The Right to Untranslatability: Multilingualism, Translation, and World Literaricity

Apter’s recent rebuttal “Against World Literature” (2013) encourages scholars in various fields to contemplate and theorize what it means to claim a “right to untranslatability.” A result of the World Literature debate (Damrosch, Casanova, Moretti, etc.), this concept of a right to untranslatability requires us to think beyond the technical, the institutional, and the market-pragmatic affordances of translation, and towards a newly vigorous line of thinking about literature, signification, and language as such, whether that thinking be global, planetary, or neither. How for instance in recent debates on World Literature has the right to untranslatability been so seamlessly eclipsed by a charismatic, neoliberal right to translation, translatability, translatedness, and communication? Why are the latter considered virtuous, convivial, populist, and progressive, while the former present as vicious, self-indulgent, elitist, and recalcitrant? What does this symbolic division of labor reveal about modern / postmodern / postcolonial conceptions of monolingualism / multilingualism? This seminar at the American Comparative Literature Association’s Annual Meeting in New York (Mar. 2014) invites case studies about literary texts and other symbolic artifacts / constellations that may help us to flesh out, situate, and conceptualize what it means to claim a right to untranslatability in 2014. Theoretical, translational, exegetical, and literary-anthropological approaches are most welcome. See ACLA webpage to contribute a paper.

About livelongday

Associate Professor of German Studies, Director of Graduate Studies Co-Editor of Critical Multilingualism Studies | Co-Investigator, Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law, and the State (2014–2017)
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