Friday’s conference at UofG

Translating Feminism

The last day of our conference will be held in the Yudowitz Seminar Room, Wolfson Medical Building at the University of Glasgow.  The day will begin at 9am with a keynote address from Clàudia de Lima Costa (University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina) discussing ‘Translation and the Ontological Turn’. Our first panel of the day will speak on ‘Translation and Political Ideology’.


Translation and Political Ideology

SPEAKER 1. Annarita Taronna via Skype, University of Bari, Italy

Translation, gender and censorship under Fascism


Recent research (Rundle 2010; Billiani 2006, 2007, 2008; Ferme 2002) has placed translation issues at the very centre of the understanding of Fascism by revealing some unprecedented cultural, ideological and political aspects which have been largely ignored. Specifically, assuming that in 1920s and 1930s Italy translating foreign texts came into being as an activity overdetermined by ideological, literary and economic discourses and constraints, this study will provide an insight into the relationship between the translator and the historical context in which he/she worked as an active agent for the cultural and political environment of the receiving language. Specifically, a close analysis of history, censorship and the translation of foreign women writers through Italy’s Fascist past will be examined in order to show that translation may play an important role in provoking a shift in the paradigm when aesthetic criteria of assessment have to come to terms with the rules imposed by publishers’ needs and the government’s censorship. On these premises, the research goal here is to trace a more detailed framework of the Fascist censorship in relation to the question of gender and translation that can help understand the history of the Italian translations of some British, American and German women writers and the extent to which these texts challenged and subverted the Fascist censorship creating narrative spaces of resistance.

SPEAKER 2. Erin Katherine Krafft, University of Massachusetts, United States

Gender Trouble in transit: Reading contemporary Russian femininity


Judith Butler, in her foundational 1990 text Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge), introduced the idea that gender itself is a performance, an act that draws and reinforces “the culturally intelligible grids of an idealized and compulsory heterosexuality” and thus stabilizes the meaning of gender within prescribed heteronormative parameters (Butler, 135). The ontology of gender in this scenario is one which responds to a binarized masculine/feminine, defined and performed in opposition to one another. The cultural context of this binary has made Butler’s treatment of gender untranslatable in the contemporary Russian social and political landscape, as the ontology of gender throughout the Soviet period was indivisible from the ontologies of citizen, worker, and member of a rigidly-define social collective in which privatized performance of gender was subordinate to public performances of citizenship. The release of Butler’s text coincided with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and while her readings of gender may seem applicable to the rapid postSoviet development and entrenchment of stereotypical masculine and feminine aesthetics and behaviors, particularly under the guidance of Putin and the renewed Orthodox Church, these performances of gendered aesthetics – and their performers – continue to reject the conceptualization of gender described by Butler. Russian women, long denied the ability to inscribe individual expression onto their bodies, do not understand the performance of a feminine aesthetic as a limiting act. Keeping in mind that Russian feminist movement of the current moment is sharply aware of Western influence, an influence that arises from a strong-anti feminism in post-socialist Russia and a resultant necessity to seek support from abroad, this paper will examine the contours of the unintelligibility of Butler’s vision of gender both through contemporary Russian feminist commentary and through the mainstream consciousness of a still-forming civil society. Examining the transcultural and translingual treatment of the concept of gender, and even of the single word itself, illuminates not only the current uses – social and political – of gender and particularly femininity in Russia, but also the intersecting ontologies of class, race, work, and relational definitions of the individual that limit the applicability of Butler’s theories in any social environment.

The next panel of the day considers Translation and the Performing Arts

SPEAKER 1. Shashi Kumar, University of Hyderabad,  India

Critical Analysis of Feminism and Gender Roles in the Four Translated Versions of English Play Pygmalion in Kannada Language


This paper focuses on the translation of dramatic text from English to Kannada language. The study discuss George Bernard Shaw’s English play Pygmalion (1914) along with its four translations in Kannada language. The study wish to look into the manner in which the play has been rendered in Kannada by using different characters from the marginalised communities especially the women characters. I consider Mysoora Malli (Malli of Mysore, 1963) by Gundu Rao, Pygmalion (1975) by V. Seetharamaiah, Mullelide Mandara (Where is thorn, Mandaara?, 1995) by Vyasaraya Ballala and Sevanti Prasanga (An Episode of Sevanti, 1996) by Jayanth Kaikini. This paper shows the changes of women identity and the power relation in source- text Pygmalion as well as its four translations in Kannada.  The objectives of the study are to compare and contrast the ways in which the four Kannada translations differ from each other comparing with the English play Pygmalion. The study looks into the diverging ways in which women characters are portrayed and written by Kannada translators’ in terms of their emotions, oppression, untouchability, socio-economic and political conditions. The study tries to highlight the way Dalit women have been represented very differently in the Kannada translations keeping the caste oppression at the hands of the upper class and as women who experiences patriarchal oppression at the hands of all the men including men of their own caste. The study also displays how money, power and social classes interact with each other by giving each character a different class. Finally, the study focuses on the manifold problems of Dalit women in the Indian state of Karnataka.

SPEAKER 2. Daniela Toulemonde, NUI Galway,  Republic of Ireland

Translation and Drag Queens: The Spanish Translation of Drag Queen Media


Over the last decade, the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR), where drag queens compete to become America’s next drag superstar, has brought the art of drag to the mainstream. An ever-increasing fan base around the world, as well as multiple spin-offs and the creation of related media, has resulted in more English-language drag being translated into Spanish than ever. These translations take a variety of forms: subtitles, dubbings, fan-made, commissioned and indirect translations. This burgeoning field is a complex subject of study, at the intersection of both Translation Studies and Queer Studies. The field of queer translation has become a vibrant area of investigation, as trends from Queer Studies provide interesting new perspectives on the theory and practice of translation. The analysis of translations of American English queer media into Spanish can potentially give us an insight into understanding how ideas of queerness are being transmitted cross-culturally. The American drag queen scene, and RPDR in particular, have become so present around the world that it could be argued that these are the loudest voices defining and exploring the world of drag today. In this paper, I will explore the main differences between the English source text and Colombian fan-made subtitles of season 9 of RPDR. I will argue that these differences shed light on how Colombian fans of the show understand and articulate ideas of gender, sexuality and queerness in Spanish. The prevalent use of English to translate most terminology relating to LGBTQ+ and most of the show’s catchphrases could indicate a direct assimilation of these concepts into the target culture. However, the creative translation of humour and the use of Spanish grammatical gender to queer the target text also suggests a more complex process is taking place. The translation of drag media into Spanish might not be a perfect transfer of ideas, but rather a cross-cultural shaping of ideas of queerness.

SPEAKER 3. Lisa Wegener, Drama Panorama, Berlin, Germany

Translating narratives of gender and identity in international queer drama


The anthology series Drama Panorama presents contemporary foreign-language plays in German translation. For the edition International Queer Drama we invited submissions that explore new narratives of gender and identity, and in doing so create space for an emancipation from outmoded patterns of thinking. In response to our international call for queer plays we received more than a hundred texts featuring marginalised individuals who do not comply with the binary gender norm, scrutinising structures of power and/or portraying strong female characters or characters identifying as women. The material exhibits a diverse range of approaches to the established discourse around the narrative of performed gender roles, for example playing with semantic, phonetic and lexical shifts or inventing new vocabulary, using inclusive forms of expression when it comes to children’s literature and experimenting with forms of empowering terminology.
The experimental forms represented include surrealist approaches to envisioning the dream-like reality of a genderfluid child (Choux-fleur by Servane Daniel) and a transvestite circus artist (Barbette by Bill Lengfelder), attempts to deconstruct psychoanalytic terms and their phallocentrism, diverse conveyed myths from a Christian and Arabic background re-examined from a feminist perspective (A la racine by Marine Bachelot), the depiction of a future cyborg reality where notions of female identity constructed around motherhood are transcended through the creation of new forms of representation using playful language (Vers où nos corps célestes by Julie Ménard) and the invention of figurative and flower-inspired, inclusive terms for non-binary gender constellations in drama for young audiences (Le gène de l’orchidée by Lucy Vérot). The submission process is still ongoing, but by the time the conference takes place additional examples, possibly from other cultural backgrounds, will have emerged.  These texts represent a considerable challenge when it comes to translation. In addition to an overview of the sample material, I will outline possible strategies for addressing the challenges inherent in translating queer-feminist drama in a solution-oriented but playful way. Examples will be presented in the most inclusive way possible, bearing in mind the varying language skills of the conference audience

SPEAKER 4. Ting Guo, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Translation and Queer Feminism in China: Jihua network and Carol


Despite a solid body of legislation defending women’s rights and interests, inequalities between genders remain a significant problem in various areas of Chinese society from education and employment to health. While there is growing literature on the connection between Chinese feminist movement and international gender politics (e.g. Liu et al. 2013, Wesoky 2013, Yu 2015), little attention has been paid to the LGBT+ related issues and how knowledge of gender and sexuality has been disseminated through translation to support queer feminism in China. Drawing from research on transnational feminism (e.g. Grewal & Kaplan 2001, Swarr & Nagar 2012) and queer media activism (e.g. Engebretsen et al. 2015), this paper examines the negotiation and circulation of international queer feminist knowledge in the Chinese context through translation of films. With a case study of Jihua Network, one of the most influential lesbian subtitling groups in China, this paper explores how the Chinese translation of Anglophone lesbian films has been intertwined with global gender politics and participated in the emergent queer feminism in China. It will investigate the development of Jihua in the past decade, its collaborative translation model, and its connections with other LGBT+ subtitling groups in China. Through analysing its translation of the film, Carol (Haynes 2015) and related reviews and interviews about the film, this paper will highlight the initiatives taken by Chinese lesbian feminists to connect with the international community and position themselves within Chinese culture, and how the socio-political inequalities accumulated in the process of globalization can be challenged or reinforced through translation of queer feminist films.

The last panel of the day considers The Omission/Insertion of ‘Feminism’

SPEAKER 1. Mélina Delmas, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Omitting female agency: the first French translation of Lessing’s Martha Quest


Martha Quest (1952), Doris Lessing’s second novel, is a female Bildungsroman. It is the first volume in the Children of Violence series, which recounts the life of Martha from her teenage years in South Rhodesia to her death in London. While conventional female Bildungsromane “demonstrat[e] how society provides women with models for ‘growing down’ instead of ‘growing up’” (Lazzaro-Weis, 1990, p. 17), Lessing provides Martha with a sense of self. Moreover, while she “does not spell out Martha’s consciousness in strictly feminist terms” (Labovitz, 1988, p. 195), the “submerged plot inscribes revolt” (Marrone, 2000, p. 18) and female agency.  Martha Quest was first translated into French in 1957 by Doussia Ergaz and Florence Cravoisier, and then later retranslated by Marianne Véron in 1978. The first translation is heavily cut and edited. This paper will explore micro changes in the text which, on the macro level, create a genre shift from the Bildungsroman to a romance in translation. It will also briefly consider the potential reasons which may have prompted these transformations. The changes observed relate to themes typically found in Bildungsromane. For instance, sexuality is toned down or even erased in translation. References to contraception and sexual manuals are suppressed – both being tools which empower women in their sexual life – while sex-related language is whitewashed. The female heroine’s internal revolt is also toned down to better conform to 1950s gender role expectations.  Overall, these many changes thwart Martha’s agency and undermine her independence. This is highly problematic as it brings the novel back to a tradition of circular Bildungsromane in which the romance plot is predominant, and the heroine’s fate ultimately leads her to walk in her mother’s footsteps and to become a wife.

SPEAKER 2. Cole Collins, Edinburgh College of Art, United Kingdom and Stiftung Arp e.V. Berlin, Germany

What’s in a name?: Gender and identity politics in two translations of Kurt Schwitters’ ‘An Anna Blume’ (1919)


This paper is not concerned with the original German poem by Kurt Schwitters. Instead, it will focus on two puzzling English translations of ‘An Anna Blume’ (1919). The first appearing in 1922 by a Mrs Myrtle Klein, and the second, whose date is uncertain, supposedly translated by Schwitters himself. Klein’s translation, ‘Ann Blossom has Wheels’, is a fascinating example of the erasure of the female translator, as well as how a poem, largely perceived to have been misogynistic and the ramblings of a madman, can be translated into something with political intent. In the later translation by Schwitters, ‘To eve Blossom’, the protagonist undergoes a radical identity change. Keeping her palindromic form, Anna becomes Eve, and she is no longer the subject of a schmaltzy love poem but is thrust into the political conversation of 1940s Britain. Adding to the mystery of this second translation is a third version which deletes the most politically-charged lines of the poem. This version is later favoured as the “authorised” translation when it is published in 1965 in the collected edition of Anna Blume poems, edited by the artist’s son, in which ‘To eve Blossom’ replaces ‘Ann Blossom has Wheels’ in the reprint of the 1922 collection Anna Blume. Dichtungen (Steegemann Verlag, Hannover). In this paper, I will discuss and compare the politicisation of the female identity represented by the character of Anna Blume and consider the ways in which both Klein’s and Schwitters’ translations of the poem might be understood as having feminist intent. I posit that these two (three) translations might be counted as stand-alone pieces of work, independent from the original German text and consider that in order to understand how these works function as examples of radical texts, one must consider them as more than simply translations. In presenting Klein’s version without reliance on the German pre-text, I hope to understand Schwitters’ motivations in radically altering his poem and his protagonist’s identity. This paper has been devised using archival material, manuscripts, type-sheets, and handwritten notebooks, and seeks to intervene and expand upon current readings of both the German and English texts.

SPEAKER 3. Nina Nurmila, State Islamic University, Bandung, Indonesia

Indonesian Male Muslim Feminists: Case Study of Kiayi Husein Muhammad and Dr Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir


Some people may assume that feminist must be a female. This paper will show that a male can also be feminist because being feminist is achieved through a learning process, not biologically born. A female may be brought up to be supporter of patriarchal system, while a male can learn to become feminist. Feminist is someone, either male or female, who is aware of the existing oppression or subordination of women because of their sex and as working to eliminate such oppression or subordination and to achieve equal gender relations between men and women. I use Azza Karam’s categorisation of feminisms in Egypt to describe feminisms in Indonesia: secular, Islamist and Muslim feminisms. This paper will present two case studies of Indonesian male Muslim feminists, Kiayi Husein Muhammad and Dr Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir, by explaining who they are, why they are being labelled as Muslim feminist and what they do to achieve equal gender relations between men and women. The presented data is based on their publications and the author’s closeness with their feminist activism. Both Kiayi Husein Muhammad and Dr Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir are brought up and educated in patriarchal culture. However, their encounter with gender and feminism has changed their perspective to be critical with the existing women’s subordination by using religious justification. Both of them believe that the Qur’an aims to achieve gender justice but its message has been blurred by patriarchal reading of the text. Therefore, they argue for the re-reading of the Qur’an from equal gender perspective.


The conference will end with concluding remarks. 


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