Panel 35. Crossing minorities in translation history: peripheries, gender and less translated languages

Conveners: Maud Gonne, Laura Fólica

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Despite a growing interest in minor(ized) voices in translation studies, less translated languages, cultures and agents (regional, female) are still kept to the margins of translation and cultural history. Moreover, they are mainly approached in isolation or in relation to dominant models (national, male), rather than in intersection, i.e. in relation to each other (regional-regional, female-female, regional-female, indigenous-regional-female, and so one). And yet, such intersectionalities challenge translation scholars to rethink translation history in the light of complex decentralized, entangled and paradoxical cultural dynamics. Indeed, while translation simultaneously promotes and threatens the very existence of peripheral languages and cultures, it is also a freeing practice for less legitimate agents such as women, allowing their incorporation in the intellectual or publishing fields. With other words, the complex intertwinement of minor(ized) languages, cultures, agents and practices invites us to reassess their role in translation history. We invite theoretical-methodological papers and case studies contributing to this interdisciplinary issue through different perspectives (among others global and literary history, gender studies, postcolonial studies, sociology of translation and digital humanities) without any spatial-temporal limitation. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

1. Intersectionalities: theoretical perspectives on the crossing of translation and minor(ized) agents, cultures and geographies in translation history, including women (women translator and/or women translated), less translated and regional languages and cultures.

2. Historiographical methods: methodological challenges in the study of (the intersection of) minorities in translation history, among others the promises and pitfalls of biographical studies, prosopography, data mining, social network analysis, geohumanities and feminist and gender approaches.

3. Minorities and activism: the relationships between translation, activism and identity building in minority contexts, among others the function of women in the promotion of less translated cultures and languages.

4. Mapping multiscale dynamics: case studies targeting multiscale (translocal, transregional, transnational) flows and intersections of minor(ized) agents, cultures and geographies.


Branchadell, Albert and Lovell Margaret West. 2005. Less Translated Languages, John Benjamins.

Flotow, Luise von and Frazaneh Farahzad. 2017. Translating Women. Different Voices and New Horizons, Routledge.

Fólica, Laura “The translation of indigenous languages in Latin American avant-garde literary journals of the first half of the 20th century” and Maud Gonne “Translating minorities. Literary translation beliefs and Walloon identity building (1850-1930)”, in Diana Roig Sanz, Elisabet Carbó and Ana Kvirikashvili (eds.). Special issue of Comparative Literature Studies, forth. 2022

Lionnet, Françoise and Shu-mei Shih. 2005. Minor Transnationalism, Duke University Press.

Roig Sanz, Diana and Reine Meylaerts. 2018. Literary Translation and Cultural Mediators in 'Peripheral' Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan.


German Women Translators Around 1800 Between “Lowbrow” Literature and Canon. Daniele Vecchiato

Research on German women translators in the Age of Goethe (ca. 1770-1830) has tended to focus on a handful of female writers and translators who came from a scholarly milieu and had some kind of professional or personal relation to prominent male intellectuals of the time. The most famous cases are Luise Gottsched (Brown 2012, Sanmann 2021) and Sophie Mereau (Hannemann 2005). While these studies have commendably drawn attention to the activity of women translators in the male-dominated literary market of the time, many less-known translators remain to discover, especially women who came from more disadvantaged backgrounds or were unmarried or divorced and had to translate large amounts of books for money. These cases may even be more representative of the translation industry in late 18th and early 19th century Germany, which was characterized by an extremely rapid commercialization and consumption of popular literature (aimed at a primarily female readership). If translation was considered by critics around 1800 as inferior to original writing – something that legitimized women’s engagement in this activity, as it was deemed ancillary to proper literary production (Chamberlain 2012) – the translation of so-called “Trivialliteratur” (lowbrow literature) was marked by a double marginalization, when compared with the translation of highbrow literature (Bachleitner 2013). Yet, it is widely known that the best-selling literature of the time did not comprise what we nowadays consider (and perhaps worship) as the canon, but rather sentimental, adventure or historical novels that had to appeal to broad audiences. In my paper, I will try to reconstruct the historical and social background in which German women translators came to operate in the late Enlightenment and early Romantic period, by looking at selected works by two prolific and successful literary mediators of the time: Benedikte Naubert (1752-1819) and Fanny Tarnow (1779-1862). I will provide an insight on some of the translation strategies used by both writers, and show how they were able to establish themselves in the literary field through the translation (and adaptation) of popular “women’s literature”.



Bachleitner, Norbert. From Scholarly to Commercial Writing. German Women Translators in the Age of the „Translation Factories“. Oxford German Studies 42.2 (2013), pp. 173-188.

Brown, Hilary. Luise Gottsched the Translator. Camden House: Rochester 2012. - Chamberlain, Lori. Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation. In: Lawrence Venuti (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader. Routledge: New York, 2012, pp. 254-268.

Hannemann, Britta. Weltliteratur für Bürgertöchter. Die Übersetzerin Sophie Mereau-Brentano. Wallstein: Göttingen 2005.

Sanmann, Angela. Die andere Kreativität. Übersetzerinnen im 18. Jahrhundert und die Problematik weiblicher Autorschaft. Winter: Heidelberg 2021.

Rethinking the relationship between women, translation and activism in history: the case of German-speaking translators, 1848-1918. Julia Kölbl

At least since the French Revolution, women across Europe – and elsewhere – have increasingly found ways to engage in activism and develop a broad spectrum of political practices. From the perspective of translation history, it was also particularly throughout the “long” 19th century that more and more women succeeded in circumventing their formal exclusion from the world of politics and in contributing to public affairs by using translations in the service of explicitly political and/or social causes. Up until now, such “politicized” or “activist” women translators who challenge the notion of the humble and subservient female translator have mostly been studied with regard to their agency within the translation process, that is in terms of what and how they translated and – at best – how involved they were in the production and dissemination of their work. This paper adopts a broader perspective on the interconnection between women, translation and activism in history by not focusing so much on how women were able to convey their political stances on a textual level, but by exploring – with the help of Hilary Brown’s “Women-interrogated approach” – the opportunities for direct political action that the women deliberately created for themselves and others through their translation work. Drawing on biographical data of 40 women who were both translating and publicly advocating for activist causes between 1848 and 1918 in the Habsburg Monarchy and the German Empire, the paper will employ Bourdieu’s theory of cultural production to investigate the interrelationship between the women’s translatorial and activist work. The study’s results are expected to lay the foundation for a typology of “activist” women translators in the past, which will allow for a more nuanced picture of women translators engaged in political and/or social activism and at the same time help broaden our understanding of the forms of political participation open to and created by women in the historical period under investigation.



Baker, Mona (2013) “Translation as Alternative Space for Political Action”. Social Movement Studies 12:1, 23–47. Brown, Hilary (2018) “Women Translators in History: Towards a ‘Woman-Interrogated’ Approach”, in: Sanmann, Angela/Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère, Martine/Cossy, Valérie (eds.) Women Authors of the Enlightenment. Übersetzen, schreiben, vermitteln. Lausanne: Université de Lausanne, 27–52.

Castro, Olga/Ergun, Emek (eds.) (2017) Feminist Translation Studies: Local and Transnational Perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Flotow, Luise von/Farahzad, Farzaneh (eds.) (2017) Translating Women. Different Voices and New Horizons. London: Routledge.

Tymoczko, Maria (2000) “Translation and Political Engagement. Activism, Social Change and the Role of Translation in Geopolitical Shifts”. The Translator 6:1, 23–47.

How to re/deconstruct voices of (female) translators. The case of Bolesława Kopelówna (1879-1961). Joanna Sobesto

Answering the call for the interdisciplinarity within translation history (Rundle 2014) and inspired by the current insight into the benefits of transnational perspective within translation studies (Fólica, Roig-Sanz, Caristia 2020), I would like to present the case study of a Polish female translator of a Jewish origin and a political left-wing activist, Bolesława Kopelówna. The biography of Kopelówna – who has been very active (and widely criticized) especially in the interwar (1918-1939) Polish press, and who now is almost completely forgotten is not documented in her archives and full of blank spaces, silence and lacunae. In my presentation, I would like to find possible answers to the following questions: why was Kopelówna so intensively criticised; why has she disappeared from the collective memory; why was she such an active translator, but first and foremost: who was she. By applying microhistorical tools to traces of Kopelówna’s life and work (Munday 2014), I will re/deconstruct her seemingly non-existing archive (Buss 2001) from the letters of her friend and politician, Zygmunt Żuławski to her. While extending the notion of an archive into the non-tangible practices and the archives or other (usually: male) figures (Munday 2014), I aim at bringing back the voice of the silenced, overlooked and underestimated translator. By combining interdisciplinary tools from literary history, history and feminist studies, I also would like to reflect on the importance of positionality and self-reflectivity (Haraway 1988) of a translation studies scholars. I would like to put Kopelówna into the wider socio-cultural perspective of Poland in the 20th century, especially in relation to other female translators from a similar period. In a broader sense, the contextualized case study might be a contribution to the discussion of possible futures of translation history and histories of translation knowledge (D’hulst Gambier 2018).



Fólica, Laura. Diana Roig-Sanz, Stefania Caristia. 2020. “Towards a transnational and large-scale approach to literary translation in periodicals”. In: Translation in Literary Periodicals. Fólica, Laura. Diana Roig-Sanz, Stefania Caristia (eds.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp 1-17.

Haraway, Donna. 1988. “Situated knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective”. Feminist Studies 14(3). pp. 575–599.

D’hulst, Lieven Gambier, Yves (eds). 2018. A History of Modern Translation Knowledge. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Munday, Jeremy. 2014.“Using Primary Sources to Produce a Microhistory of Translation and Translators: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns”. The Translator 20 (1): pp. 64–80.

Rundle, Christopher. 2014. ‘Theories and Methodologies of Translation History: The Value of an Interdisciplinary Approach’, The Translator 20 (1): pp. 2–8.

The activist potential of self-translation. Magdalena Kampert

The paper addresses the phenomenon of self-translation - ‘the act of translating one’s own writings into another language and the result of such an undertaking’ (Grutman 2009) – and presents it as a useful tool for voicing the minorities. It uses the examples of Luigi Pirandello and Maria Kuncewiczowa in their capacity of self-translators, and thus agents for diversity and facilitators in building inclusive communities. Despite its long existence, self-translation has been long neglected by scholars due to its intricate nature which defies mono-lingual/-cultural categories, and due to the nationalist paradigm of monolingualism in European literary traditions (Hokenson and Munson 2007). Since self-translators write in languages and physical spaces that might not be their native ones, self-translation poses problems of the placing of self-translations and self-translators. Its distinctive feature is the unity of two roles in one figure, which makes of the self-translator an author(ity) and an authorized agent (Grutman and Van Bolderen 2014). Hence, self-translator’s double role and affiliation to different contexts places self-translation in a privileged position to challenge power hierarchies, and renegotiate the ideas of ‘minor’ and ‘major’. Although the 20th-century features various examples of Italian and Polish self-translation, there is a lack of a more systematic study of the phenomenon. The paper introduces two case studies of self-translation by Pirandello and Kuncewiczowa who deal with situations of linguistic/cultural marginality within national borders and in the context of displacement, respectively. It concentrates on Pirandello’s theatre self-translations between Sicilian and Italian, and on Kuncewiczowa’s Polish self-translation of the English play Thank you for the Rose (1950-1956). The paper analyses relevant elements of the historical, cultural and sociolinguistic contexts, and findings based on paratextual materials. In discussing the case studies, it draws attention to asymmetrical power relations which pervade the process of self-translation and influence the dynamics of literary production and dissemination. The cases of Pirandello and Kuncewiczowa portray self-translators as agents helping interrogate the power hierarchies existing in the geopolitical spaces in which ‘major’ and ‘minor(ised)’ meet. Hence, the paper emphasises the activist potential of self-translation as a tool of recognition and empowerment of the minor(ised) voices.



Grutman, Rainier, ‘Self–translation’, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2009), pp. 257–260.

Grutman, Rainier, and Trish Van Bolderen, ‘Self-Translation’, in A Companion to Translation Studies, ed. by Sandra Bermann and Catherine Porter (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), pp. 323–32.

Hokenson, Jan Walsh, and Marcella Munson, The Bilingual Text. History and Theory of Literary Self-Translation (Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 2007).

Santoyo, Julio-César, ‘Blank Spaces in the History of Translation’, in Charting the Future of Translation History: Current Discourses and Methodology, (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2006), pp. 11–43. Self-Translation and Power. Negotiating Identities in Multilingual European Contexts, ed. by Olga Castro, Sergi Mainer, and Svetlana Page (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

José Mailhot and An Antane Kapesh: a mutually beneficial encounter between two minoritized women. Denise Merkle.

During a period when efforts of the Canadian government to assimilate the country’s Aboriginal peoples were especially pronounced, a small number of exceptional anthropologists worked with some of the Aboriginal nations to help them protect their languages and cultures. One such person was Québec anthropologist José Mailhot. Mailhot learned the Innu language while living in an Innu community and in the process befriended An Antane Kapesh, a militant Innu woman. During her lifetime, Mailhot wrote anthropological works that presented the point of view of the Innu people rather than that of the dominant culture, contributed to the production of an Innu-French dictionary and notably translated two of An Antane Kapesh’s most influential works, Eukuan Nin Matshi-Manitu Innushkueu/Je suis une maudite sauvagesse and Tanite Nene Etutamin Nitassi?/Qu’as-tu fait de mon pays?, while accompanying the Innu writer on the voyage from orality to written expression. In the Canadian context, Québec language is considered minor; while in the Québec context, the Innu language, like that of other Aboriginal peoples, is considered minor, though the Aboriginal languages of Canada are clearly less translated than is Québec French. This case study brings together two minor language-cultures and two women activists, one of whom was a translator, to highlight and illustrate a unique and highly productive intersection. The proposal falls most explicitly under topic “3. Minorities and activism: the relationships between translation, activism and identity building in minority contexts, among others the function of women in the promotion of less translated cultures and languages.” Both An Antane Kapesh, the writer, and José Mailhot, the translator-writer, were activists, who worked on validating and strengthening Innu identity. This paper will bring Kapesh and Mailhot out of the historical shadows, by presenting and analyzing their significant contributions in light of the cultural dynamics at play. While it would be legitimate to question whether Mailhot’s translation work threatened the Innu language and culture, the study will show that Kapesh and Mailhot worked together to promote and legitimize Innu as a written and publishable language, while in the process familiarizing Québécois people with a culture that was often little known to them.



Flotow, Luise von and Frazaneh Farahzad. 2017. Translating Women. Different Voices and New Horizons. London and New York, Routledge.

Kapesh, An Antane. 2020a. Eukuan Nin Matshi-Manitu Innushkueu/Je suis une maudite sauvagesse. rans. J. Mailhot. Montréal, Mémoire d’encrier.

Kapesh, An Antane. 2020b. Tanite Nene Etutamin Nitassi?/Qu’as-tu fait de mon pays? Trans. J. Mailhot. Montréal, Mémoire d’encrier.

Mailhot, José. 2021. Shushei au pays des Innus. Montréal, Mémoire d’encrier.



Published May 20, 2022 4:28 PM - Last modified June 6, 2022 5:35 PM
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