Problems in Literary Translation: Voices from the Trenches

Call for Papers:

Though translation is often intrinsic to the practice of scholarship on South Asia, literary translators are a small minority in the field. Because the format of academic conferences foregrounds research and prioritizes scholarly argument and theory over the practices of translation that underwrite area studies, it is often difficult for literary translators to present and discuss their work in such settings.

We propose a day-long pre-conference built around presentations given by twenty participants devoted to the practice of hands-on literary translation from South Asian languages or between South Asian languages.

We invite presentations from published translators or from scholars and graduate students for whom translation is an integral part of their research, encouraging formats that engage creatively with the process of translation, raise problems and open-ended questions, and foster discussion, debate, and critique among translators.

Problems to be discussed will be largely one of technique, including the inherent difficulties of translating dialogue (an indicator of all kinds of things such as class, caste, and status) and inflection in voice, register, and tone. How do we translate 'place'? How do we balance philological concerns with the production of readable texts? How are the challenges of translating poetry different from those presented to us by prose? And finally, what happens when we translate an experiential world from a South Asian language into English, or from one South Asian language into another?

 At the end of the day's panels, we will hold a translation 'mushaira' in which participants will be invited to present oral presentations of their work to the group.

Please contact Martha Ann Selby at and Daisy Rockwell at to apply to participate in this PreConference.