Friday, June 14, 2013

Translating cultures

Dr Delphine Doucet (History and Politics) has begun a collaborative project with historians from Newcastle and Northumbria Universities which will provide a window on how key ideas within early modern political and religious thought were received and adapted in the very different political cultures of a range of European regions. Calls for freedom of the press (as in Milton’s Areopagitica) or proposals for a republican form of government (Harrington’s Oceana) had very different resonances in eighteenth-century France or early nineteenth-century Germany from those that they had in their country and century of origin. This affected the translations themselves (which were often cut, embellished and adapted to suit the audience or context), but also the way in which they were received and read. By tracing how individual texts were presented and received in a range of different contexts across both time and space it will be possible to gain a much more accurate sense than is
currently possible of the Europe-wide impact and influence of those important texts. Such a transnational approach will also offer a corrective to recent work on European republicanism that has tended to focus on distinct national traditions and to ignore the extent to which texts and ideas were transmitted and exchanged across national and linguistic boundaries. In addition it will provide new insights on the different political cultures themselves and on the practices of translation and reception in the early modern period. Owing to limitations relating to linguistic abilities and historical knowledge very little of this kind of work has been done to date.

The project, which is the subject of a bid for research funding under the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) theme 'Translating cultures', has a number of potential research outputs, including  a co-authored book or a special journal edition exploring how a selection of key republican texts were presented and received across time and space; a website setting the various translations of each text alongside each other and highlighting all the additions and adaptations made, providing a rich and fruitful resource for scholars and research students of early modern intellectual history right across Europe; an exhibition in collaboration with the British Library and national libraries in France and Germany.

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