lundi 8 novembre 2010

Seminar: The Trouble with Translation


School of English, Communications & Performance Studies
Faculty of Arts, Monash University



A seminar by

Professor Eva Hemmungs Wirtén (Uppsala University, Sweden )

Wednesday 24 November 2010

5.45 – 7.15 pm

McArthur Gallery, State Library of Victoria, Swanston Street , Melbourne CBD
All welcome


At the end of the nineteenth century, translation was a problem in search of a legal solution. Given the multiple conundrums translations posed, it is unsurprising that it was labeled “la question internationale par excellence”. Did authors possess an exclusive right of translation? Did authors enjoy a right to authorize translations of their work? Additionally, what rights did the translator possess in their own translation?

Translation made new works out of old. A prerequisite for the continued circulation of texts, it was the primary vehicle by which authors multiplied their works but, even more significantly, acquired new readers. Yet, translation was a double-edged sword. On one hand, there was the promise of new markets and readers. But on the other there was the possibility that unless somehow regulated, the transformation into a new language could result in substandard or even corrupt texts that in effect alienated an author from their work. While the relationship between authors and readers has been and continues to be of significant interest to book historians, translation – an equally contentious site of both authorship and ownership -- has not received the same attention.

In her talk, Eva Hemmungs Wirtén considers translation as a recurring problem within the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886). As a catalyst for conflicts over the perceived stability of the literary work, the relationship between authors and readers and the geopolitical tensions between producer- and user nations, Professor Wirtén suggests that translation offers a complementary, productive, and still largely unexplored approach into the authorship/copyright conundrum relevant for copyright historians as well as for scholars of print culture.


Eva Hemmungs Wirtén is Professor in Library and Information Science and Associate Professor (Docent) in Comparative Literature at Uppsala University , Sweden . Her research focuses on international copyright and the history of the public domain. She is the author of No Trespassing: Authorship, Intellectual Property Rights, and the Boundaries of Globalization (2004) and Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons (2008) (both University of Toronto Press ). Forthcoming in 2011 is a book chapter tentatively titled “Of Plants and Patents: Circulating Knowledge” for the book Intellectual Property and Emerging Biotechnologies (edited by Matthew Rimmer and Alison McLennan) and the essay “A Diplomatic Salto Mortale: Translation Trouble in Berne , 1884-1886” for Book History. Her new book project will be on The Intellectual Properties of Marie Curie and is funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area), between 2010-13. Website:

(Directions to the McArthur Gallery at the SLV: walk through main ground-floor reading room, take the stairs adjacent to central lifts to Cowen Painting Gallery [level 2A], walk straight across into the Redmond Barry Reading room, then look right for the double glass doors "Maps, Rare Books etc." If any problems, ask staff on the main reference desk).

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