Translating Back: Vernacular Sources and Prestige-Language Adaptations

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Marian Homans-Turnbull & Alexandra Reider

Building on a great conversation at Kalamazoo this spring, Marian Homans-Turnbull and Alexandra Reider are organizing a panel on medieval translation and multilingualism for the International Medieval Congress to be held in Leeds, UK, on 6-9 July We welcome submissions on any medieval language(s), and we're especially eager for submissions on non-English languages this year! Translating Back: Vernacular Sources and Prestige-Language Adaptations Multilingual cultures develop complex practices—and theories—of translation. In the wake of Rita Copeland’s theory of 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 explanatory frameworks have been proposed for understanding medieval translation both within and across borders. Many account primarily for translation from Latin into a local vernacular, and/or from another lingua franca or language traditionally understood as higher-prestige into a regional or lower-prestige language. 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? How does prestige actually interact with regional or supra-regional language use in particular acts of translation? 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 and related questions. Please send proposals with an abstract of approximately 250 words to and by September 1, 2019, or sooner if possible. Preliminary inquiries and expressions of interest are welcome.