University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Emily Apter, French & Comparative Literature, New York University. Thursdays at Four, March 12, 2015

Not Translated, Non-Equivalent, Incommensurate:
Rethinking the Units of Comparison in Comparative Literature

Thursday, March 12, 2015, at 4:00pm
Northrop — Crosby Seminar Room (240)

A talk by Emily Apter, French & Comparative Literature, NYU.

Download: small video, audio, or original.


Download: small video, audio, or original.

In her book Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability, written while co-editing an English translation of the Dictionary of Untranslatables. A Philosophical Lexicon (ed. Barbara Cassin), Apter looked at how non-translation, retranslation, mistranslation, sovereign exceptionalism, and what she called the “translational interdiction” in law, cultural prohibition, and theology, might be used to re-contour the map of the comparative humanities, such that difference and incommensurability would be foregrounded over and against similitude and commensurability. The book pointed to the development of comparative pedagogies that highlighted areas of linguistic difficulty, translation failure, and forms of non-negotiable singularity that are negotiated nonetheless. This lecture will develop this theory of untranslatability further, focusing on how we define the units of what is not translated.

2014.4,28 Apter__EmilyEmily Apter is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at New York University.  Her books include: Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (2014), Against World Literature.  On The Politics of Untranslatability (2013), The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (2006), Continental Drift: From National Characters to Virtual Subjects (1999), Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, (co-edited with William Pietz in 1993), Feminizing the Fetish: Psychoanalysis and Narrative Obsession in Turn-of-the-Century France (1991), and André Gide and the Codes of Homotextuality (1987).    Articles have appeared in Third Text, boundary 2, New Literary HistoryLittérature, Artforum, Critical Inquiry,  October, Translation Studies, PMLA, Cabinet, Romanic Review, The Global South, Comparative Literary Studies, Grey Room, The Boston Review, SITES,  Angelaki, American Literary History, Parallax, Modern Language Notes, Esprit Créateur, Critique, differences and Public Culture. Since 1998 she has edited the book series, Translation/Transnation  for Princeton University Press.

Her teaching specializations include translation theory, literature, philosophy, politics, sexuality and gender, critical theory, psychoanalytic approaches, French and Francophone nineteenth and twentieth century literatures, the critique of world literature, literary world-systems, history and theory of comparative literature, and forms of the novel.

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Organized by the IAS Interpretation and Translation Studies at the University (ITSU) Research Collaborative. Co-sponsored by ITSU and the Theorizing Early Modern Studies (TEMS) Research Collaborative, the Chair’s Initiative Fund of the Department of English, and the Departments of Asian Languages and Literatures; Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature; French and Italian; German, Scandinavian, and Dutch; History; and Spanish and Portuguese Studies.

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  1. DAvidMarch 13, 2015 at 2:15 pmReply

    The preface to Philosophy in Translation mentions syntagorem and is available above in the Website field. ” We occasionally found ourselves questioning
    the French editors’ choice of untranslatables, some
    of which struck us as nonphilosophical or whimsically
    highlighted. Such terms as “multiculturalism,” “happening,”
    “judicial review,” and “welfare” were interesting
    samples of what European thinkers might regard as
    untranslatable, but they struck us as having insufficient
    traction on this score for English speakers. A term such
    as Syntagorem—important though it was as a conceptual
    prong of medieval Scholasticism—was sacrificed because
    it was densely technical and ultimately uneditable. For
    the most part, however, we preserved original entries
    even when they were highly resistant to translation”

  2. abuka54ckJanuary 8, 2015 at 4:55 pmReply

    Even the name of the book “Against World Literature” evokes interest to find and to read the book :)

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