While scholars in Persian Studies draw both broadly and specifically from Translation Studies, there are few panels dedicated to this emerging field. A panel centered around the critical study of translation will afford scholars from diverse backgrounds a space for an exchange on the place and importance of translation theories, practices, and politics in the Persianate world. This panel hopes to contribute to this dialogue.
By its nature, Translation Studies crosses many disciplines and languages. Due to its interdisciplinary framework, the problem of translation is discussed across different panels and fields. Often relegated as a secondary topic, this panel is an effort to bring the question of translation to the center stage of literary and cultural studies research. Consisting of speakers who have engaged various aspects of translation, this panel also hopes to address the gap that has persisted for long between the practice and theory of translation.
Beyond its basic definition as transference from one language into another, the panelists will theorize translation in its extended senses in their respective literary contexts. We begin in seventeenth-century India. Dārā Shokūh’s Majmaʿ ol-baḥrayn (1655), a work of comparative religion produced in Mughal India, allows us to consider the concept of alignment as a criterion for “good translation” mediating two texts and literary traditions infused with distinctly different religious cultures. We will then move to twentieth and twenty-first century Iran. Considering prison memoirs (either written in Persian and English or translated from Persian to English), we will explore the relation between translatability and genre. This talk will further examine how translatable Iranian prison memoirs are to other linguistic, cultural, political, and economic contexts. The next talk critically examines the translatability of Bizhan Jalâli’s poetry. While it is common to think of Jalâli’s verse as “translatable,” this talk will address the challenging process of translation in light of the poet’s place both in contemporary Persian poetry and historiography. Our last talk examines the relation between translation and the formation of the modern Iranian political and literary cultures through a reading of Safarnameh, a travel document written by Qajar statesman Mirza Saleh Shirazi.
We hope that the presentations and discussions of this panel will offer insight and applicable results to theoretical debates concerning translation and translatability in Persianate literary culture. Finally, we hope the panel contributes to future efforts centered around the critical examination of translation theory and practice.
Episodic approaches to literary history may point in the direction of general trends in contemporary Persianate culture by examining the ideological presuppositions of dominant poetic discourses; however, they necessarily reduce the aesthetic and social complexity of literary currents. They further occlude a vigorous consideration of figures whose poetic vision does not directly speak to the common trends posited by episodic accounts. Poets such as Bizhan Jalâli (d. 1999) have been rendered standalone figures whose visions of poetic modernism are overlooked or understood only in the context of their “non-adherence” to the dominant literary discourse of their time. Using Translation Studies as an analytical lens, I unpack some of the unique challenges that arise while translating the poetry of Bizhan Jalâli into English, primarily how to render visibility to form in a target language wherein Free Verse is seen as established and normative. I propose certain measures to accommodate Jalâli’s modernist poetics and make his poetic form shine through in English. I will conclude that translating Jalali into Arabic would require different accommodations that do not necessarily involve drawing attention to its distinct form. Such framework is a step towards fully situating the poet in the contemporary Persianate literary culture.