“Portals, Gates”: The Classics in Modernist Translation
As Steven Yao observes in Translation and the Languages of Modernism, both the practice and the idea of translation were integral to experimental early twentieth-century modernist work in English: “feats of translation not only accompanied and helped to give rise to, but sometimes even themselves constituted, some of the most significant Modernist literary achievements in English.” And in their translation work, many anglophone modernists were especially responsive to the literatures of Ancient Greece and Rome. As H.D. would note of the work of Euripides, whose plays she translated, “these words are to me portals, gates.”
Modernists Ezra Pound, H.D., W.B. Yeats and E.E. Cummings—among others—pursued translations of work from dramatists and poets such as Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Homer, Sappho, Meleager, Theocritus, Catullus, Horace, Ovid, and Propertius. In some cases they developed more traditional translations, aimed to render in English a text from another language, culture, and time; in other instances, they ventured more maverick translations, often construed by contemporary reception studies as adaptations or interventions (which sometimes incurred the ire of early twentieth-century scholarship). For many modernists, such translation work not only served as “good training”—as Pound phrased it—but also contributed to the enrichment of English beyond its ordinary boundaries, allowing fine-grained and radical access to the aesthetic and intellectual wisdom of a corpus of ancient literature they saw as valuable to the present. Many even used the concept of translation (the word’s etymology suggests “carrying across”) to capture a broader modernist commitment to bringing over to the early twentieth century resources of the ancient past, its cultural archive—to speak to questions, conceptual nodes and problematics of the contemporary moment.
Situated at the intersection of Classical studies, Modernist studies, and Translation studies, this conference invites commentary on the work of early twentieth-century modernist “translation,” broadly interpreted – responses by modernist writers to texts and cultural materials from the Classical world. With this conference, we seek to redress a gap in Classical reception studies, which to date engages little early twentieth-century work. We welcome papers, performances, and creative or multimedia work addressing
- more traditional translation work, such as work for the Poets’ Translation Series edited by Richard Aldington, Yeats’s King Oedipus and Oedipus at Colonus, and Louis MacNeice’s Agamemnon;
- more experimental translation work by modernists such as Pound (e.g. Homage to Sextus Propertius, Women of Trachis) and H.D. (e.g. Hippolytus Temporizes, Ion);
- freer appropriations and adaptations of Classical material, such as H.D.’s responses to Sappho and Meleager; Pound’s and Joyce’s engagements with the Odyssey; Pound’s and H.D.’s work with the Eleusinian mysteries; and Cummings’s experiments with Catullus, Homer, and Greek myth.
Please send 250-word abstracts, along with current cv, to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by January 10, 2016. The conference will take place in Montréal, Québec, Canada, April 30 and May 1, 2016.
Department of English
Department of English