Translating Back: Vernacular Sources and Prestige-Language Adaptations

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
ICMS Kalamazoo 2019

edit 9/4/18: a reminder that we are still accepting submissions! 


Multilingual cultures develop complex practices—and theories—of translation. Since Rita Copeland theorized vernacular translation in the western Middle Ages as a means by which the authority of a Latin auctor could be at once appropriated and displaced, further important and explanatory frameworks have been proposed for understanding different aspects of medieval translation. Many account primarily for translation from Latin into a local vernacular and/or from (what has traditionally been understood as) a high-prestige vernacular into a lower-prestige vernacular. Though some recent scholarship has challenged such categorical distinctions, this is broadly the path that medieval translation appears most often to have taken—and that scholars have, accordingly, most often worked to understand.

This panel is interested in translation in the other direction: translations and other direct adaptations from any medieval vernacular, local language, or dialect into a lingua franca such as Latin, Arabic, or Greek, or (in later medieval England, for example) from English into French. What texts or kinds of texts were translated, to use Laura Saetveit Miles’s formulation, “upstream”? In what cultural contexts? If theories of translation often seem to subscribe implicitly to King Alfred’s philosophy that vernacular translation ensures continued possession (and perhaps even a kind of democratization) of knowledge, does translating “upstream” restrict knowledge, or does it grant works a broader readership? How do “upstream” or “back”-translations fit into, complicate, or nuance frameworks proposed thus far for understanding medieval translation? We invite proposals for twenty-minute papers on these or related questions.

Please send proposals with an abstract of approximately 250 words and a Participant Information Form to and by September 15, 2018, or sooner if possible. Preliminary inquiries and expressions of interest are welcome.