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Translations in Transnational Contexts


Translations in Transnational Contexts:

Ideas, Methods and Approaches

8 May 2013

Venue: The Graduate Training Room (ground floor), Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, OX2 6GG.

The organisers acknowledge with gratitude the material and logistical support of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities


2.15-2.30         Welcome and Introduction by Dr. Prof. David Hook (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) and Dr. Graciela Iglesias Rogers (St Peter’s College and Faculty of History)

2.30-3.10         Project Descriptions I: European Vernaculars

Chair: Graciela Iglesias Rogers

Erica Charters (Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine and Faculty of History): Translating Franco-British Military Medicine in the Eighteenth Century

Stewart  McCain (Worcester College, Faculty of History): Francization and the Politics of Translation under Napoleon

Tom Kuhn (St. Hugh’s College, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages): writingbrecht: Brecht into English

Katarzyna Szymanska (St. Hugh’s College, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages): Literary Metatranslations: Translation as Literary Device

3.10-3.25         Questions & Discussion

3.25-3.55         Project Descriptions II: Non-European Vernaculars and Non-Literary Approaches

Chair: David Hook

Laurie Allen (St. Catherine’s College, Faculty of History):  Responses of Indigenous People to the Missionaries’ Message in Nineteenth-century Australia (Cape Bedford, North Queensland)

Mallica Kumbera (Ashmolean Museum): Translation and Transcultural Architecture in Goa: Religion, Identity and Practice

Danica Salazar (Hertford College, Faculty of English): Nínay: Costumbres filipinas and the Hispanic Legacy in Philippine language and literature

3.55-4.10         Questions & Discussion

4.10-4.30         Break & Refreshments

4.30-5.00         Project Descriptions III: Literary Approaches

Chair: Jonathan Thacker (for Dr Thacker’s paper: David Hook)

Qian Liu (Queen’s College, Institute of Chinese Studies): Intertextual Transculturation as a Means of Emotional Expression

Helen Slaney (St. Hilda’s College, Faculty of Classics): Classical Reception and Comparative Literature

Jonathan Thacker (Merton College, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages): The Translation of Spanish Golden Age Drama into English

5.00-5.15         Questions & Discussion

5.15-5.30         Discussion of Future Network Arrangements and Events

5.30                 Close

Participants will be invited to a drinks reception at St. Peter´s College, 6.00-7.15 pm, to celebrate the publication of Dr, Graciela Iglesias Rogers´s book, British Liberators in the Age of Napoleon: volunteering under the Spanish flag in the Peninsular War (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).


For more information, please contact: Professor David Hook ( and/or Dr. Graciela Iglesias Rogers (




Colloquium – Abstracts

Abstracts are arranged in alphabetical order of speakers’ names. For the actual order of presentation at the Colloquium please see the programme. The Abstracts for two topics (Prof. Hook, Dr Sinha) are included here, but these two papers have been held over to be given at a subsequent Network event.


Mr Laurie Allen,

MPhil Candidate in Modern British and European History

St. Catherine’s College, Faculty of History


Responses of Indigenous People to the Missionaries’ Message in Nineteenth-century Australia (Cape Bedford, North Queensland)

The focus of my research is the power relationships operating within nineteenth-century missions, and one aspect of this is an attempt to discern the responses of the indigenous people to the missionaries’ authority and message. Such research is important in that it seeks to counter the large volume of written material left behind by the missionaries with some indigenous “voices” from the same period. The approach adopted has been to focus on one mission, Cape Bedford in North Queensland, Australia, and to perform a close reading of letters written by some of its early converts, which were intended to be read by supporters of the mission in Europe. Since the mission was founded by Lutherans these letters are always written in German, but sometimes take the form of a word by word translation of the local vernacular – known as GuuguYimithirr. A reading of the German text indicates that at least one of the indigenous converts did resist some of the missionary discourse in her letters, but a direct translation of the GuuguYimithirr into English might reveal more. This is an on-going project.


Dr Erica Charters,

Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine and Faculty of History


Translating Franco-British Military Medicine in the Eighteenth Century

My research examines the role of disease in French colonial warfare during the Seven Years’ War (1756-63).  Framed within a comparative perspective of British military operations, this project will provide an overview of how these two rival global powers adapted to new environments, both physical and cultural, and the factors that explain French failures and British success. 

With disease killing far more troops than combat, particularly in colonial locations, preventing disease through the application of local knowledge and resources was a crucial part of wartime strategy.  Building on recent studies that show the intertwined development of Franco-British rivalry and national identities in the eighteenth century, part of my study examines how knowledge was shared, even in times of war.  By detailing translations of eighteenth-century military medical writings in Britain and France, I examine the nature of Franco-British military medicine as a cosmopolitan network of print.  Not only were most major British military medical texts translated into French shortly after their initial publication, but these translations were conducted with the assistance and approval of British authors, retaining their literal accuracy.  Although written in order to help win wars against a national rival, eighteenth-century military medical translations demonstrate that French and British practitioners worked within a networked community. Yet contemporaries were also aware of national differences: in their reviews and in their translations, French writers used British naval success as a spur to improve French medicine, arguing that the British provided a useful model for reform. Rather than considering warfare as an interruption of Enlightenment progress – an obstacle that disrupted the exchange of knowledge – this account demonstrates that war was a theatre of inter-European knowledge transfer, that national rivalries encouraged the Enlightenment programme, and that the experience of colonial warfare shaped the development of European scientific medicine.   



 *Prof. David Hook

Faculty Research Fellow

Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages


Textual Criticism and the History of the Book as Approaches to the Translations of the Constitution of Cádiz (1812) in Italy

The Constitución política de la monarquía española promulgated at Cádiz in March 1812 rapidly became a subject of interest across Europe and beyond, and was soon translated into English (1813), Italian (1813, 1814), French (1814), German (1819, 1820), and Portuguese.  Its limitations on the powers of the monarch and its advances in individual political representation and rights quickly made it a symbol of aspirations towards liberty outside Spain, and this was notably the case in Italy. Recent work on the Italian versions of the Constitution, printed in at least twelve different editions between 1813 and 1821, has demonstrated that there were at least five separate, independent translations (Hook, Romance Studies, 31 (2013), 12-25). In establishing the relationships among these texts, techniques familiar in the fields of textual criticism, bibliography, and book history have been an essential preliminary to further study of the translations as such. Continuing work will complete the initial process of identifying the texts of the many successive editions and tracing their relationship with those already known, and will seek where possible to relate the printed editions to the political contexts of their production in the various Italian-speaking territories in which they were published, as well as studying the circumstances in which each separate translation was created (in those instances in which translators identify themselves or can be identified from other sources: most of the translations are anonymous).  Finally the modus operandi and usus vertendi of the translator or translators in each case will be examined. At present the known editions represent three basic textual categories: independent translation, verbatim reprint of an existing translation, and minimally-modified reprint of an existing translation, this last having been identified in two 1821 editions (of Palermo and London [?]) since my article appeared.



Dr Tom Kuhn

Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages

Fellow of St Hugh’s College, Oxford


 writingbrecht:  Brecht into English

writingbrecht is an international research and translation project devoted to extending and developing the corpus of Brecht’s works in English, led by Tom Kuhn. It incorporates a major AHRC-funded project, ‘Brecht into English’, which proposes a parallel critical appraisal of the transmission of Brecht’s writings and ideas and a historical assessment of the reception of Brecht in the English-speaking world. The aspiration is to advance our understanding of the ways in which not just Brecht, but foreign literatures in general and across the full range of genres, negotiate cultural difference. There will be major research publications, and the project will attract the triennial conference of the International Brecht Society to Oxford in 2016. Significant additions to the corpus of Brecht’s writings in English will include: two volumes of theatre theoretical writings, a volume of the adaptations for the Berliner Ensemble, a volume of dramatic fragments, and a major new edition of the Poems. Other projects under consideration include translations of Brecht’s Caesar novel and of his collection of stories, aesthetic reflections and aphorisms, Me-Ti. There will also be a cultural programme of workshops, performances and recitals.  The team led by Tom Kuhn (who is General Editor of the ‘Methuen Drama’ Brecht list since 1996 –  some 40 titles, now published by Bloomsbury) includes Steve Giles (Nottingham), Marc Silberman (Madison, Wisconsin), David Constantine (Oxford), and David Barnett (Sussex).



Dr Mallica Kumbera Landrus

Andrew W. Mellon Teaching Curator

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford


Translation and Transcultural Architecture in Goa: Religion, Identity and Practice

In Goa the shifting class, caste, cultural boundaries, political and cultural movements, gave shape to perhaps the most distinct space in India’s architectural history. Visual culture shaped a European authority and an indigenous population whose ideas and values were embodied by architecture in Goa. One hundred and fifteen churches were built under the Portuguese administration in Goa between 1510 and 1961. This number does not include the vast number of chapels or crosses that also dot the Goan landscape. Although no records regarding early reception of European-style churches in Goa have thus far been uncovered, the unique style of temples in the area suggests a trans-cultural identity. My research explores European influences that were inducted into Hindu temple architecture from the late seventeenth century onwards: first on the outskirts of Portuguese-controlled Goa, and later in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries within Portuguese borders. The Goan temples use European and in some cases Islamic architectural elements to create hybrid structures that express regional identity, social politics, and divergent theologies of the sacred. The Hindu decision to employ these Western architectural elements in an Indian fashion is not unique to Goa, however in Goa we find the first of such trans-cultural Hindu temples in the colonial period. Emptied of their former western meaning, the features are used to fashion a new style in temple building.


Ms Qian LIU

DPhil candidate

Institute for Chinese Studies, University of Oxford.

The Queen’s College, Oxford


Intertextual Transculturation as a Means of Emotional Expression

In this paper, I shall undertake to illustrate how Chinese writers initiated new ways of emotional expression by inserting foreign, mainly Western-language literatures into their creations. This kind of literary production has been termed “intertextual transculturation”, referring to the quotation or adaptation of certain contents from other pre-existing texts. Sometimes writers of one culture would insert texts produced by writers of other cultures into their works, so intertextual transculturation can be inter-cultural or interlingual. At other times, writers insert texts from literary precedents of their own culture. In both cases, the pre-existing texts are transformed and are given a new life in the new text they constitute. Unlike translation, intertextual transculturation of foreign texts is not a direct reworking of the foreign texts, though it does alter them in some instances. In this paper, I shall examine these two kinds of intertextual transculturations that appeared in the literary texts of early Republican China, during the process of which the inflow of foreign texts infuses into indigenous literature new modes of expressions. My major focus lies in the expression of human emotions such as love, sorrow, longing or admiration. I will discuss the Chinese writer-translator Su Manshu’s combination of traditional lyricism with Western romantic poetry to procure a unique kind of emotive tone for his novellas.


Stewart McCain

Faculty of History

Worcester College, Oxford



 Francization and the Politics of Translation under Napoleon

Under Napoleon, the French state confronted an unprecedented degree of linguistic diversity.  As the borders of the French state expanded, the large non-Francophone populations of the newly annexed territory joined the substantial proportion of the population of ‘old’ France who spoke a different language as their mother tongue. The state thus found itself caught between conflicting impulses, for while there was a real desire to spread the French language across the extent of the empire, the demands of administering these populations made a monolingual state impractical. Translation was, therefore, an inescapable feature of the workings of the Napoleonic state. However, this translation came in a variety of different forms, from the officially sanctioned and regulated translation of the printed word through to the informal oral translations that took place as administrators went about their business. These diverse translation practices also engendered divergent responses, from officials of state anxious about the threat of mistranslation to linguistic minorities eager to have their language fulfil some kind of official role.  The examination of these different translation practices, of the geographies of their use within the empire and of the responses they generated, can reveal important divergences and similarities in the sociolinguistic context of the various linguistic minorities of the French Empire and the way they related to the state.  Understanding the role of translation under Napoleon might, therefore, illuminate debates both about the character of the Napoleonic empire and language policy more generally.


Dr Danica Salazar

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in English Language Lexicography

Faculty of English Language and Literature

Hertford College, Oxford


 Nínay: Costumbres filipinas and the Hispanic legacy in Philippine language and literature

Despite three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, the Spanish language never gained a permanent foothold throughout the islands (De la Peña, 2000). The imposition of English as a medium of public instruction in the early 1900s following the American takeover of the archipelago, and later, the establishment of Tagalog-based Filipino as a national lingua franca, contributed to the rapid decline of Spanish in the Philippines. However, vestiges of this former colonial language remain in Philippine culture, mainly in the large number of Hispanic loanwords in Philippine indigenous languages, and in the significant body of Filipino-Hispanic literature produced by Filipino authors during the Spanish colonial period and the first few decades of American colonization.

Several milestones in Philippine literature were reached using Spanish as a vehicle of expression, and this talk will focus on one of these landmark works: Pedro Paterno’s Nínay: Costumbres filipinas (1885), the first Filipino novel. Written in Spain and influenced by Spanish costumbrismo literature of the period, Nínay paints a vibrant, vivid portrait of the everyday life, manners, customs and environment of the Filipinos of the late 1800s. Nínay, an exploration of Philippine indigenous customs in novel form, written in Europe in a European language, can be seen as an example of transnational literature (Lifshey, 2008), and its study and translation can contribute to our understanding of how Filipino identity was shaped during the early years of the nation. It is also a rich resource for the study of the reciprocal influence between Spanish and the languages of the Philippines, including Philippine English.


De la Peña, W. (2000). The Spanish-English Language “War”. Linguae et Litterae, IV-V: 6-28.

Lifshey, A. (2008). The First Asian Novel In Spanish: Potential Readings of Pedro Paterno’s ‘Nínay’. Presentation at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention, San Francisco, USA.

Paterno, P. (1895).Nínay: Costumbres filipinas. Madrid: Imprenta de Fortanet.


 Dr. Mishka Sinha

Research Associate, Centre of South Asian Studies,

University of Cambridge

Fellow-Elect, Program Zukunftsphilologie,

Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin

The social life of the Upaniṣads: re-transmissions and recontextualisations

In the broadest sense my research interests lie in in the transnational transmission, translation and transformation of texts and ideas. My doctoral dissertation investigated the history of Sanskrit as a field of study, an intellectual and culturalresource and a rich, mutable and multiparous idea in Britain and America, from 1832-1939. My article on the Bhagavad-Gita in translation (Modern Intellectual History, August 2010), analysed its interpretation, transmission and reception from 1785 –1945, arguing that the cultural meanings and contextual connotations of the work were transformed through multiple interpretations in the late-nineteenth-century.

My present project, “The social life of the Upaniṣads: re-transmissions and recontextualisations”, explores the translation and interpretation of the principal Upanishads, in the varied contexts wherein these texts were transmitted between 1800 and 1939, and the metamorphoses of their status and significance as a result of being contingently adapted by translators and interpreters in order to access and engage with new cultural milieux – a process that translation theorists have called localisation. Through these translations the Upanishads acquired several layers of meaning accreted over previous interpretations – Edward Said has called this a ‘text-ile.’ This project, which is still at a nascent stage, explores the possibilities of limning a language, a theoretical framework for, and a means of analysing, the process whereby texts are translated and received into new contexts, wherein issues of power – such as colonial hegemony – influence, or even determine, aspects of transmission, but do not exhaust the possible ways of understanding encounter, exchange, transformation.



Dr Helen Slaney

Randall MacIver JRF in Classics

St Hilda’s College, Oxford


Classical Reception and Comparative Literature

Over the past decade, classicists have become increasingly interested in the afterlife – that is, the reception – of ancient texts, investigating not only how classical sources have evolved through modern reworkings, but also the ideological motives behind particular receptions. Translation and adaptation, previously regarded as unproblematic access points to a more or less stable body of “original” literature, are now coming under scrutiny as active participants in constructing the texts involved. This has provoked something of an identity crisis within the discipline: if the meaning of a Greek or Latin text is determined not at the point of its production, but at its point(s) of reception – and if, moreover, this text is not an inert object but the result of ongoing dialogic encounters – then what is the critical standpoint that should be adopted when reading, say, Ovid’s Metamorphoses?

Classicists are also becoming more self-conscious about our own indebtedness to former translations; even having “learned” an ancient language, we remain reliant nevertheless on the apparatus of transmission which brought us to the point of interpretation. Comparative literature has provided some useful strategies for dealing with texts that cross linguistic, cultural, and temporal borders, but as I will outline in this paper, the methodological fit is still imperfect in various respects. I hope to highlight here some of the theoretical and practical issues facing classical reception, and propose some cross-disciplinary solutions.



Katarzyna Szymanska

DPhil candidate

Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages

St Hugh’s College, Oxford


Literary Metatranslations: Translation as Literary Device

Although some critics put emphasis on the way translations are created in order to either represent (substitution) or retransform (contiguity) the source text, this awareness of two possible modalities in the process of translation does not reflect the actual literary strategies in the readership. James Holmes (1970) emphasised the double purpose of literary translation: although it belongs to derivative literature, it is perceived in the target culture as primary literature. According to Matthew Reynolds (2012), this is still true on the level of the readership as literary translations have been always made and used in culture as independent literary utterances andsubstitutes for their originals.

The concept of literary ‘metatranslation’ I would like to explain seems to break through the aforementioned prevailing conventions of reading. The term itself (Etkind 1991, Cetera 2004, Hermans 2007) refers here to certain translation strategies which draw the reader’s attention to the process and genre specificity of literary translation and, subsequently, to the mediation of the translator him/herself. In my talk, I will describe some examples of poetry in translation across a few languages: Douglas Hofstadter’s Le ton beau de Marot (French-English), Stanislaw Baranczak’sPurple Cow (English-Polish) or All that Brecht by four Polish translators (German-Polish). All those books show how translation can go beyond the mode of substitutional and one-to-one relation to the original and how the process of translation becomes literary device.



Dr Jonathan Thacker

Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages

Fellow in Spanish, Merton College, Oxford


 The Translation of Spanish Golden Age Drama into English.

My interest lies principally in the translation of Spanish Golden Age (late 16th- and 17th-century) drama into English. The rendering of this broadly tragicomic, polymetric verse drama into other languages presents a series of singular problems for the translator. These problems remain underexplored in Hispanic scholarship and translation studies, in which drama translation is anyway still the poor relation. The kinds of issues I am interested in exploring further in my research are the history of the translation of Spanish theatre into English, the particular adaptations that tend to be made when Golden Age drama is re-written for the English-speaking stage, the critical tendency to turn Spanish classical theatre into a Shakespearean product, and the tendency to ‘dumb down’.

A consideration of the transnational context opens up several further possibilities which have been on the periphery of my research to date but which are worth exploring: the comparison of translations of these theatre texts into French, and indeed into American English; the ways in which sources common to European culture are ‘translated’ into the drama of different countries; the re-presentation of Golden Age drama in English in Spain, particularly given the weaker performance tradition there; and the apparent need for this drama to be ‘validated’ in English before being accepted into the European canon.