICE TER MEULEN, GODEHARD LINK, and GENNARO CHIERCHIA, 1995. Genericity: An Introduction. In: CARLSON, GREG N., and FRANCIS PELLETIER eds., The Generic Book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1-124   


3. European Researcher’s Night is an annual event that takes place across Europe, designed to showcase world-leading research. The University of Oxford will be running its first ever European Researchers’ Night next year on 29 September 2017. The aim is to highlight the amazing research taking place here at Oxford to a large and diverse audience and the event brings together all four academic divisions, our gardens, libraries and museums, the Department of Continuing Education, Research Services, the Public Affairs Directorate and our external partners, Oxford Brookes University and MRC Harwell. A six month digital engagement and communications campaign will lead up to the live event and then on the night, there will be a fun programme of live experiments, debates, bite-sized talks and other activities.

We’re keen to hear from researchers across the University who would like to be part of this event to engage the public with their research. Researchers can be at any stage in their career from DPhil to senior academics and funded from any source. The organising team would be very grateful if you could publicise this opportunity through your networks and channels to colleagues, DPhil students, researchers and academics in your area. You can find out more on the Public Engagement with Research pages of the University website. Researchers don’t need to have an activity developed already - at this stage we are looking for enthusiasm and ideas. To express interest in taking part, researchers should read the Guidelines and complete the EOI Form by noon, 5 December 2016 – both are available on the website. There will be opportunities for at least 200 researchers to take part in what will be Oxford’s largest Public Engagement with Research event to date.

If you have any queries, drop a line to Some of you may have seen this opportunity publicised through other channels, so apologies for any cross-posting.


Dr Eleni Philippou

Comparative Criticism and Translation

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