(Re)translating-Rewriting the Classics in the XXIst century

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Sarah Montin/ Sorbonne-Nouvelle University

International Conference: 19-20 October 2023

(Re)translating-Rewriting the Classics in the XXIst century

Sorbonne-Nouvelle University /Maison de la Recherche, 75005 Paris

T.R.A.C.T. (Prismes EA4398)

The early XXIst century has witnessed a resurgence of interest in the Greek and Latin classics with new translations achieving widespread readership as well as commercial and critical success — Emily Wilson’s 2017 translation of the Odyssey is a case in point, as is Seamus Heaney’s celebrated posthumous translation of book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid (2016), read on the BBC by Ian McKellen only a few days after publication. Concurrently, these same classical texts have been reacquiring, through creative translation and adaptation, a vital place in contemporary poetry and theatre, as emblematized by Simon Armitage’s Still (2016), Alice Oswald’s Memorial (2011) or Anne Carson’s An Oresteia (2009). At a time when most of their audience cannot read Greek or Latin, when “dead languages” are disappearing from academic curricula, the wealth of recent translations, “versions”, excavations or irreverent “translucence” (Oswald), imitations, tributes, adaptations and rewritings, reveals that the classical world remains, now seemingly more than ever, a source of inspiration for specialized translators, writers, poets as well as the public at large.

Contemporary trends have been marked by an increased freedom in translation processes, even in critical or academic retranslations based on philological arguments. This “creative turn” in translation practices fruitfully blurs the lines between translation, criticism and literature (as seen in Josephine Balmer’s Piecing Together the Fragments: Translating Classical Verse, Creating Contemporary Poetry where she examines the crossovers between scholarly work and creative writing) and encourages us to explore the porous zones between retranslation, rewriting, retelling, adaptation and transmutation. Are these growing practices pushing back the boundaries of translation, subverting its meaning as they renegotiate the relationship between translation and “original literature”?  

Other questions arise when confronting contemporary versions of classical texts in English. Does a translator’s lack of training in Greek and Latin necessarily challenge their legitimacy and authority? What is the status of “intermediary translations” and cribs? What does the disappearance of the bilingual format, except for scholarly publications, mean? Does this give rise to a new form of invisibilization of the translator? How does this affect the relation between the original work and its translation? A current trope in translators’ preface is the enjoinder to “update/rejuvenate the classics”. Do we see instances of “smoothing over” problematic passages in order to correspond to more contemporary usages and mores? Is the classical source text transformed by contemporary strategies of domestication? Finally, the XXIst century has seen the growing importance of political issues in translation studies: how do questions of gender, ethnicity and class, postcolonial and decolonial issues, as well as new processes such as “eco-translation” affect, interrogate and revivify translation practices (as well as become effective marketing tools)? How do politically engaged retranslations allow for a critical revaluation and deconstruction of canonical texts (as for instance Emily Wilson’s Odyssey, or Femi Osofisan’s Tegonni, An African Antigone)?

Papers, focusing on XXIst century (re)translations and (re)creations, can address, but are not restricted to, the aforementioned topics. Preference will be given to proposals offering text-based analyses, close readings and stylistic commentary. 

Please send a 250-word proposal and a short bio-bibliography by May 15, 2023 to: