CFP: Violets in a Crucible – Translating the Orient

“Violets in a Crucible” – Translating the Orient

Grenoble, 22-24 June 2016

Violets in a Crucible is an international colloquium, organized jointly by the Université Grenoble Alpes and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, focused on cultural exchanges through translation and rewriting of texts from oriental languages into European languages and vice-versa. Does the medium shape the message? Or does the message impact on the medium? Grenoble University, in partnership with the JNU would like to explore the dynamics of shifting mediums as men and women attempt to come to terms with the curse of Babel.

 The title, as well as the central thesis, was inspired by the following beautiful lines by P.B. Shelley:  “Hence the vanity of translation; it were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language into another the creations of a poet. The plant must spring again from its seed, or it will bear no flower – and this is the burthen of the curse of Babel.”  (Shelley, A Defence of Poetry)

The questions explored during the colloquium will be the following: to what extent can translation/rewriting be considered a key, unlocking doors to unknown cultures? Does the translating/rewriting of texts lead to a cultural transfer, or does it lead to cultural distortion/cum/transformation?

In this colloquium, we will be looking at the translations of Oriental texts into European languages and translations of European texts into Oriental languages from the 18th century to the present day. How successful are these translations, who were these men and women who chose to translate the East for the West and the West for the East, and most importantly, what was the impact of these cultural mediators on Europe/the Orient? Did the plant spring again from its seed and bear flowers – or was the curse of Babel insurmountable?

To 16th century Europe the Orient was an unknown space. Few Europeans had made the long and hazardous journey by sea or land, and fewer still made the effort to learn Oriental languages. Nonetheless, Oriental languages attracted Europeans – partly for trade – and partly as a way to unlock the cultural treasures of the East. As these translated texts made their way back to Europe, they were retranslated into other European languages, thus undeniably influencing European thought and culture.

From Antoine Galland, who turned the collection of stories generally known as the  Alf laila wa laila into Les Mille et Une Nuits to Sir William Jones’ English translation of Kalidasa’s play Abhijnanasakuntala, the antiquarians and linguists who translated or rewrote Oriental folklore and literature charmed 18th century Europe, creating a fascination for the East which lasted well into the 19th century, profoundly affecting the great Romantic Movements in Europe. These texts were immediately translated into several European languages, setting the European imagination on fire, galvanizing European literati.

In this colloquium, we would like to research this intellectual ferment which has changed the face of European culture, and continues to do so in the 21st century. We aim to look at translations not only as genuine literary products with their own intrinsic literary merit, but also their impact on European cultures and civilizations and vice-versa.

Please see the CFP for more details. Abstracts can be submitted in French or English.

 Deadline for submitting abstracts: (400 words) +short biodata: 23 November 2015

Notification of acceptance: 14.12.2015

There will be a publication of selected papers from this conference.

 Contacts :

Pr Madhu Benoit  (L’Université Grenoble Alpes)

Pr GJV Prasad (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Dr. Ganapathy-Doré MC HDR (SARI)

Pr Isabelle Gadoin  (Université Poitiers)

Dr. Véronique Aubergé CR CNRS INSHS (LIG)


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