Professor Charles Forsdick – who is currently AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow for Translating Cultures – has recently organized and contributed to a number of events that have underlined the place of translation and multilingualism in Modern Languages. Much of his recent work has explored the ways in which Modern Languages can no longer adopt a monolingual approach to understand the cultures and societies we seek to study. Although high levels of linguistic competence in our chosen subjects are central to being an expert Modern Linguist, there is an increasing need to understand how languages co-exist, either in the dynamic processes of translation or in situations of everyday multilingualism.
Earlier last month, Professor Forsdick spoke in Newcastle at a conference in honour of the US-based author of Dominican origin Junot Diaz. Author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz writes works that exploit a range of registers within English (mixing academic references with the language of popular culture) and also draws on Spanish to create a literary effect that sociolinguists call ‘translanguaging’. Professor Forsdick’s paper explored how Diaz is one of a number of contemporary authors who draw on a range of languages in their work to create literature that resists reduction to a single national context or a single form of expression. Diaz is interested in ‘the mongoose-like power of language, how difficult it is to contain’, processes evident in different ways in an event in which Professor Forsdick was involved on earlier this summer, devoted to Shakespeare in Europe and the Americas.
Organized by the British Library in association with the Translating Cultures theme, the workshop explored a range of translations of Shakespeare in a variety of different contexts. Professor Forsdick introduced and chaired a panel on postcolonial translation, with papers analysing the ways in which The Tempest has been recreated in Caribbean, Indian and Indian Ocean frames. This included a paper by Michael Walling of Border Crossings who presented the versions of Shakespeare’s work he had produced in India and London, the latter a translation of the Mauritian playwright Dev Virahsawmy’s Toufan. Walling’s emphasis was on the extent to which intercultural theatre permits a creativity that draws on different linguistic traditions and draws on the dynamism of multilingual situations. The links between translation, translanguaging and creativity were the subject of a Translating Cultures workshop that Professor Forsdick organized at the Institute for Modern Languages Research last month. Coinciding with the visit to the UK of Tong King Lee (University of Hong Kong), author of the recent Experimental Chinese Literature: Translation, Technology, Poetics, the event allowed presenters to reflect on the place of multilingualism in their creative collaborations with partners outside Higher Education, including schools, community organizations and theatre groups. The workshop involved representatives of all three large grants associated with the Translating Cultures theme –Translation and Translanguaging, Researching Multlingually and Transnationalizing Modern Languages – and suggested how Modern Languages might engage more actively and more creatively with the many languages spoken in the United Kingdom itself to underline the centrality of our subject area to culture, politics and society in the twenty-first century.