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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Conference: 100 Years of Benjamin’s Task of the Translator

Runs from Friday, September 29 to Saturday, September 30.

Afterlives of an Essay: 100 Years of Benjamin’s Task of the Translator

29-30 September 2023, University of Warwick

Confirmed keynote speakers

2023 marks the publication centenary of Walter Benjamin’s seminal essay on translation, Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers [The Task of the Translator]. Benjamin’s ideas about the relationship between a text and its translation, and about the inherent ‘translatability’ of some texts, have been influential across Translation Studies and Comparative Literature, where the term ‘afterlife’ is both widely used and much debated in relation to texts and their authors. Discussion of the essay continues, with recent responses to Benjamin including Chantal Wright’s translation of Antoine Berman’s The Age of Translation (2018), and Douglas Robinson’s Translation as a Form (2023).

Since The Task of the Translator was first published, however, there have been seismic changes in the theories and frameworks through which we understand translation. Translation Studies has been established as an academic discipline and has expanded far beyond a focus on literary or even verbal texts; advances in translation technology have questioned the philosophical and ethical stakes of the act of translation; and scholars of both translation and comparative literature have challenged the very principle of ‘translatability’. There has also been criticism of Benjamin’s essay and its translations, calling into question its status as a foundational text for translation theories.

Responding both to the central position of Benjamin’s essay in the theoretical canon and to criticisms and new theoretical directions that encourage us to see it in a new light, this conference aims to engage critically with The Task of the Translator in the context of contemporary theories of translation, philosophy and literature. Rather than enshrining the essay on the basis of its longevity, we aim to create an interdisciplinary space for a reassessment of Benjamin’s ideas and their legacy (or afterlife).

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Afterlives of an Essay: 100 Years of Walter Benjamin's Task of the Translator
University of Warwick

Runs from Friday, September 29 to Saturday, September 30.

Confirmed keynote speakers