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ISP Lecture. Entangled Histories of Translation: German Ottoman Literary Relations across the 19th Century

Kristin Dickinson, assistant professor of German, U-M
Thursday, November 30, 2017
4:00-5:30 PM
110 Weiser Hall Map
Large-scale translation movements were central to the discursive production of both German and Turkish national-cultural identities prior to the establishment of a nation state, yet intersections between these two traditions remain largely underresearched. Due to both a dominant French influence in the late Ottoman literary sphere and the incompatibility of Ottoman with the dominant paradigms of German Orientalistik, literary translations between German and Ottoman have been treated as either insignificant or exceptional. This talk argues on the contrary, that instances of German Ottoman translational contact in the 19th century attest to complex interconnections that cut across time periods and traditions.

A case study will be presented showing how the multiple, late Ottoman translations of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s "The Sorrows of Young Werther" (1886-1894, novel first published in 1774) enact a debate in practice regarding 19th-century Ottoman modernization discourse; widely differing translational decisions reveal the agency of Ottoman translators and place the authenticity of Goethe’s “western” source text into question. In turn, Goethe’s incorporation of Ottoman texts into his "West-östlicher Divan" (1819) earlier in the century counters a late Ottoman devaluation of its own tradition of Divan poetry, and engages in diverse translation practices that undermine the concept of fidelity as an ultimate goal.

Marked by omnidirectional processes of transcultural exchange, these diverse translations complicate the contrapositions of self-identity and alterity, original and translation. In a century when distinct understandings of German- and Turkishness were beginning to emerge—in part via translations from diverse other national literatures—individual translations between Ottoman and German pose a challenge to the ethnocentric structure of national cultures, and an easy division between East/West or Ottoman/German.

Kristin Dickinson’s research on contemporary German and Turkish literature examines the potential of translation, as both a formal and a social medium, to intervene in nationalist language ideologies and nationally structured areas of study. Her teaching and publications have focused on questions of world literature, translation theory in practice, cross-linguistic remembrance, linguistic purity, and critical monolingualism. Her current book project, "Translation and the Experience of Modernity: A History of German Turkish Connectivity," traces the development of a German Turkish translational relationship from the early 19th century to the present. Her additional projects examine performances of translation at the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair, “Turkey in All Its Colors;” the transnational significance of the early Turkish Republican author Sabahattin Ali; and the cartographies of non-arrival, disruption, and deferral in the works of Franz Kafka and Bilge Karasu.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: European, History, International, Literature, Muslim
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Global Islamic Studies Center, International Institute, Germanic Languages & Literatures

The Global Islamic Studies Center organizes a number of public events each year such as lectures, conferences, and films, many in collaboration with other U-M units. Please use our searchable events calendar for information about upcoming programs sponsored by GISC and the Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Seminar (IISS).