Blasphemous Translation (Panel)


Comparative Literature

Manuela Borzone (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

In The Location of Culture (1991), Homi Bhabha introduces the term “cultural translation” as a way to read how “newness” enters the “world,” i.e., postcolonial and minority voices, even if the result might be “blasphemy as a transgressive act of cultural translation” (225-27). Blasphemy, read as a form of newness (which Bhabha decouples from Rushdie’s fatwa and links to survival and dreaming), is then an attempt to desacralize what is already established as sacred, or canonical.


In this context, it is possible to read blasphemous translation as seeking to disrupt, intervene, renew, reinvent, parody, and re-present canonical texts for new audiences. How can translation undo a canon? How does translation intervene and disrupt preconceived and established notions of tradition, canonicity, and even culture?


For example, in 1866, Argentinian writer Estanislao del Campo translated Goethe’s Faust as Fausto, a parody in gauchesque that raised awareness on the effects of the War with Paraguay in Argentina. More recently, María Inés Falconi’s 2008 free translation of Hamlet, Jamle, set Shakespeare’s classic in one of the poorest provinces in Argentina. Fausto and Jamle vindicate the popular voice of the gaucho and disrupt the notion of a near-sacred, inherited European literary tradition through the “blasphemous translation” of form and content.


This session welcomes papers that explore blasphemous translations, rewritings, parodies, or adaptations of so-called “canonical” texts into a variety of media, including literature, film, graphic narratives, etc.

This session welcomes papers that explore "blasphemous translations," i.e., translations, rewritings, parodies, or adaptations of so-called “canonical” texts into a variety of media, including literature, film, graphic narratives, etc.