CFP: The Medieval Translator


Translation, Memory, and Politics in the Medieval World
To be hosted by the Universidade de Lisboa – Portugal
17-21 June 2024

The medieval world was marked by the simultaneous emergence of vernacular languages in writing and the efforts of various institutions to establish and strengthen their own power and identities. Kingdoms, monastic institutions, cathedrals, noble houses, and cities sought to gain political prominence through the use of vernacular languages as a means of constructing historical memories based on older texts written primarily in Latin, but also in Greek, Arabic, or other vernacular languages. This could involve chronicles, short histories, but also hagiographies, epics or legal texts, among others.

For instance, in Iberia, the court of Alfonso X of Castile provides a notable example of this effort, through works such as the Estoria de España and the General estoria, and in Portugal with the Crónica Geral de Espanha de 1344 by Pedro de Barcelos. This effort was concurrent with the investment in translating, paraphrasing, and abridging texts of biblical origin or biblical histories (e.g., Comestor’s Historia Scholastica), which had a significant impact on the creation of new texts and translations. This was part of the medieval goal to construct global, regional, or local historical memories in vernacular languages, or to link more specific histories (e.g., of monasteries) to broader historical contexts (such as those provided by universal chronicles or biblical histories).

In frontier territories, the translation of texts served the same purpose of building historical memory, often incorporating new elements and rewriting older texts (and therefore memories) in a new language. For example, in Iberia, one can see examples of translations from Latin to Arabic (e.g., Historiae by Orosius), from Arabic to Latin (e.g., Chronica pseudoisidoriana), or from Arabic to vernacular, either to Portuguese or to Castilian (Crónica del moro Rasis).

In light of this context, we propose to explore the following themes that articulate the relationship between memory and translation in the medieval period:

  • Translation, memory, and the creation, reinforcement, or expression of new cultural and political
  • Translators and readers: production, circulation, and uses of translations of historical (or related) texts.
  • The influence of translation on the development of vernacular languages: How translation of historical (or related) texts contributed to the standardization and evolution of vernacular languages.
  • The role of translation in preserving and transmitting classical and late antique visions of the past to the medieval world.
  • The role of translating historiographical or hagiographical texts in facilitating or blocking political and cultural exchange and cross-cultural communication.
  • The ways in which translated texts about the past were adapted to suit local cultural, linguistic, and
    political contexts.
  • The role of translation in the transmission of historical knowledge between different communities and cultures in the medieval world: appropriations and refusals.
  • Translation and the formation of a literary canon concerning the past: How translations helped shape a literary canon about the past in different regions and how this/these canon(s) influenced literary
    production in the vernacular languages.
  • Translation, memory, and the representation of “others”: The representation of “others” in translated
    texts and the impact of translating texts about the past on shaping attitudes towards “others.

We invite submissions that address these themes and related topics in the context of the medieval world. Papers may be given in English, French or Portuguese, and should be twenty minutes long. Please send a 500-word abstract, an essential bibliography and a brief curriculum vitae by 15 October 2023 to: Following previous practice, it is planned to publish a book of selected papers in the peer-reviewed Medieval Translator series (Brepols) following the conference.
Further information about the conference will be available in the next months.

One Reply to “CFP: The Medieval Translator”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *