Ethincs in Transadapturgy--IFTR Osaka 8/7-12/2011

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IFTR Translation, Adaptation, and Dramaturgy Working Group
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IFTR Translation/Adaptation/Dramaturgy Working Group
Osaka, Japan, 7-12 August 2011

The Translation/Adaptation/Dramaturgy Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research invites paper proposals for its 2011 meeting. While papers for the working group need not be limited to the conference’s central themes of Tradition, Innovation, and Community, we do have a special interest in papers that consider how ethics inflects translators’, adaptors’, and dramaturgs’ (“transadaptors’”) understandings of and work with any of these terms.

Transadaptors who bring works from the past into the present are generally understood to be working with “traditional” material in need of massaging so as to be intelligible to a present-day audience. But many of the most valued traditional forms were themselves innovative in their time. (Plautus coined words and created a genre not unlike today’s musical comedy; Beijing Opera was a self-consciously crafted hybrid of the “best” national traditions.) Is it possible within a translation or an adaptation to preserve both the traditional and the innovative (in the original) when the grounds for the innovation are not longer familiar? In the global context of transadapting modern plays from one part of the world for presentation in another, is it possible to honor both the local traditions being drawn upon (arguably the glue holding one audience community together) and the traditions of the wholly other audience community? How do transadaptors balance the possible strangeness of the source material with a certain necessary degree of familiarity for the target context?

Ethics is neither a transparent term nor a notion with a single meaning. Philosophers might put consequentialism, deontology, and reflective equilibrium into conversation as non-identical but equivalently useful ethical strategies. Consequentialism directs us to pick options (or follow principles) that will maximize the overall happiness of stakeholders. Deontology directs us to avoid undermining the ability of stakeholders to make free, informed, rational choices. Reflective Equilibrium directs us to act in accord with the systematized considered judgments of our culture. Recently, translation theorist Lawrence Venuti has argued for “a translator who assumes an oppositional stance, “utterly refusing the instrumental model (in which there is a meaning in the original that is the sole criterion of accuracy), favoring a hermeneutic model (in which any “formal and semantic correspondence [is] partial and contingent,”) but upping the stakes to insist on a translation that stakes out an ethical position, focusing on social impact even at the expense of the comfort of those who pay for the translation (which might include our audiences as communities and not only our artistic institutions as their representatives). Is such a stance sustainable? Is it desirable? Is it what many transadaptors imagine they already do?

Furthermore, how do these ethical questions of translation (particularly cultural translation) fit with the rising concept of “interweaving"? Has this new paradigm rendered obsolete the ethical questions posited by intercultural theory over the last twenty years? And finally, where does ethics come into the question of adaptation within the same language? What fealty (if any) does an adaptor owe to the author? And does the adaptor have any responsibility to an audience to provide background for the work in its original context?

The deadline for abstracts for papers to be presented in Working Groups is 31 January 2011, same as for General Panels and New Scholars Forum. Members who wish to read a paper at a WG meeting are required to submit their abstracts via the Osaka conference website using the application form on the Call for Papers page, After the deadline, the WG coordinators will forward the submitted abstracts to the conveners.

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