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The 2007 Caxton Club/Newberry Library Symposium on the Book

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Remodeling the Tower of Babel:
The Translator's Role in a Shrinking World

 Language is a source of beauty and understanding, but it is also a barrier to communication between nations and cultures – and between those of us who live in the present and those who lived long ago. Some would argue that the Internet’s ubiquity has raised the problem of communicating across national and cultural boundaries to a new level of urgency. In fact, however, the challenge of translation has been with us since at least the Middle Ages. Then as now, translators have occupied a central position in fostering the progress of literature, science, and society. Understanding the translator’s role in the past is the key to understanding the importance of translations in many current debates in diplomacy, journalism, economics, art, and culture.

This day-long symposium is open to the general public.


Session I: Manuscript to Print 9:00 a.m., The Newberry Library

Patricia Clare Ingham, Indiana University
"Romancing the Public"
          Romance is an unusual genre -- both universalizing and particularizing, both aristocratic and popular. Professor Ingham, an expert on William Caxton and other early English writers and printers, will explore how the broad dissemination of popular texts brought new demands on the translator’s art in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Thomas Hahn, University of Rochester
"Linguistic, National, and Global Communities"
          Professor Hahn’s thesis is that the New World was “created” through the medium of print, since Europeans’ understanding of the Americas derived primarily from what they read in translations of travel accounts. Professor Hahn will discuss the role of translation in mediating and shaping explorers’ experiences for readers from different nations and societies.

Session II: Problematics 11:00 a.m., The Newberry Library

Göran Malmqvist, Swedish Academy
"The Translator’s Responsibility: A Divided Loyalty?"
          Göran Malmqvist will discuss the translator’s twofold duty: to the author of the original work and to readers in the new language. Resolving potential conflicts between those responsibilities is a goal not always easy to achieve. Dr. Malmqvist will also share his insights into the needs of a very special readership: the members of the Swedish Academy who, charged with selecting one author each year to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, must judge the literary quality of works they cannot read in the original languages.

Douglas Hofstadter, Indiana University
"Who Is the Real Author of a Translated Book?"
          Can Dante really be understood in English, a language that didn't even exist when he was alive? Crazy! This observation will be the starting point for Professor Hofstadter's consideration of some paradoxes of translation. The polymath author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979), Hofstadter is well known as a cognitive scientist and has also translated literary works from several languages.

Session III: Today and Tomorrow 2:30 p.m., Alliance Française Auditorium

          The symposium will reconvene for a panel discussion by the four morning speakers under the leadership of Diana Robin, a distinguished translator of Renaissance texts and Scholar-in-Residence at the Newberry Library. The panel will consider the future of translation and translation studies, which seem inevitably linked to the ongoing development of the Internet and of digital translation technologies. Will the global dissemination of literary, scientific, scholarly, and popular works all come to depend on digital translation platforms, or will we see an increasing divide in the way various translations are accomplished and received?


          Morning sessions will be held in Ruggles Hall of the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton Street, Chicago. The afternoon session will be held at the Alliance Française de Chicago, 54 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago.

Our Thanks
          The 2007 Caxton Club/Newberry Library Symposium is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly.

It is also supported by gifts from the following institutions and individuals. We are deeply grateful.
          Chicago Area Translators and Interpreters Association (CHICATA)
          English Department, Columbia College
          Embassy of Sweden and Consul General of Sweden Kerstin B. Lane
          Adele Hast
          Robert Herbst
          Lawrence J. and Ruth D. McCrank
          Sem Sutter and John Q. Easton
          Sandra Smith Schulte, in appreciation for Le Ton beau de Marot


          The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and advance registration is required. Please use this form to pre-register.