Getting started

When I submitted my project for this blog to the editorial board of hypothèses for approval, the idea of giving some kind of shape to my thoughts and musings on history, translation and the links between the two had been on my mind for a while. The kind of questions I want to pursue are not directly part of my PhD work, not finalised enough for  publication on their own, yet too pressing for me to be left aside completely and forgotten.

Hence this blog where I aim to post about once a week, in various modes and formats – and where I shall be especially attentive to the comments which I hope will be crucial in making these ideas move on from their current rough state.

So what exactly do I want to write about? R.J.W. Evans sums up many of my interrogations in a remarkable lecture:

My own candidate as “big idea”, the symbiotic relation of History and Language, meshes in with each of [these grand themes]: language as the means of communication between historian and audience; language as the authenticator of valid conceptions of the past; language as the key to a genuinely international view of our discipline. Of course, language is a constraint upon the historian […]; but it is also a vital and still unexploited field of study. By the same token, the historical record, though requiring most careful interpretation, offers much more scope to linguists than they have often been aware of. Never before, I fancy, have so many on either side of the notional divide between the language of history and the history of language – recto and verso of the same page, to adapt Saussure’s celebrated metaphor for the interrelation between signifier and signified – been moved to establish real common ground.’[i]

In the coming weeks I intend to plot out blogs on the following big sub questions, before going further into each of them:

  • Historians writing about language, languages, and/or translation. They are few and far between, but the rare examples are well worth investigating.
  • Texts from Translation Studies that touch upon, refer to or connect with history. While Anthony Pym criticises that “[m]ost of what are commonly accepted as texts on the history of translation in fact belong to either archeology or criticism rather, and not strictly to historiography”[ii], there are a certain number of approaches worth investigating.
  • Translation of historical writing. I have some personal experience in the field and read translations from time to time. Methods for this kind of analysis are not really established, but definitely high up on my agenda
  • Translation as a source for historians – especially retranslation of texts and their integration into historical work.

I’m greatly looking forward to any and all comments!

[i] R.J.W. Evans, The Language of History and the History of Language. An Inaugural Lecture delivered before the University of Oxford on 11 May 1998 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 34

[ii] Anthony Pym, “Shortcomings in the Historiography of Translation,” Babel 38, no. 4 (1992): p.3

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