Collaboration and Agency in Translation History

Activity: Academic and Industrial eventsConference, workshop or symposium


If we look at women translators in early modern Europe, we have to recognize that many of them produced their work by collaborating in various ways with others. Literary historians have often been suspicious of collaboration, and perhaps particularly so in cases involving women: after putting so much effort into recovering women’s voices, acknowledging collaboration seems to risk robbing them all over again of their agency. It is assumed that in patriarchal societies, women will at best have been confined to ‘helpmate’ roles; feminist critics have shown a tendency to try to tease out the individual contributions made by women to collaborative ventures or have focused on ‘proto-feminist’ female-female partnerships. This talk will follow recent research in arguing that patriarchy did not in fact have a pervasive influence over gender norms in pre-modern Europe but that there were ‘fissures’ in the system which allowed some women to participate in collaborative literary activities – here translation – on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Women created translations in processes of collaborative agency which may seem strange to us now but were an accepted form of literary production at the time. In fact, collaboration appears to have been a defining feature of literary and cultural life in early modern Europe, and women’s activities were similar to men’s, making the role of gender much less significant than we might think.
Period6 May 2022
Held atCatholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Degree of RecognitionInternational