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Call for Abstracts: Translation and Creative Adaptation

Translation Panel, annual SCS meeting in Philadelphia, 2025

Proposed by: SCS Committee on Translations of Classical Authors

Organizers: Stephanie McCarter and Deborah Roberts

The line between translation and creative adaptation can be blurry, yet the relationship between them is often dynamic and productive. This panel seeks papers that address the intersections and distinctions between these two modes of engaging with classical texts and their reception.

Examples of this relationship include Mary Zimmerman’s use of David Slavitt’s Metamorphoses translation in her play of the same name, or Bob Dylan’s allusions to specific Vergil and Ovid translations, as traced by Richard Thomas. Some adaptors directly compare their work to translation or signal a direct debt to it: Ursula K. Le Guin calls her novel Lavinia “translation in a different form,” and Margaret Atwood cites E.V. Rieu’s translation of the Odyssey as the “main source” for The Penelopiad. Conversely, some works that might be billed as “translation” have strong affiliations with adaptation, such as Anne Carson’s Antigonick or Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes.

Phenomena this panel might address, and questions they raise: Creative adaptors frequently rely on translations that might influence them in important ways. What examples do we find, and what forms might such influence take? Both translation and adaptation can put forth new interpretations that challenge the scholarly consensus, or connect the ancient work to modern culture. Are there significant differences or similarities in the ways they do this? Are there examples of an adaptation offering a more accurate or illuminating interpretation of an “original” than a more straightforward translation does? Some versions have been variously identified as translations or as adaptations, by critics or even their own authors. What criteria and what ideas of authorship are at work in such distinctions? Translations and creative adaptations have complex relationships – entailing both homage and confrontation – with the original source material. Do they tend to articulate this relationship differently? How might Michel Garneau’s concept of “tradaptation,” in which authors translate works into new cultural contexts, particularly those of threatened, underrepresented, or minority cultures, be applied to classical material? Finally, translation and adaptation have each played an important and varied role in the field of Classics. What are these roles, and has Classics as a discipline been more amenable to one than to the other?

Abstracts for papers should be submitted electronically as Word documents by the deadline of Feb. 15, 2024 to Diane Arnson Svarlien (arnsonsvarlien[at]gmail[dot]com) with the subject heading “abstract_translation_SCS2025.” All abstracts will be judged anonymously and so should not reveal the author’s name, but the email should provide name, abstract title, and affiliation. Abstracts should be 650 words or fewer and should follow the guidelines for individual abstracts, except that works cited should be put at the end of the document, not in a separate text box.