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Medieval Conference Unites Scholars

January 14, 2009

Co-sponsored by the new Center for Translation Studies and the Program in Medieval Studies, this international conference brought together at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on October 28 and 29, 2008, medievalists whose scholarship focuses on translation in the Middle Ages or on the cultural transfer of medieval ideas, images, and ideologies.

View video clips of conference proceedings with RealPlayer

The event invited medievalists and modernists, scholars and artists to engage in creative dialogue that drew the interest of both the campus and the broader community.

The conference involved medievalists from North America, Europe and as far away as Korea, who work in various disciplines—literature, lexicography, art history, history of the book, and history—and in various national traditions—English, French, Italian, Arabic, and Latin. The program included both senior scholars whose work has defined and continues to shape the field of medieval translation studies as well as young scholars who are making transformative interventions in this field. Several participants had also translated or are currently preparing translations of medieval texts. Some are contributors to the Worldwide Universities Network collaborative project “Multilingualism in the Middle Ages”.  The collected papers from the conference are being edited for publication.

The conference was preceded by a “Dante Marathon,” a collective public reading of the Dante’s “Inferno” in Catalan, Romanian, Russian, Portuguese, and Hebrew as well as in German, French, Italian and English. In connection with the conference, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin and U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky visited the campus to read from and discuss their translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The conversation was moderated by Richard Powers, the Swanlund Chair in English at the University of Illinois and winner of the 2006 National Book Award for his novel The Echo Maker. An exhibit of Merwin’s papers titled “Multiple Merwins: Poet, Translator and Environmental Activist” was mounted by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. (The video-tape does not include these associated events.)

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