Prismatic Translation

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The Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation annual conference, Prismatic Translation, is on the 1-3 October. Click here to register. Translation is prismatic when it produces multiple variants. This can happen in the process of a single translational act, or when a text is translated into different languages, or when it is translated into the same language several times. Our conference will explore all these aspects of the prism of translation in order to assess their origins, their effects and their potential.

Questions to be considered include: what do translation prisms show us about the nature of the texts that are being translated? Can they illuminate the differences between script systems (Roman, Chinese, Arabic etc)? Is there virtue in translation practices that display variants instead of choosing between them? Are such practices more at home in new digital media than in the old technology of the book? Is the culture of translation shifting, with new ventures showing interest in prismatic translation? Is the discovery of variants a kind of creativity? What should we make of the disto rting effects of the prism (mistranslation, erasure, collage, pseudotranslation)? Is there political potential in the way prisms can be harnessed to invert, deviate, split apart? Is it problematic that global translation is dominated by a few major languages? Can machines contribute to a prismatic translation culture, or will they blight it? Could translation prisms be a resource for cross-linguistic, cross-scriptal, cross-cultural study at the micro level?’

Our conference brings together scholars, theorists, translators, writers and artists to explore these questions.

With keynote presentations from Emily Apter (NYU), Philip Terry (Essex), John Cayley (Brown) and Rocío Baños Piñero (UCL).


Conference Programme (provisional):

1 Oct

9:00-9:15 Coffee and registration

9:20-9:30 Welcome (Matthew Reynolds)

9:30-10:30 Keynote 1: Rocío Banos-Pineiro: The kaleidoscopic nature of Audiovisual Translation: a multiplicity of modalities, landscapes and challenges (chair: Phillip Rothwell)

10:30-10:45 coffee break

10:45-12:15 Panel 1 (3 papers) Resistances (chair: Ben Morgan)

De-pathologizing Perversion: Proust’s Sexual Discourses and Their Chinese Translations, Shuangyi Li

Translating Occupied Jerusalem: A Palestinian-Israeli Struggle for Power and Legitimacy, Ahmad Ayyad

Refracting and Recomposing Cultures, Jean Anderson

12:15-1:30pm lunch

1:30-3pm Panel 2 (3 papers) Pseudo-writing and refraction. (chair: Matthew Reynolds)

Chantal Wright: The translational prism of commentary. Antoine Berman’s L’Âge de la Traduction in English.

‘Less than Paper-Thin’: See-through Translation in Harry Mathews’s Armenian Papers, Dennis Duncan

Kasia Szymanska: Literary Metatranslations: The Ethics of Prismatic Translation

3-3:15pm coffee break

3:15-4:45pm Panel 3 (3 papers) The Translation Machine (chair: Adriana X. Jacobs)

The Poet and the Machine. Machine Translation in Hsia Yü’s Pink Noise, Cosima Bruno

Translation Arrays, Tom Cheesman

Emily Rose: Translating Intersexuality: Producing Multiple Readings with One Text/Body

4:45-5pm Coffee break

5-6:30pm Artist’s/Writer’s talk: Kilgallon and Eran Hadas (respondent: Adriana X. Jacobs)


2 Oct

9:30-10:30 Keynote 2: John Cayley: Mirroring Events at the Sense Horizon: translation over time (chair: tbc)

10:30-10:45 coffee break

10:45-12:45 Panel 4 (4 papers) Shifting Contexts (chair: Kasia Szymanska)

Translation or re-writing? Prismatic versions in Isabel del Río’s Cero negativo/ Zero Negative, Ellen Jones

The Writer’s Archive: A Source for Prismatic Translation, Cecilia Rossi

Tales out of India: Jean-Antoine Dubois’s Translations of Indian Collections of Stories, Claudine le Blanc

Five dramatists, a copyist and a censor in search of a Translation: Sir Thomas More and its Brazilian translation, Régis Augustus Bars Closel

12:45-2pm lunch

2-3:30pm Panel 5 German panel on translation of the Bible (chair: tbc)

Henrike Laehnemann and Howard Jones

3:30-3:45pm Coffee break

3:45-5:15pm Panel 6 Fragments (chair: tbc)

“T pour Traduction(s) – Translating Nonsense Alphabets into French”, Audrey Coussy (Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3)

The Schizophrenic Prism: Louis Wolfson’s Translation System, Alexandra Lukes

Coleridge diffracted, Patrick Hersant

5:15-5:30pm coffee break

5:30-6:30pm Writer’s talk: Philip Terry: Oulipo and the prisms of translation (respondent: Matthew Reynolds)

7pm Conference dinner at St Anne’s College


3 Oct

9:15-10:15 Keynote 3: Emily Apter: The Prism-House of Language:  Translational Collective or Corporate Monolingualism? (chair: Ben Morgan)

10:15-10:30 coffee break

10:30-11:55 Panel 7 (3 papers) Script and Image (chair: Xiaofan Amy Li)

Ancient Egyptian visual literariness between the unspoken and the untranslatable, Hany Rashwan

Transnational Scriptworlds, Sowon Park

A Lingo-visual Translation of the Poetry of Shafii Kadkani, Pari Azarm Motamedi

12:00-12:30pm Roundtable and conclusion



Please note that you need to book your accommodation separately. In order to book a room at St Anne's College please follow this link and use the promotional code COMP21608. The charge is £75.00 B&B per room per night.

Further accommodation is available through University Rooms Oxford.


Comparative Criticism and Translation

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Audience: Open to all