Call for Papers
Arabic literature, declared Edward Said in 1990, "remains relatively unknown and unread in the West, for reasons that are unique, even remarkable." Twenty years later, there has certainly been an increase in the availability of Arabic literary and non-literary works in several European languages, and more attention is being given to current publications in Arabic. Yet, considering the great interest in the West in Arab and Muslim societies, translating and publishing Arabic works in several Western languages is still often seen as nothing less than a gamble.
Whether it is their illustrative social value, their exotic appeal, their connection to current trends, Arabic works often have to give justifications for their existence in Western languages, other than their own intrinsic merit. One very effective pass to translation has been the "controversial" or "subversive" status of a work in Arabic. Writings viewed as subverting political, social, and religious establishments or defying moral codes (especially when accompanied by public outcries or bans of any kind) have usually been given priority by translators and publishers in the West.
This panel seeks to explore, from various angles, the translation of works considered controversial or subversive in Arabic. Our aim is to examine the factors influencing the selection of works for translation, the choices and dilemmas facing translators and publishers in the process of transferring the work from Arabic, and the recent developments and current state of the field.
We welcome contributions that benefit from recent research in translation studies, especially those engaging critically with traditional paradigms in translation theory or scholarship on Arabic literature, society, and politics.
Some of the questions that the panel addresses are:
- How significant is the work's controversial status to its selection for translation from Arabic?
- Has there been any change in recent years toward more attention to the "intrinsic artistic value" of Arabic literature, rather than its social or political relevance?
- How valid are the traditional paradigms of Orientalism and exoticism in understanding current translator choices and audience reactions in Western languages?