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The Abstract, 27th November 2013

It is the final Abstract of the Autumn Term this Wednesday 27th November, from 6pm in VWB 7.01. We will have one paper this week from Sarah Gundry, who will present: ‘After Eliot: Silas Marner in Afrikaans.’ Rather than a second paper, we will then hold a discussion group on academic titles led by Alex Belsey, Becky Hardie, Kate Osborne, Sally Barnden, and Vicky Walker: ‘After the Colon: The demand for jaunty titles and academic practice.’ Please see Sarah’s abstract/topics for the discussion group, below.

As this is the last Abstract before Christmas, there will be some added festive cheer. We look forward to seeing you there!

Sarah Gundry – ‘After Eliot: Silas Marner in Afrikaans’

Early in her literary career, George Eliot was best known as the translator of Strauss’s The Life of Jesus. Indeed, it was her skills as a translator that earned her entry into elite literary circles through John Chapman, who published The Life of Jesus in 1846 and subsequently offered her a role as an editor of the Westminster Review in 1851.  Despite the important role that translation played in her professional life and intellectual development, Eliot only addressed the topic once in her published writings – in an 1855 review of two recent translations of German works, titled ‘Translations and Translators’. This critical review will be used in the current paper as the starting point to briefly consider the role of translation in Eliot’s works, and to reflect on Eliot’s attitude to seeing her own works in translation. It is hoped that this discussion will then offer an insight into how to approach an early Afrikaans translation of Silas Marner that I found in an archive in South Africa. Silas Marner: Die Geskiedenis van Eppie, which was published by Van Schaik publishers as a children’s book in 1927, has not been the subject of any academic enquiries as yet. However I would argue that it is an important text, not only from an Eliot-studies perspective, but also because it raises questions about why the publishers of a language in its infancy (Afrikaans only replaced Dutch as an official language of South Africa in 1925) would choose such a text to be translated in the first place.
Discussion group – ‘After the Colon: The demand for jaunty titles and academic practice’
Alex Belsey, Becky Hardie, Kate Osborne, Sally Barnden, Vicky Walker
Discussion will focus on issues including:
– The ethics of titles, or, ‘promises you don’t intend to keep’ – Quotes, puns and creative punctuation: the pithy and the passé – Are titling conventions too prescriptive? Is the model of ‘[pithy phrase]: [Issues for discussion] in [literary work]’ limiting, or useful? – What work can the title do for a thesis? When should the title be written, i.e. before or afterwards? – Do we need to amend/compromise thesis titles with a view to the publishing market? (Josie Dixon, formerly of Palgrave Macmillan and Cambridge UP, advocates aiming for something ‘upbeat’ like The Making of… The Rise of… Similarly, signposting canonicity may effect potential sales – eg. the bookshop at the Shakespeare Birthplace trust only buys books with ‘Shakespeare’ in the title; see also Jane Austen’s house, specialist libraries etc.) – What effect does the professional status of the author have on title options? (eg. Gillian Beer talk entitled ‘Dream Touch’)

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