EAJS Programme in European Jewish Studies 2016/17
Yiddish Language and Culture. A Relay Station of Modernity and Lieu de Mémoire of Postmodernity
University of Vienna, 13th to 14th February 2017
Conveners: Dr Olaf Terpitz (Department of Slavonic Studies/ DK Galizien, University of Vienna) and Marianne Windsperger (Department of German Studies, University of Vienna)
Co-organiser: Prof. Gerhard Langer (Department of Judaic Studies, University of Vienna)
In current models and reflections on “new world literatures,” translation plays a crucial role on the level of experience as well as in theoretical reflections (the translational turn). Yiddish literature and culture have been and are shaped by processes of encounter, transfer and transmission to a particularly high degree (e.g. Jewish tradition, politics of translation). This laboratory was aimed at confronting and expanding existing notions of translation in diverse fields of Yiddish cultural production, including:
- Translation of texts: focusing on translation processes and its actors
- Literary criticism
- Translational Literature (critical reflection on transnational literatures; translating Holocaust literature, the limits of translation)
- Mediality: transfer of genre and media change
- Perception of Yiddish
Applying current theoretical assumptions to Yiddish literature in historical and contemporary perspectives, we intended to draw together various realms of Yiddish Studies. This laboratory aimed to extrapolate the multifold cultural interactions that have made Yiddish culture a relay station of Modernity and a lieu de mémoire of Postmodernity.
Given the central role of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture to Jewish Studies in general, our aim was to draw together current edge methodologies and theory in the field of World literatures and translation. The key questions of the laboratory emerged from previous cooperations and ongoing exchanges between the involved researchers (e.g. the workshop at the ICLA 2016 on “Places and Media of Encounters. Transfer, Mediality and Situativity of Jewish Literatures,” and the lecture series on Yiddish Literature and Language at the University of Vienna during the summer term 2016). On the one hand the format of the laboratory enabled us to discuss ongoing research projects. On the other hand, through the pre-circulation and preparation of texts prior to the event, the dialogical structure of the sessions, and the roundtable discussion, we identified, addressed and highlighted new questions and future fields of research. Furthermore, the laboratory has strengthened and expanded the network of Yiddish scholars across Europe, and positions the University of Vienna as a hub for Yiddish Literature and Language Studies.
The structure of the laboratory consisted of five panel sessions and one roundtable discussion. They centred around topical, methodological and theoretical issues of translation. In order to enable productive and lively discussion, papers and material were circulated among the participants in advance. All sessions included junior and senior scholars, one discussant and one chair. The task of the discussant was to bring in his own expertise, to comment on the papers, to formulate overarching questions and to open up the discussion. All participants had 15 minutes for their respective presentation leaving an hour for discussion, allowing an extensive exchange between the panellists and the audience. In total there were five two-hour sessions and a 2.5-hour roundtable. The laboratory was opened by a welcome address of Melanie Malzahn, dean of the Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies, and a thematic introduction by the conveners. Providing a book table, we offered the possibility for the participants to showcase their own publications related to Yiddish and translation, or their own translations. The Theodor Kramer publishing house also provided books for the book table, primarily translations from Yiddish into German. The laboratory was attended by an audience numbering around thirty to fifty listeners.
Session 1: Strategies of Translation
The first session was dedicated to the general discussion of different strategies shaping translation processes into Yiddish and from Yiddish.
Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska (University of Lublin) focussed on the Americanization of Polish Jewish literary and documentary texts. She highlighted tendencies in American translations, such as transforming topographical and cultural details of concrete Polish places into rather mythical places (embellishment and distortion). Augusta Radosav Costiuc (Babeş-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca) introduced us to her approach of translating Itzik Manger’s poems into Romanian. She discussed her choices as translator concerning the preservation of rhythm, melody and the aesthetic effects of the original, basing her analysis on the theoretical reflections of Umberto Eco. Rachel Wamsley (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) turned in her contribution to the “Shmuel Bukh” to show how the biblical past (the story of David) was translated into Modernity. She outlined the process of poetic historicization, providing the early modern reader with a Yiddish chivalric romance.
Session 2: The Translator
The following session centred on the figure and the task of the translator, his embeddedness in specific knowledge cultures and cultural, political and commercial interests.
In his talk Daniel Kennedy (Maison de la culture Yiddish – Bibliothèque Medem) showcased the translational work of Hersh D. Nomberg who aimed at translating important works of world literature into Yiddish. Nomberg’s oeuvre encompassed oriental classics such as Hafiz and Tagore, drawing the Yiddish reader’s attention to hitherto lesser recognised literatures as well as joining in the contemporary orient – occident debate. Moreover, Kennedy analysed how Nomberg’s translations influenced his own writing. Khayke Beruriah Wiegand (Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies) considered in her contribution the translational gap between the Yiddish writer Bashevis and his American construct I.B. Singer. She argued that with his practice of supervising the work of his co-translators, translational works were produced that met the expectations of the American reader, but lost the aesthetical qualities of the Yiddish originals. Holger Nath (University of Regensburg) illuminated the work of Nokhem Shtif who pursued his project of standardizing Yiddish also by means of translation. Nath focussed especially on two translations from German and Russian into Yiddish from the realms of education and historiography; those areas being of crucial importance to the conception of and discourse on national identity at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Thomas Soxberger (Vienna) finally presented reflections on Josef Leftwich as a mediator or even an “ambassador of Yiddish literature” to the English reader. Leftwich intended both to transmit Yiddish culture to future Jewish generations and to introduce it to the non-Jewish world.
Session 3: Roundtable: Concepts of Translation
The three participants of the roundtable discussed various concepts of translation, basing their analysis and argumentation on specific examples in different media settings, be it literature, the arts or music.
Sarah Ponichtera (YIVO New York) argued that Louis Zukofsky shaped his poetics of translation by integrating translated passages from Yiddish into his American poetry. He thus created a highly complex poetic language that had the power to destabilize notions of the foreign and the familiar. Susanne Marten-Finnis (University of Portsmouth) portrayed the illustrated Yiddish magazine of arts and letters Milgroym, and the impact of Rachel Wischnitzer as editor on the connection of cosmopolitanism, translation and the mediation of art. She argued that Wischnitzer provided with her magazine a platform where she negotiated the global to share it with a national audience. The third roundtable participant Benjy Fox-Rosen (Vienna/ Cluj-Napoca), a musician, addressed in his contribution the concept of embodied translation, i.e. how to perform Yiddish songs for a non-Yiddish speaking audience. He took up different forms of connections between translation and performance, and outlined how the symbolic meaning of Yiddish can be subverted by the use of non-verbal material and the productive use of misunderstandings.
Session 4: Translation and Discourse
The fourth session was dedicated to the relation between translation and discourse, i.e. to what degree and how translations are dependent on current debates or are influenced by them.
Jeffrey Grossman (University of Virginia) discussed how the German translations of the Yiddish writings of Peretz or Sholem Aleichem were first received by the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums as a form of “ghetto writing”, producing thus on the one hand forms of misrecognition, on the other facilitating the dissemination of parts of Yiddish literature and culture among German readers. Looking at Argentina, Mariusz Kałczewiak (Tel Aviv University/Justus Liebig University Giessen) investigated in his contribution how translations from Yiddish into Spanish served for activists such as Salomón Resnick as a means to transmit Jewish culture to the younger generation, to ensure cultural continuity, to counter both assimilation tendencies and antisemitism, and to connect Argentinian Jews with the global Yiddishland. Sasha Senderovich (University of Colorado Boulder), who participated via skype, elaborated on the translation resp. reception history of Dovid Bergelson’s novel “Judgement”. Published in 1926-1927, it was regarded by contemporary Soviet critics as a questionable attempt of Bergelson to gain entry into the Soviet Union and Soviet literature, and by American critics after the Second World War as an endorsement of the Bolshevik regime and the surrender of his artistic integrity. Trapped in this reception gap the novel was only translated into English in 2017. Concluding the session, Irad Ben Isaak (Tel Aviv University) turned to the translation history of Sholem Aleichem’s novel Menachem Mendl into Hebrew. He outlined the discursive contexts of the three existing translations: the revival of Hebrew (translation by Y.D. Berkowicz) at the beginning of the 20th century, Yiddish as a vanishing language at the end of the 20th century (translation by Ariel Aharoni), and the presence of Yiddish traces in contemporary Hebrew (translation by Beni Mer). The respective discourse thus informed and shaped the translation immensely.
Session 5: Transgenerational Continuity
The fifth session looked into the central role of translation in transmitting cultural knowledge and thus enabling continuity and cohesion.
Ilay Halpern (Potsdam University) dedicated his presentation to the Polish Jewish writer Adolf Rudnicki whose Polish Holocaust prose was re-claimed and salvaged for future generations by Lili Berger’s Yiddish translation. In this way Halpern addressed the link between processes of translation and canonization. Taking up on the pedagogical realm Yehuda Bitty (Herzog Academic College) presented ideas on translation in American Jewish textbooks. Monika Polit (University of Warsaw) discussed the historical figure of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski and the highly ambivalent image of him in Yiddish testimonies and contemporary Holocaust fiction, based on those testimonies.
Session 6: Actualisation in Media
The last session dealt with translational phenomena in media other than texts.
Rebecca Margolis (University of Ottawa) discussed the various strategies of subtitling in contemporary Yiddish films and series, thus highlighting the relationship between script and spoken language, addressing the agency of the audience and extrapolating the challenges connected to film productions in multi-lingual settings. Our last presenter, Agnieszka Legutko (Columbia University), offered a comparative analysis of the literary, film and theatre representations of the figures dybbuk and golem. She interpreted those postmodernist reinventions of Yiddish culture or re-mediations as mistranslation.
The laboratory was composed of six sessions in total, five panel sessions and one roundtable discussion. They centred around the general topic of the event: the role of translation in/for Yiddish language and culture in Modernity and Postmodernity. The participants were of various academic ages and represented the manifold institutions and research areas relevant to the heterogeneous field of Yiddish studies. The laboratory was internationally composed with participants from Eastern Europe (Romania, Poland), Central and Western Europe (Austria, Germany, the UK, France), Israel, the USA, Canada.
The structure of the laboratory enabled lively and extensive discussions guided by the discussants, and created an atmosphere where scholars, translators and musicians in the field of Yiddish studies could share their thoughts, reflections and arguments.
Though the individual presentations focused on specific questions and aspects, the discussions during the workshop highlighted the following overarching issues:
- Social, political and economic dimension of translation
- Translation and canonization of texts
- Translation and concepts of authorship
- Performative aspects of translation
- Translation and transfer of cultural knowledge
- Visualization of processes of translation in different media
- Role of translation for cultural continuity of a language
- Translation practice as a mirror of the relationship between Yiddish and World Literature
Networking: The laboratory provided an outstanding occasion for translators, educators, musicians and scholars in the fields of Yiddish Studies, Jewish Studies, Comparative Literature, Slavonic Literatures, Medieval Studies, German Studies, History, and Cultural Studies, to share their translational experiences and theoretical approaches, and to discuss perspectives and future collaborations in the field. Participants observed that the inter-disciplinarity and the internationality of the event made it very productive.
Training of early career researchers: The EAJS grant supported the participation of 14 early career scholars in attending the laboratory, and offered the possibility for academic training, networking, and (for some of them their first) publication.
Two publications are planned. First, selected contributions will be published in a special issue of the peer reviewed online journal “In geveb”. Second, an edited volume will be published with Boehlau (book series “Schriften des Centrums für Jüdische Studien”), co-edited by the conveners. The laboratory convincingly demonstrated the importance and relevance of the event’s topic for Yiddish, Comparative and Cultural Studies. Future workshops and co-operations will take up questions and issues raised during the laboratory.
The event was publicized and the call for papers circulated through the following channels:
- European Association for Jewish Studies (newsflash, website)
- In geveb
- Yiddish Sources
- Center for Jewish Studies Berlin Brandenburg
- Mailing lists of the University of Vienna (Departments of Slavonic Studies, German Studies, Judaic Studies; Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies)
As well as the event page on the University of Vienna website: http://yiddish-laboratory.univie.ac.at
Conference reports will be published in “In geveb. A Journal of Yiddish Studies,” and “Zwischenwelt. Zeitschrift für Kultur des Exils und des Widerstands”.
Time: February 13 – 14, 2017
Location: Übungsraum 1, Department of German Studies, University of Vienna, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien
Organisers: Olaf Terpitz and Marianne Windsperger
February 13, 2017
9.00 – 9.30 am
Welcoming address Melanie Malzahn, Dean of the Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies
Introduction Olaf Terpitz and Marianne Windsperger (University of Vienna)
9.30 – 11.30 am
Strategies of Translation
Chair: Olaf Terpitz// Discussant: Katrin Janz-Wenig (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin): Coffee or Chicken Soup? The Americanization of Polish Jewish Space in Translations of Yiddish Literature into English
Augusta Costiuc Radosav (Babeş-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca): “Literarishe reveransn”. Yiddish Translation as Negotiation
Rachel Wamsley (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Translating for Modernity. “Shmuel bukh” and Historical Imagination
11.30 am – 1.30 pm Break
1.30 – 3.30 pm
Chair: Marianne Windsperger// Discussant: Olaf Terpitz
Daniel Kennedy (Maison de la culture Yiddish-Bibliothèque Medem): Nomberg the Translator and Asian Literature in Yiddish Translation
Khayke Beruriah Wiegand (Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies): The Yiddish Bashevis and His American Construct I.B. Singer. Questions of Language, Translation and Betrayal
Holger Nath (University of Regensburg): Me, Yiddish, and Everybody Else. Nokhem Shtif as Translator and Stylist
Thomas Soxberger (Vienna): Josef Leftwich. The Translator as “Ambassador of Yiddish Literature”
3.30 – 4 pm Break
4 – 6.30 pm
Roundtable: Concepts of Translation
Chair: Gerhard Langer (University of Vienna)// Discussant: Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin)
Sarah Ponichtera (YIVO, New York): Louis Zukofsky. Building a Poetics of Translation
Susanne Marten-Finnis (University of Portsmouth): Cosmopolitanism, Translation and the Mediation of Art. Rachel Wischnitzer’s Milgroym as a Pathway Towards the Global Museum
Benjy Fox-Rosen (Vienna/ Cluj-Napoca): Embodied translation? Reflections on Performing Yiddish for Non-Yiddish-speaking Audiences
7 pm Dinner
February 14, 2017
9 – 11.00 am
Translation and Discourse
Chair: Marianne Windsperger// Discussant: Olaf Terpitz
Jeffrey Grossman (University of Virginia): From Ghetto Literature to Yiddish in Translation
Mariusz Kałczewiak (Tel Aviv University/ Justus Liebig University Giessen): “Let them understand!” Argentinian Translations from Yiddish and Expanding the Borders of Jewishness
Sasha Senderovich (University of Colorado Boulder): Soviet Yiddish Literature and the Politics of Translation
Irad Ben Isaak (Tel Aviv University): Explaining the Yiddishland to Israelis. Beni Mer’s Translation of “Menachem Mendl”
11 – 11.30 am Break
11.30 am – 1.30 pm
Chair: Olaf Terpitz// Discussant: Marianne Windsperger
Ilay Halpern (Potsdam University): Redeeming the Polish Jewish Author through Yiddish Translation. Lili Berger’s Translation of Adolf Rudnicki’s Holocaust Prose
Yehuda Bitty (Herzog Academic College): Transmission and Identity. American Jewish Immigrant Textbooks in the Early Twentieth Century
Monika Polit (University of Warsaw): Yiddish Holocaust Testimonies
1.30 – 2.30 pm Break
2.30 – 4.30 pm
Actualisation in Media
Chair: Marianne Windsperger// Discussant: Klaus Davidowicz
Rebecca Margolis (University of Ottawa): “Me hert nisht!”. Subtitles and Contemporary Yiddish Film
Agnieszka Legutko (Columbia University): Dybbuks and Golems in Mistranslation. The Postmodernist Reinvention of Yiddish Culture
Event Financed by the European Association for Jewish Studies (EAJS).
Further cooperation partners were the Institute for Jewish Studies, Doktoratskolleg Galizien (both University of Vienna), the IKG – the Viennese Jewish Community, and the Vienna Convention Bureau.