Translating and Analysing Charles Darwin and Darwinism in(to) European languages (1859-2022)

deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Felix Sprang / ESSE

Translating and Analysing Charles Darwin and Darwinism in(to) European languages (1859-2022)

If Charles Darwin is “perhaps the most discussed writer in English besides Shakespeare”, in George Levine’s words, he certainly is also one of the most debated authors in any language. Yet European readers outside Britain ‒ whether scientists or ordinary educated people ‒ have usually read and criticized his texts through translations into their own languages. Now language was a terrible problem for Darwin himself as he had to express revolutionary ideas using words that had been employed through centuries of Creationist thought, as was brilliantly shown by Gillian Beer in her seminal Darwin’s Plots (1983). It can be said that Darwin’s materialistic and un-teleological concepts had to be translated into an old Christian English language. The European translations of Darwin’s works in turn reflect the difficulty of coining new phrases for new ideas, but they also mirror the specificities of each different language and culture. In France for instance, Clémence Royer ‒ Darwin’s first French translator ‒ read The Origin of Species through Lamarckian lenses and produced a Lamarckian translation that was taken for Darwin’s actual views by thousands of readers for many years. Clémence Royer's translation was also found to convey a higher degree of certainty pertaining to the views expressed than Darwin's own original text. Heinrich Georg Bronn translated the Origin into German in 1860 and opted for ‘Entstehung’ rather than ‘Ursprung’ for ‘origin’ and ‘Kampf’ for ‘struggle’. With his cuts and terms he paved the way for strands of social Darwinism under the auspices of Ernst Haeckel. The reception of Darwinism in Europe was therefore highly influenced by the individual situation of each country in terms of translation, edition, readership and cultural market. This seminar aims at showing the diversity of the circulation and reception of Darwinism (Darwin himself but also such authors as T.H. Huxley, Wallace, Spencer, or many others) from the publication of The Origin in November 1859 to the present day in the various European countries and cultures.

Proposals for papers in the domains of translation and comparative studies, reception studies and linguistics are invited. Papers on linguistic research questions applied to both the original work and the translations of Darwin’s work are welcome; linguistic topics and traditions which may be addressed include (but are not limited to) modality and epistemic stance, Appraisal Theory and Systemic Functional Linguistics, semantic relations (e.g. causality or similar semantic relations), and metaphor theory.

We also welcome proposals that probe into textual aspects of the discursive relation, for example reader response theory within a Christian framework as well as an emerging atheist stance, literary appropriations of Darwin’s work and reactions of contemporary readers in the twenty-first century, Systemic Functional analyses of the textual function, etc.

Titles and abstracts of the proposed papers (200 words) with a very short biography of their authors should be submitted by 31 January 2022 to:

Professor Michel Prum (Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur)

Professor Felix Sprang (Deutscher Anglistenverband)

Professor Heidi Verplaetse (Belgian Association of Anglicists in Higher Education);;

This seminar is part of the ESSE conference held on-site in Mainz, Germany, from August 29 to September 2, 2022. [seminar 29]