LETRA Seminario di traduzione letteraria (LaborLETT, CeASUm)
Translations of Aristotle’s Poetics ever since the XVI Century and the Forging of European Poetics
Trento University, March, 4th-5th, 2021
History will record few things lovelier and more moving than this Arab physician's devotion to the thoughts of a man separated from him by a gulf of fourteen centuries. To the intrinsic difficulties of the enterprise we might add that Averroës, who knew neither Syriac nor Greek, was working from a translation of a translation. The night before, two doubtful words had halted him at the very portals of the Poetics. Those words were "tragedy" and "comedy." He had come across them years earlier, in the third book of the Rhetoric; no one in all of Islam could hazard a guess as to their meaning. He had pored through the pages of Alexander of Aphrodisias, compared the translations of the Nestorian Hunayn ibn-Ishaq and Abu-Bashãr Mata—and he had found nothing. Yet the two arcane words were everywhere in the text of the Poetics—it was impossible to avoid them.
J.L. Borges, Averroës’ Search
Aristotle’s Poetics stands among the most important texts for the development of Western poetics. However, though already drawing great attention during the Middle Ages, Aristotle’s treatise was appreciated through its Arab translations and comments for a long time. When the Greek original was found at the turn of the XV Century, an extensive translation work was undertaken and carried out into Latin by William Moerbeke in 1278, Giorgio Valla in 1498 and Alessandro de’ Pazzi between 1527 and 1536 as well as into vernacular languages, whose first example was Bernardo Segni's translation into Tuscan in 1549. Translations gradually spread throughout Europe and accounted for remarks, commentaries and further treatises which in turn severely affected the aesthetic concerns and taste as well as the artistic production; suffice it to mention the significance gained by the concept of the unity of action between the Renaissance and the Baroque period by virtue of not so much the Aristotelean text as Agnolo Segni’s and Ludovico Castelvetro's readings of it. If critical literature on the reception of the Poetics is vast, the same can hardly be argued about the studies of the influence exerted by its translations into modern languages on such reception and, as a consequence, on the aesthetical thought and taste within different ages and traditions, and therein on the relative conceptualizations of literary genres. In fact, the problem does not regard the modern age only. Arab translators had already modified and sometimes even slanted Aristotle’s texture with relevant outcomes on aesthetical theories. One should just think of Averroes’ gloss linking tragedy and moral teaching, which actually resulted from a wrong translation and still held a tremendous importance for the shaping of Western poetics (not only) during the Middle Ages. Scholars, including Antoine Compagnon and William Marx, have consistently explored this terrain with reference to such specific terms as mimesis and catharsis, thus raising awareness as to the necessity of further studies on translations stemming from different epochs and linguistic areas, and on how such translations subsequently related to and resonated in the development of European poetics. The conference aims to further connect the analyses of translations from a range of temporal and linguistic contexts and the forging of aesthetic theories, with a focus on specific genres and forms, so as to assess the extent to which the ‘translational horizon’ – to use Berman’s terms – of vernacularizers and translators alike has influenced such connection. In particular, it aims to analyze works from both a synchronic and a diachronic contrastive standpoint so as to improve our understanding of how translators’ choices of lemmas as well as semantic fields in Aristotle’s text have affected the shaping of literary poetics ever since the Sixteenth Century. The organizers wish to involve scholars from a range of disciplines, including national literatures, translation studies, comparative literature, theory of literature, philology and philosophy, with an interest in issues relating to the translations of the Poetics into modern languages (English, Italian, French, Spanish and German) starting from the Sixteenth Century. The following research questions may be addressed:
comparison of two or more translations either distant in time or belonging to different linguistic areas;
comparative analyses of translations of key words and semantic fields;
survey on translations in a given linguistic area or epoch;
the relationships between translations (also into vernacular languages) of the Poetics and treatises on either poetics or aesthetics.
Those who wish to take part in the conference with a 25-minute paper (in English, Italian, French, Spanish or German) should submit their proposal by sending an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biographical note to firstname.lastname@example.org by October, 31, 2020. Selected authors will be emailed by November, 15th, 2020.