Roundtable: Self-Translation is not Translation at all

Yves Cloarec Announcement
Pennsylvania, United States
Subject Fields
Languages, Linguistics, Literature

Unlike the translator of someone else’s work, a self-translator does not translate: she “thinks” in both languages. Self-translation, then, may not be translation at all, but be merely the process of creating “the same” literary work in a different language. This roundtable invites writers, translators and scholars to examine examples of Self-Translation from high literature, popular culture, or ideally their own attempts, and discuss to what degree the “Self” is bound by the language(s) which it uses to express itself.


Is the term “Self-Translation” even a valid expression? Granted, it seems better than the previously accepted term “auto-translation;” but, whatever we choose to call it, defining it and understanding it may prove to be more elusive than may at first appear.

NeMLA 2018’s theme “Global Spaces, Local Landscapes and Imagined Worlds” is an excellent lens through which we propose to analyze this chimera of the literary world: the self-translated text.

Nicola Danby tells us in La Lingusitique (2004/1 – Vol 40) “many bilinguals cannot help but struggle with the distinction between their two language-bound selves.” I would go further; I put forward as a basis for discussion in this roundtable the proposition that a multilingual writer possesses as many “identities” as the number of languages mastered. In this sense, the term “Self-Translation” is doubly erroneous, as it is neither the text nor the self that is being translated; rather, what we call a self-translation is in fact an artistic creation by a transformed, "different" self.

This roundtable invites self-translators willing to share their experiences (joys and despairs given equal consideration), translators interested in venturing into this very different craft, and scholars who study or are intrigued by the myriad opinions and theories of those writers who seek to occupy global spaces by “translating” their local landscapes and imagined worlds.

Please be prepared to present your ideas (and/or read from some "self-translated" passage) as well as engage fellow participants and audience members in thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion.

Abstract by Sep 30th to:

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