Untranslatability and the World Literature Debates

The George Steiner Lecture in Comparative Literature

“Untranslatability and the World Literature Debates” delivered by Professor Emily Apter of NYU

March 17 at 6:30pm, Arts Two Lecture Theatre
Mile End Campus
Queen Mary University of London

Abstract:
Following the publication of my book Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability in 2013, diverse responses emerged to the book’s critique of the political stakes of institutionalized World Literature or Weltliteratur refurbished for a globalized literary studies.  Many agreed that World Literature bolsters a neoliberal pluralism in the humanities curriculum (as well as international publishing), and questioned World Lit’s endorsement of translatability as a sign of global currency. But some were skeptical towards the idea that untranslatability or “non-translation studies” could provide a political counter-force. In this talk I will clarify how I define untranslatability and argue that untranslatables can do political work: 1) addressing the ambitions, limitations, and compromise-formations of World Literature; 2) activating terms through a kind of political philology; 3) taking stock of the heteronomy and non-belongingness of language within languages;  4) situating non-translation, non-equivalence, and incommensurability against economies of general equivalence; 5) generating new principles of a cosmopolitan right to untranslatability in situations of checkpointing and mass migration.

Biography:

Emily Apter is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at New York University.  She is the author, most recently, of Against World Literature: On The Politics of Untranslatability (2013) and The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (2006), and has co-edited, with Jacques Lezra and Michael Wood, the English edition of the Vocabulaire européen des philosophies: Dictionnaire des intraduisibles [Dictionary of Untranslatables:  A Philosophical Lexicon] (2014). Since 1998 she has edited the book series Translation/Transnation for Princeton University Press.

Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance via the link.