Keynote Speakers

Peter Burke


Peter Burke is Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge UK.  He has published 23 books, including Languages and Communities in Early Modern Europe (2004) and Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe (2007, co-edited with R. Po-Chia Hsia), both with Cambridge University Press.

Translation as Transposition in Early Modern Europe

‘Transposition’ is a term that came into use in English in the seventeenth century to describe movement and adaptation. Bishops were ‘transposed’ or ‘translated’ from one diocese to another, and musical  compositions ‘transposed’ from one key to another. I use the term here to refer to the not uncommon practice on the part of early modern  translators of replacing the milieu of a foreign text, such as a play or dialogue, with that of their own culture, offering so many vivid examples of what is now known as ‘cultural translation’. This paper will begin with a brief description of early modern European regimes of translation, before discussing examples of the transposition of the comedies of Plautus and of dialogues such as Il Cortegiano (notably in its Polish ad Portuguese versions).

Hugo Cardoso

HUGO CARDOSO.jpgHugo Cardoso is a researcher specializing in creoles with the University of Lisbon Centre for Linguistics (CLUL) and Associate Editor of the Revista de Crioulos de Base Lexical Portuguesa e Espanhola. His publications include the monograph The Indo-Portuguese language of Diu (Utrecht, LOT, 2009) and the (co-)edited volume Ibero-Asian Creoles: Comparative perspectives (John Benjamins, 2012).

Filling in the gaps: Portuguese as a lingua franca of Asia

Portuguese maritime expansion reached Asian shores in 1498 and soon produced a dense network of Portuguese settlements and other loci of activity which stretched from the Persian Gulf to Japan and Timor. The Portuguese language (broadly defined) was carried along and took roots in many parts of Asia and the Pacific, while simultaneously becoming established as an important coastal lingua franca for commerce, diplomacy, and religion (Lopes 1936; Tomás 2008). As expected, the fate of Portuguese did respond, to some extent, to the imperial decline of Portugal in Asia, which intensified in the 17th century. However, having been the first of a sequence of European languages to gain a foothold in the region as a result of colonial  expansion gave it a degree of resilience, and the very significant impact it had on the linguistic ecology of Asia can still be observed, e.g. in the numerous lexical loans that flowed between Portuguese and several languages of the continent, and in the communities that speak Portuguese or a Portuguese-lexified creole to this day (Cardoso 2016).

It is clear, therefore, that, in the Early Modern Period, Portuguese acquired and then lost a position of prominence in Asia. But what was that language like, especially in oral communication? How much linguistic interchange was there between the various Portuguese settlements? And how did the language adapt to the new social and political cycles that came after Portuguese rule? The answers are not straightforward because, while authors such as João de Barros and Duarte Nunes de Lião were quick to celebrate the reach and alleged perenniality of Portuguese, and to notice and/or criticise the lexical imports from Asian languages (Maia 2010), the documentation of Asian varieties of Portuguese did not proceed beyond that. Up until the early 19th century, very few linguistic specimens of non-standard Asian Portuguese were recorded, none of them substantial, which makes of the Early Modern Period something of linguistic blind spot with respect to any Asian variants of the language other than the written standard. In this talk, we will explore what insights into these questions can be gained from a combination of archival work and the comparative study of modern varieties of Portuguese and Portuguese-lexified creoles.


Cardoso, Hugo C. 2016. O português em contacto na Ásia e no Pacífico. In Ana Maria Martins & Ernestina Carrilho (eds.), Manual de linguística portuguesa, 68-97. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Lopes, David. 1936. A Expansão da Língua Portuguesa no Oriente nos Séculos XVI, XVII e XVIII. Barcelos: Portucalense Editora.

Maia, Clarinda Azevedo. 2010. A consciência da dimensão imperial da Língua Portuguesa na produção linguístico-gramatical portuguesa. In Ana Maria Brito (ed.), Gramática: História, teoria, aplicações, 29-49. Porto: Universidade do Porto.

Tomás, Maria Isabel. 2008. A viagem das palavras. In: Mário Ferreira Lages & Artur Teodoro de Matos (eds.), Portugal, Percursos de Interculturalidade, vol. 3, 431–485. Lisbon: ACIDI.

Antje Flüchter

ANTJE.jpgAntje Flüchter is Professor of Cultural History at Bielfeld University. She has led several important projects relating to transculturality in the Early Modern period, with a particular emphasis on the role of Jesuits. Her publications include the edited volume Translating Catechisms, translating Cultures: The Expansion of Catholicism in the Early Modern World, Leiden (2017) and The Dynamics of Transculturality. Concepts and Institutions in Motion (with Jivanta Schöttli), Springer 2015.

Cultural encounter and Cultural Translation: Some Methodological Thoughts

Growing interest in a global perspective has contributed to the proliferation of ‘cultural translation’ as a popular concept in historical studies. However, this term is often only used as a metaphor; a concise methodological approach is still missing. Postcolonial theory continues to be of pivotal importance in this regard but its tendency to focus on power structures cannot explain the inner mechanisms of translation processes and cultural encounters.

The paper  develops a methodological framework to analyse different kinds of cross-cultural contact by applying concepts from translation studies to historical cases. The feasibility of this concept will then be tested by using the example of early modern Jesuit missions. I will focus on the missions and their evangelization practices in Southern India and Japan and thus in areas beyond the influence of European colonialism.

Evangelization can be understood as an encompassing, multilayered process of translation: Not only texts and doctrines but also practices are transferred and relocated in a new context, either in total or in parts. In the translation process, the translator has to choose adequate textual and conceptual grids (André Lefevere), so that the intended audience (may) understand the translated text or object in question. Far from being unambiguous, the choice of these grids depends above all on the translators’ respective aims. Moreover, the missionaries translated for different audiences, mostly for prospective converts  but also for their superiors within the Jesuit Order or at the Curia in order to explain and justify their work. Therefore, the adequateness of a specific translation had to be determined according to the respective contexts and adjusted to the varying aims. I analyse the dimensions and implications of adequate translations combining Lefevere’s concept of grids with the idea of dynamic equivalence by Eugene Nida. The findings will be tested with Lawrence Venuti’s postcolonial and sensitive to power structure criticism against foreignization and domestication.

Such a methodological framework helps to open the black box of translation processes and to unravel the inner mechanisms of translation, moreover to understand the different kind of power relations, the different strategic aims and last but not least the diverse transcultural phenomena resulting from these translation processes.

Ferial Ghazoul

Ferial Ghazoul is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo. She is the Editor of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics and has published and translated extensively. She is the author of Nocturnal Poetics: The Arabian Nights in Comparative Context and co-translator of Qassim Haddad, Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Selected Poems.

Translation as Migration: Traveling Literary Classics from Arabic and into Arabic

The paper will identify the multi-lingual communities in the predominantly Moslem Middle East between 1400-1800 as well as the role of oral transmission played in translating and adapting literary works that have become world literary classics. The study emphasizes the reshaping of works to fit in the new cultural milieu and the way migrants settle in a new land and produce a hybrid subculture.

The examples the paper deploys come from the transformation of the partly legendary, partly historical Arabian love story of Majnun Layla at the hands of Jami (1414-1492) in Persian couplets, Leyla o Majnun, and at the hands of Fuzuli (1483-1556) in his Turkic epic, Dastan-i Leyli vu Mecnun, and finally its rendering in English by Isaac D’Israeli in 1797 as Mejnun and Leila: The Arabian Petrarch and Laura.  The other example is that of the Panchatantra and the Ocean of Stories that migrated from India to Persia to Iraq, metamorphosing into the Arabic Alf Layla wa-Layla (One Thousand and One Nights). The earliest extant version of the Nights in Arabic goes back to the fifteenth century. This Syrian redaction (edited by Muhsin Mahdi) migrated to Egypt and then Tunisia where it acquired a parallel title, One Hundred and One Nights. Eventually, the Nights was translated by Antoine Galland in 1704-1717, which was the basis for translations to English (anonymously in 1706 and 1708) and to Russian by Alexey Filatyev (1763-1774).

Theo Hermans

THEO.jpegTheo Hermans is Professor of Dutch and Comparative Literature at University College, London. He has published extensively in the field of Translation Studies, with a strong focus on translation history and theory. His publications include the (co-)edited multilingual handbook, Übersetzung – Translation – Traduction (De Gruyter) in which he wrote the chapter on ‘Concepts and Theories of Translation in the European Renaissance’ (Vol. II, 2007).

Languages and Translation in the Low Countries 1550-1700

At least five languages were relevant to the Early Modern Low Countries (roughly the present-day Netherlands and Belgium). The vernacular language, Dutch, showed much more dialectal variation than today, sometimes requiring rewriting from one area to another. It was gradually being standardized, but the process had more impact in the northern than in the southern part of the territory. Latin remained the intellectual language throughout the period but lost ground to both Dutch and French towards the middle of the seventeenth century, while some domains, like engineering and practical medicine, adopted Dutch several decades earlier. French, too, was a constant presence, more so in the southern than in the northern territories as time wore on. Spanish, the language of the Habsburg overlords for most of the sixteenth century, retained a presence as an administrative vehicle in the seventeenth-century Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium). Finally, as the Dutch Republic’s powerful East India Company (VOC) and then its West India Company (WIC) struck out overseas, they relied on Portuguese as a means of communication in both Brazil and the Far East. The paper seeks to sketch the distribution of these languages, the development of their relations to one another, and the translation flows between them.

Joan-Pau Rubiés

JOAN-PAU.jpgJoan-Pau Rubiés is ICREA Research Professor at the Department of Humanities, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, specializing in cross-cultural encounters in the Early Modern world. His publications include Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: South India through European Eyes, 1250-1650 (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and ‘Ethnography and Cultural Translation in the Early Modern Missions’, Studies in Church History 53: 272-310.

Translating languages and (mis) translating cultures in the Jesuit missions  

It is now increasingly recognized that the Christian missions of the early modern world were a global phenomenon, which involved a great deal of cultural mediation and translation. The Jesuits in particular have often been praised for their cultural flexibility and their capacity for learning a wide range of languages. Their linguistic expertise, however, was only an aspect of their capacity for cultural accommodation, ethnographic observation, and historical research. My fundamental assumption is that translating languages and translating the implicit codes of a cultural system are fundamentally analogous processes, and quite often closely connected. Hence Jesuit ethnography was a form of cultural translation. In assessing the Jesuits as cultural interpreters, however, their ideological principles in matters of religion and morality (at the very least) could become obstacles to accurate “translation”, in a more obvious manner than when simply translating languages. Cultural bias could in turn lead to cultural misinterpretation.  From this perspective, the Jesuit practice of cultural accommodation has often been scrutinized, and the very concept of cultural dialogue openly questioned. The extent of cultural incommensurability has also been hotly debated. In this intervention, I shall seek to assess through a broad range of examples the degree to which ethnography as cultural translation differed from linguistic expertise, and how far should be go in emphasizing the capacity for mistranslation of the Jesuit missionaries.