The Newberry Seminar in Early American History, co-sponsored by The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and Northwestern University presents:
"Translating Culture in Eighteenth-Century North America"
Mary Helen McMurran, University of Chicago
March 20, 2003, 3:30-5:30 pm
To claim that there would have been no American literature without translation studies has been based mostly on comparing translations and originals to report changes, which is not well-suited to understanding language encounters in colonial North America. Translation was a linguistic and cultural habit in the colonies, just as it was in Europe during the eighteenth century, though significant new challenges confronted Europeans and Native American learning each other's languages. In this essay I describe what I call colonial American translating culture, characterized particularly bye the mixing of oral and written modes of translating, and the operation of extra-linguistic factors, such as sentiment, in situating translation. The relationship of colonial translating culture to its European counterpart finds its most self-conscious expression in eighteenth-century novels set in the colonies, so the last section focuses on translation scenes in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko and Charlotte Lennox's Euphemia. I argue that translation scenes, although they are ephemeral and digressive moments in these and other fictional narratives, were amongst the first instances in which a juncture in the historical life of translating cultures was recognized and articulated.
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