Fictions of Retranslations: Retranslating Language and Style in Prose Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
December 21, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation

OCCT invites submissions for a one-day virtual workshop on language and style in prose fiction retranslation.

Scholars such as Brisset, Deane-Cox and Susam-Sarajeva have each highlighted the lack of critical writing on retranslation, particularly of prose retranslation. This lacuna stands in stark contrast with the critical focus on retranslation of poetry, partly because the practical limitations of publishing constraints mean that fewer prose translations are produced, and partly because of the idea that only poetry contains ‘poetic language’ and is therefore open to a wider degree of interpretation and variance in translation. However, research in literary translation has in recent years moved beyond the idea that poetry is the only form of literature that can be defined as ‘poetic’, and the tentative critical shift towards a focus on retranslation points to the fact that poetic language within prose can lead to a myriad of interpretations and versions of an original text. More recently, Matthew Reynolds has proposed that all translation should be seen as ‘paradigmatically generating multiple texts' (Prismatic Translation, 2020), and the Prismatic Jane Eyre project has asserted the interest of studying hundreds of retranslations in tens of languages. In this context, as graduate students and early career researchers, we wish to explore the consequences of this shift for our understanding of prose (re-)translation more broadly, in order to explore the issues of how poetic language generates retranslations, and how this might affect our analysis of other contexts for studying retranslation, such as censorship, multilingualism, and biographical studies of translators. We therefore welcome researchers from a rich variety of backgrounds, including literary studies, cultural studies, and translation studies. We would be delighted to be able to bring researchers together from across these disciplines in order to start a stimulating and productive discussion.

Papers may include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • How do we locate poetic language within prose? What theoretical framework can we use for classifying language as poetic?
  • How does one define ‘taking liberty’ in retranslating prose, in the light of arguments such as Karen Emmerich’s Literary Translation and the Making of Originals, which calls into question the fixity of the original text? 
  • Publishing: the question of the ‘celebrity’ retranslator who ‘becomes’ the author, i.e., Simon Armitage, Lydia Davis.
  • Multilingual prose: how might questions about retranslation apply to texts written in several languages, or for languages not considered standardised, i.e., Scots, Patois?
  • How might retranslation be affected by changing approaches to censorship, whether that be tacit or legal?
  • Metaphors of (re)translation: what are common metaphors that translators use for discussing their work, such as love, jealousy, art, and how might this influence our critical approach?
  • How does retranslation influence the process of critical renewal, re-readings, and new interpretations?
  • How does retranslation influence the canon? Does retranslating alter the canon, or ‘canonise’ marginalised authors?

We encourage doctoral students and early-career researchers working on retranslations of prose to send us an abstract (350 words) and a brief bio (150 words). We would like to create a space of shared reflection that can help doctoral students and early-career academics gain confidence in presenting their research. We look forward to a workshop where we work collaboratively, exploring multiple questions on the issue of retranslation through discussion and friendly feedback.  

The workshop will be hosted online, on 12 March 2021.

Please send abstracts and bios by 14 December 2020 to and Notification of acceptance will be circulated by mid-January 2021.