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Call for Abstracts: "Translation and Transmission: Mediating Classical Texts in the Early Modern World"

Translation and Transmission: Mediating Classical Texts in the Early Modern World

The Society for Early Modern Classical Reception (SEMCR) invites proposals for papers to be delivered at the 2018 meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in Boston. For its third panel, SEMCR invites abstracts on the translation of classical texts in the early modern world.

Despite their importance as vehicles of transmission - and their comparatively greater sales - translations always seem relegated to secondary status behind the principal models of classical scholarship, the critical edition or the commentary. This hierarchy is no less true of early modernity, at least according to our discipline’s construction of the history of philology, in which Bentley trumps Dryden, and Scaliger trumps Dolce. Some redress has been achieved through reception studies, though, as so often, the effect has partly been to replicate traditional divisions between philology and literary criticism.

The main goal of this panel is twofold: 1) to locate the study of early modern classical translations within larger currents of literary scholarship, especially translation studies; 2) to reintegrate literary criticism and philology through a renewed assessment of the role of translation in early modern culture.

To that end we seek papers that go beyond the remit of a typical case study and instead offer a distinctive methodological contribution, prospectus for the field, or novel theoretical analysis.

We invite perspectives drawn from world literature, history of the book, digital humanities, as well as translation studies and other approaches. Proposals may address (but are not limited to) the following areas:

a) High Theory/Deep Classics. How does early modern translation intersect with cross-temporal and cross-cultural themes of contemporary importance? Against the backdrop of Renaissance humanism, is there something distinctive to be learned from this form, and this period, of engagement with the classics? In Lawrence Venuti’s terminology, do these translators foreignize or domesticate? Can quantitative studies tell us something new and interesting about this corpus?

b) Philology and Education. How do histories of textual criticism, the book, and pedagogy enhance our understanding of early modern translation? What does the tradition of the questione della lingua have to contribute to reception studies? How might early modern translations of Hebrew and other classical languages affect our contemporary conception of our field? At the level of practice, what might we learn from annotations, drafts, and translators’ correspondence?

c) Outreach and Reception. How were translations affected by the mechanisms of circulation, publishers, material and economic factors, readerships, etc.? Did they always seek to popularize? In what sense were they scholarship, and were they recognized as such? Does the particular relationship between the classical and the vernacular in early modernity make translations of Latin and Greek an idiosyncratic point of comparison against other periods of outreach?

We are committed to creating a congenial and collaborative forum for the infusion of new ideas into classics, and hence welcome abstracts that are exploratory in nature as well as abstracts of latter-stage research. Above all, we aim to show how the field of early modern classical reception can bear on a wide range of literary and cultural study, and to dispel the notion of an intimidating barrier to entry.

Abstracts of no more than 400 words, suitable for a 15-20 minute presentation, should be sent as an email attachment to All persons who submit abstracts must be SCS members in good standing. The abstracts will be judged anonymously: please do not identify yourself in any way on the abstract page. Proposals must be received by February 20th.

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