The Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) began as a research network, ‘New Grounds for Comparative Criticism’, which ran from January to September, culminating in a conference of the same name. We explored the role of translation in a global comparative literature, the elements and aspects of texts that support comparison, and the challenges of comparative thinking across literature and the other arts. Our conclusions were published in a special issue of the journal Comparative Critical Studies, Comparative Criticism: Histories and Methods, co-edited by Matthew Reynolds, Mohamed-Salah Omri, and Ben Morgan.
In October 2013, the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Research Centre was launched, pursuing five main research strands: ‘Languages of Criticism’, ‘Philosophy of Criticism’ ‘Translators and Writers’, ‘Intercultural Literary Practices’, and ‘Cultures of Mindreading: The Novel and Other Minds’. The year’s explorations were brought together in our 2014 conference, ‘Minding Borders’, in which we traced the troubling and yet generative resilience of borders across multiple domains, including selfhood, language and academic disciplines, exploring how borders define as well as exclude, protect as well as violate, and nurture some identities while negating others. The book of the conference was published as Minding Borders: Resilient Divisions in Literature, the Body and the Academy (Legenda Transcript, 2017), edited by Nicola Gardini, Adriana X. Jacobs, Ben Morgan, Mohamed-Salah Omri, and Matthew Reynolds.
In 2014, we also supported the Make an Aria project, and hosted the first annual Oxford Translation Day, in collaboration with the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize.
During 2014–2015, a new research strand, ‘Translation and Criticism’, developed out of work done in the previous year under the ‘Languages of Criticism’, ‘Philosophy of Criticism’, and ‘Translators and Writers’ strands.
As part of the ‘Intercultural Literary Practices’ strand, we held a workshop on the topic of ‘Auto-Exoticism’ at the Radcliffe Humanities, organised in association with the British Comparative Literature Association, where we renewed the discourses on exoticism and intercultural practices by thinking of ways in which stereotypical approaches to them may be rethought and subverted. The papers produced as part of this workshop were published as a cluster in the journal PMLA, ‘The Exotic and the Autoexotic: Theories and Methodologies’, introduced by Xiaofan Amy Li (Co-ordinator, 2014–2015).
In the ‘Translation and Criticism’ strand, we explored the edges and overlaps between translation and criticism—both modes of re-writing—taking in forms like commentary, ekphrasis, and paraphrase. We aimed to cast new light on the varied processes of translation, as well as on the translational activity that occurs when critics brings their writing into contact with source texts, redirecting them to new purposes. In addition to a series of seminars, which aimed to open up fresh possibilities for the understanding and practice of both criticism and translation, we hosted an international conference, ‘Prismatic Translation’.
The conference launched the theoretical foundations for a new research strand and a long-term research project, also called Prismatic Translation (2016–2020), funded by the AHRC as part of the Humanities Division’s Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) programme in Creative Multilingualism.
During 2015–2016, we established a number of international partnerships.
As part of the research carried out in the newly-established ‘Cultural Forms in Comparison’ strand, we hosted two workshops on narrative and translation in the context of the migration crisis entitled ‘The Bearer-Beings: Portable Stories in Dislocated Times’, convened by Marina Warner and Matthew Reynolds, and supported by the Metabolic Studio (Los Angeles). The Oxford-based workshops fed into a three-day workshop, ‘Stories in Transit: Telling the Tale in Times of Conflict’, held at the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino, Sicily in September 2016, which sought to engage with the expression, circulation, translation, and re-telling of stories in contemporary refugee and multicultural communities.
The ’Translation and Criticism’ strand contributed to two seminar series hosted by the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) at the Universität Wien in July 2016: one, in collaboration with CERC (Centre d'Études et de Recherches Comparatistes) – Paris 3, on ‘Translation as a Common Language’; the other, in collaboration with the AILC/ICLA Research Committee on Literary Theory, on ‘Prismatic Translation’.
In 2016–2017, we established the AHRC-funded project ‘Prismatic Translation’ as an independent research strand, alongside ‘Translation and Criticism’ and ‘Fiction and Other Minds’ (previously ‘Cultures of Mindreading: The Novel and Other Minds’).
As part of the ‘Translation and Criticism’ strand, we hosted a two-day symposium on ‘Poetic Currency’ in collaboration with Stanford University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and co-organised by Adriana X. Jacobs, Vered Shemtov (Stanford) and Anat Weisman (BGU). We explored term ‘currency’ and its rich range of meanings, encompassing both the historical and temporal, as well as considerations of cultural and economic value and their relation. Following the symposium, proceedings were published in an issue of the journal Dibur, ‘Poetic Currency’, edited by Adriana X. Jacobs and Anat Weisman.
The ‘Prismatic Jane Eyre’ project was launched, as part of the AHRC-funded Prismatic Translation strand within the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) programme in Creative Multilingualism. Led by Matthew Reynolds, the project sought to explore Jane Eyre through the ‘prismatic’ approach. Read more about ‘Prismatic Translation’ here. The ‘Prismatic Jane Eyre’ project culminated in the launch of the interactive website https://prismaticjaneeyre.org/ in 2019.
In 2017–2018, we hosted two international conferences as part of the ‘Translation and Criticism’ strand.
The two-day international conference ‘After Clarice: Lispector’s Legacy’, co-organised by Adriana X. Jacobs and Claire Williams (Oxford), not only commemorated the fortieth anniversary of Clarice Lispector’s death, but also aimed to analyse her legacy and influence as it has developed in the decades since. The conference, which brought together speakers based at universities in four continents as well as writers and translators, resulted in the publication of After Clarice Reading Lispector’s Legacy in the Twenty-First Century (Legenda Transcript, 2022), edited by Adriana X. Jacobs and Claire Williams.
The three-day international colloquium ‘Literature, Democracy and Transitional Justice’, co-organised by Agnes Delage (Aix-Marseille Université), Mohamed-Salah Omri (Oxford), and Philippe Roussin (CNRS/Maison Francaise d'Oxford) brought together scholars working on authoritarian systems and democratic transitions across different fields from over a dozen countries, who addressed specific situations of transitional justice across the globe. The colloquium was followed by the publication of Literature, Democracy and Transitional Justice: Comparative World Perspectives (Legenda Transcript, 2022), edited by Mohamed-Salah Omri and Philippe Roussin.
In 2018–2019, we partnered with humanities research centres at the Universidad de Chile, the University of the Western Cape, and the University of California (Irvine) to form a Mellon-funded Global Humanities Institute on ‘The Challenges of Translation’. After an initial meeting at Oxford, the Institute took place in Santiago. It adopted an interdisciplinary approach to translation, articulating philosophical, literary and artistic perspectives in order not just to contribute to the state of the art of translation studies, but also to extend the model of translation to rethink enduring questions in the realms of epistemology (the constitution and passage of meaning), ethics (responsibility, violence, hospitality), and artistic practice.
‘Prismatic Translation’ continued its work, contributing to the exhibition Babel: Adventures in Translation (February–June 2019), co-curated by Katrin Kohl, Dennis Duncan, Stephen Harrison, and Matthew Reynolds, and held at the Bodleian Libraries. The exhibition took visitors beyond the ancient myth of the Tower of Babel and society’s quest for a universal language to explore the ubiquity and power of translation in the movement of ideas, stories and cultural practices around the world. The exhibition was followed by the publication of Babel: Adventures in Translation (Bodleian Libraries, 2019), edited by the curators.
During the 2019 Oxford Translation Day, and as part of our AHRC-funded research strand ‘Prismatic Translation’, we launched the ongoing website-publication Prismatic Jane Eyre: an Experiment in the Study of Translations, the result of the ‘Prismatic Jane Eyre’ project launched in 2016.
This year saw the launch of the new Masters degree in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation, which has its roots in our research.
Throughout the year, we created more opportunities for the graduate and postgraduate members of the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) community. Our annual conference was co-organised by a team of postgraduate students led by Eleni Philippou (Co-ordinator, 2015–2021) on ‘Translational Spaces: Language, Literatures, Disciplines’, held at St Anne’s College in February 2020. We also hosted the 2019 Annual British Comparative Literature Association Postgraduate Conference, ‘Radical Retellings: Fairy Tale, Myth, and Beyond’, at St Anne’s College in March 2020.
In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Oxford Translation Day, had its first online edition, featuring a number of virtual sessions over a series of weeks – where we heard from poets Parwana Fayyaz, Baba Badji, and A.E. Stallings, and translator Sophie Hughes – and culminating in the awarding of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, during an online ceremony hosted by English PEN.
This year also saw the publication of Prismatic Translation (Legenda Transcript, 2020), edited by Matthew Reynolds, which built on our 2015 conference ‘Prismatic Translation’.
During 2020–2021, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all our events were held online – from the fortnightly sessions of the OCCT Discussion Group, led by postgraduate students, to launches of scholarly books published by members of our Organising Committee – which allowed us to connect with a global audience. As in 2019–2020, our annual conference, on ‘Fictions of Retranslations: Retranslating Language and Style in Prose Fiction’, held in March 2021, was co-organised by postgraduate students.
Throughout the first half of the academic year, we supported the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD) series of eight seminars on ‘Receptions and Comparatisms’, co-organised with The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA).
During 2021–2022, the ‘Prismatic Jane Eyre’ project received follow-on funding from the AHRC to support the Prismatic Jane Eyre Schools Project, co-ordinated by Eleni Philippou. The Prismatic Jane Eyre Schools Project was a joint endeavour with the Stephen Spender Trust (SST), the leading UK charity for creative multilingual activities in schools. Over 2021, the Project ran workshops in translation and creative writing for young people who are learning modern languages or are speakers of community languages. Using the ‘Prismatic Jane Eyre’ project’s research on how the novel has been translated across the world since its 1847 publication, professional translators delivered workshops to secondary schools in the UK. There was then a competition which invited school students to compose a poem in another language inspired by a selected passage from Jane Eyre. The competition’s best entries were published as an anthology in September 2022, which can be accessed here.
As in 2019–2020 and 2020–2021, our annual conference, on ‘Metaphors in Translation: Multilingual Perspectives’, was co-organised by postgraduate students.