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Translation in History Lecture Series: Bible translation and South Asian Christianity

ucyow3c10 March 2015

pencil-icon Written by Marta Crickmar, Translation Studies PhD student

Image from Religious Transactions in Colonial South India, authored by Dr Hephzibah Israel

Image from Religious Transactions in Colonial South
India
, authored by Dr Hephzibah Israel (Credit: Palgrave)

A fast-paced tale of faraway lands, impossible choices and political intrigues might bring to mind the plot of an enthralling TV drama but, in fact, one could find it all (and more) in a lecture given by Dr Hephzibah Israel from University of Edinburgh as a part of the UCL Translation in History Lecture Series.

As a specialist in literary and sacred translations within the South Asian context, Dr Israel was just the person for the job of introducing us to the captivating history of Bible translation in 19th century India. It must be said that the topic of the lecture, as interesting as it was in itself, was made all the more compelling by the speaker’s engaging and energetic presentation.

The talk started with a brief historical overview of the Protestant Bible’s translation in India. We learned that the first two translations of the New Testament into Tamil were produced in the 18th century by German missionaries – Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg and Johannes Fabricius. However, it was not until the 19th century that the Bible was translated into other Indian languages and that Indian translators started to be included more formally in the translation process.

The British and Foreign Bible Society (or the Bible Society), formed in 1804 to ensure ‘proper’ translation and wide circulation of the Bible, played a very important role in the history of Bible translation in India. All attempts to translate the Bible had to be authorised by this powerful organisation whose political actions and editorial decisions were often controversial both in India and 19th century Britain.

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Staging European languages and memories: the sounds and rhythms of the Great War

ucyow3c24 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Stefanie van Gemert, PhD candidate, UCL Dutch

I-died-in-hell-1024x682

Is there a particular rhythm to war and violence? And if so, does it sound staccato, repetitive like machine guns and marching boots? Or are its sounds tempting, magical perhaps? Do they appeal to universal feelings of longing – for mum to be proud, for the kiss of a pretty girl? Alex Marshall’s article in Saturday’s Guardian explores these questions, discussing the allure of the ‘ISIS anthem’.

On Tuesday 4 November we did something similar at the Bloomsbury Theatre, exploring sounds of the First World War in a multimedia and multilingual performance: ‘I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele)’.

A century after the Great War began, violence seems to be everywhere. Even in peaceful Bloomsbury we cannot escape the updates on our mobile phones: yet another child wounded, another journalist killed.

As global citizens, we are extremely well-connected and yet continuously distracted, under the bombardment of 140-character shallow opinions and beeping newsfeeds. How can we, in this state, relate to the overwhelming global violence in a personal manner?

This event, organised by the Centre for Low Countries Studies and the Flemish-Dutch cultural magazine Ons Erfdeel, involved a writer/artistic director, a translator, a video artist, seven students from UCL’s School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS), two professional actors and a European collection of poetry and film footage of the Great War. Its collage-like structure and its multilingual approach underlined the global aspect of this conflict: something to be reminded of in November when poppies appear to be symbols of a straightforwardly English tradition.

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Lunch Hour Lectures: Bright Sparks – the history and science of fireworks

Kilian Thayaparan3 November 2014

FireworksWith 5 November just around the corner, this Lunch Hour Lecture on how fireworks have helped to develop a relationship between science and art from Dr Simon Werrett (UCL Science and Technology Studies) made the perfect prelude to the annual lighting up of the UK’s skies.

Dr Werrett began by talking about his interest in fireworks, explaining to the sizeable audience (which he was pleasantly surprised with considering the “freakishly warm weather” for this time of year) that their incorporation of and connection with the seemingly conflicting fields of art and science has always fascinated him.

He then guided the audience through the history of fireworks, starting with their Chinese origins. Dry bamboo with gunpowder inside is recognised as the first type of firework, the ‘big bang’ used to ward off “mountain men of evil spirits”. In the 12th century, this technique and others like it were then used to create firework displays for Chinese emperors.

The Mongol invasion of Asia followed by central Europe brought firecrackers and gunpowder technology to this continent in the 13th century, and by the late 15th century firework displays were relatively common. One key example is the Girandola in Rome – a display that celebrated the election of a new Pope, the apocalyptic nature of the display symbolising death and rebirth.

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Translating the poem: Henri Meschonnic’s poetics of translating

ucyow3c28 October 2014

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Written by Silvia Kadiu (PhD student, UCL Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry)

Dr Marko Pajević

Dr Marko Pajević

Translating poetry is a notoriously difficult, if not entirely impossible, task. Yet, poems are translated into other languages all the time. Why is poetry such a challenging genre to translate? What does this impossibility tell us about the nature of language? And how can one overcome it in practice? Dr Marko Pajević’s exploration of Henri Meschonnic’s philosophy of language and particular way of thinking translation, given as part of the Translation in History lecture series, provided compelling answers to these questions.

His comprehensive and clearly-organised lecture took the audience on an inspiring meander into Meschonnic’s thinking. After introducing Meschonnic and his work, Dr Pajević then discussed the linguistic philosophies of Emile Benveniste and Wilhelm von Humboldt, before explaining how they influenced and shaped Meschonnic’s poetics, politics and ethics of translating. Continuously navigating between theoretical and practical considerations, Dr Pajević’s presentation exemplified the central idea of Meschonnic’s poetics: the inseparability of form and content.

Henri Meschonnic (1932-2009) is a relatively unknown figure in the Anglophone world. A French poet, linguist and translator, he is the author of over a dozen texts about translation, only one of which has been translated into English: Ethics and Politics of Translating (2011). Dr Pajević explained the reasons for this lack of recognition, stressing Meschonnic’s controversial positioning and deliberate isolation throughout his career, especially in opposing influential movements such as hermeneutics, structuralism and deconstruction.

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