Women Translators in History: Towards a « Woman-Interrogated » Approach

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This article proposes a new theoretical/methodological framework for the study of women translators in the past, taking the example of the Enlightenment as its starting-point. It identifies main trends in research on women translators over the last thirty years. Since the pioneering feminist work of the late 1980s and early 1990s, critics have been concerned with excavating a tradition of forgotten female translators and have often drawn similar conclusions in their studies: women were expected to be silent and invisible in patriarchal society, but saw in translation an acceptable way of participating in intellectual life, and sometimes used this opportunity to assert their agency in surprising and even subversive ways. However, such accounts do not take into consideration more recent thinking about the unstable and contingent nature of ‹ gender ›. This article argues that we should adopt what Carol Maier has termed a « woman-interrogated » approach, i.e. we should not always automatically privilege gender as a category of analysis but be sensitive to its complexities and to other factors which influence textual production such as genre, social class, age, and religious confession. This should lead us towards a more nuanced understanding of the history of translation.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCahiers du Centre de traduction littéraire de Lausanne
Subtitle of host publicationspecial issue 'fémin|in|visible: Women authors of the Enlightenment - Übersetzen, schreiben, vermitteln'
Publication statusPublished - 2018