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OCCT Discussion Group - Michaelmas Term 2018
In Michaelmas Term 2018, the OCCT discussion group examined English translations of texts belonging to literatures which have often been deemed 'minor' (after Deleuze and Guattari) and/or underrepresented in mainstream (Western) academia.
These discussion groups were held at lunchtime on Mondays of even weeks at St Anne’s College and each session was facilitated by a specialist of the source language who selected and discussed poems in translation, exploring the process of the 'original' text's migration into a new linguistic, cultural and socio-political space. The facilitators started each session by offering a brief introduction to the specificities of the selected language and the poet under study. In so doing, they underlined some of the key biographical, historical, thematic, structural and metrical details which informed, and at times reconfigured, their translations of these poets as well as some of the fundamental questions (be they semantic, idiomatic, connotational and as per the absence of an equivalence) that punctuated their choices.
After these introductions, bilingual translations (from Persian, Skaldic, Modern Hebrew, and Polish to English) were shared with the participants at a roundtable. This enabled us all, after reading both versions out loud and isolating some of the features which were alluded to by the facilitators and/or extracted by the participants, to collectively interrogate, above all, the most significant aspects and dynamics that a literary translation can, could or should aim to convey and/or conceal. These conversations evolved organically, making the subsequent queries the very nerve of the discussion: one thought snowballing into another and so on and so forth.
Our facilitators this term were Rebecca Gould, Professor of Islamic World and Comparative Literature at Birmingham University, on her translations of Bijan Elahi (Persian), Heather O’Donoghue, Professor of Old Norse at Oxford University, on Skaldic verse in context, Adriana X. Jacobs, Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature at Oxford University, on her translations of Vaan Nguyen (Modern Hebrew) and Kasia Szymanska, Junior Research Fellow in Slavonic Languages at Oxford University, on the self-translated poetry of Stanisław Barańczak (Polish).
We very much look forward to welcoming participants, old and new, to the Hilary Term OCCT Discussion Group which will continue the conversation on ‘minor’ literatures focusing, amongst others, on Romanian and Arabic.