Conferência n.º 2

Translators as makers of history, translators made by history*

Judith Woodsworth
Universidade de Concordia (Canadá)

3ª feira 24/09, 8:30

Coordenadora: Luana Ferreira de Freitas

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Telling the story of translators through history, along with the cultural, social and political structures that define them, has yielded compelling and textured insights into their impact and contributions. Historical research has both exploded and blossomed. And yet there are still significant gaps to be filled through in-depth studies of certain geographic regions, particular periods of time, or specific kinds of translational practice.
This paper will fill one of those gaps by presenting a unique case study – that of writer Gertrude Stein – and will discuss the extent to which she has shaped or been shaped by history. While her translation production is small in relation to her voluminous body of writing, the act of translation is of interest in the context of the historic times she lived through.
Whether they chose the profession or were chosen by it, translators and interpreters have witnessed significant events, participated in the making of history and affected the course of history to varying degrees. Their social, cultural and geographic identities have allowed them to cross borders, negotiate across and in between cultures, and contribute to scientific, economic and other types of exchange.

Some translators have had a definitive impact: translators of the Bible such as Luther and Tyndale were key players in the Reformation, which then led to significant upheaval. Other translators or interpreters have served as witnesses to major events in history, as intermediaries and vital go-betweens: for example, La Malinche, interpreter to Cortés; the scholars who unlocked the treasures of the Arabic world through translation in 12th century Spain; General Vernon Walters, 20th century interpreter to several U.S. presidents and eventually a diplomat. And then there are the translators who are moulded by history, anvils rather than hammers, their habitus affecting their relationship to translation and authority.

Gertrude Stein falls into the latter category, although somewhat paradoxically. An American-born Jew, she spent most of her life in Paris where she collected avant-garde art, helped to launch the careers of artists such as Picasso, and experimented with radical forms of writing.
It would seem natural for translation to form part of the work of an American living abroad. She claimed to have written one of her early works of fiction after translating Flaubert and looking at a painting by Cézanne. Later, she collaborated with a French surrealist poet on a publication project involving translation. Translation reappeared later in her life during World War II, when she agreed to translate for an American audience the speeches of Marshal Philippe Pétain, the leader of Vichy France. The reasons why she, in particular, was asked to take on this work have to do with her stature as an American writer, but her acceptance of the task and the ultimate outcome are complex and problematic.

This paper will address links between authorship and translation and the use of translation as a figure within Stein’s body of work, her conception and practice of translation, and her motivation for translating. A self-proclaimed “genius,” Stein was generally hailed as an innovator. While she moulded literary and artistic history, it may well be that as a translator Gertrude Stein was instead “made by history.”

*“We are not makers of history; we are made by history.” Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love, 1963

(Programação sujeita a alterações)

Judith Woodsworth holds a PhD in French literature from McGill University. She is currently a professor of translation studies in the Département d’études françaises of Concordia University, after serving as President of Concordia University in Montreal (Québec) and Laurentian University in Sudbury (Ontario), and Vice-President of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax (Nova Scotia).

She has authored numerous articles, encyclopedia entries and book chapters on French literature, literary translation and translation history. In 1997, she published Still Lives, an English translation of a novel by award winning Québec author and poet Pierre Nepveu.  In 2012, she released a newly revised English edition of Translators through History, first published in 1995 in collaboration with Jean Delisle and subsequently translated into several languages, including Portuguese (Os Tradutores na História, 1998).  In the past two years, she has been an invited lecturer at universities in China and Hong Kong, and a speaker at conferences in Taiwan and Israel. In addition to her continued interest in the history of translation and interpreting, she is currently conducting research on the subject of authors who translate. In 1999, she was inducted as an Officer in the Ordre de la Pléiade, Ordre de la Francophonie et du dialogue des cultures, for her work in promoting the French language and intercultural relations. She is a member of the Literary Translators Association of Canada, and is founding president and an honorary member of the Canadian Association for Translation Studies.

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