This conference is the second in a series designed to explore the connections between notions of
translation (as practice and object of inquiry, but also as concept and master trope for
intercultural dynamics) and the networks of identity that have historically developed around and
across the Atlantic. It derives its pretext and rationale from a set of (ostensibly disparate)
commemorative opportunities afforded by the year 2017.
The fifth centenary of Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses (1517);
The centenary of the October Revolution (1917);
The centenary of the US decision to enter the Great War (1917).
The first two of these events, unquestionably momentous for world history, are apparently
remote from our Atlantic emphasis – but their respective consequences for the geopolitics of the
early modern and / or modern world, within their different timespans, were crucially to include a
transatlantic focus. Indeed, forms of belief, and ensuing forms of action, derived from the
overwhelming impact of the Reformation have always been recognised as crucial to many of the
transits from Old to New World that have shaped western history since the early 17th century.
Within the narrower range proper to one single elapsed century, the capacity of the Russian
Revolution of 1917 (together with the political conformations to which it gave rise) to shape
ideology and action through either adherence or rejection was made evident in the stark political
alignments that marked most of the past century – again, with crucial consequences for some of
the allegiances and differences that have developed around the Atlantic space.
The dynamics generated by these relations are brought into starker relief when we
consider the complex historical rapport between America and the world, and more particularly
between America and Europe. The third event listed above offers a signal opportunity for
reflecting on such bonds, especially at a juncture when many assumptions that were taken for
granted over the past century are being pondered anew.
Translation can be found to intersect productively with any consideration of the above.
First of all, the historical designs in question had a lot to do with verbal transits. These range
from the discussions about the dignity of vernaculars, compounded by the challenges posed by
translating God's word, that marked the history of the Reformed churches and their role in
shaping modern cultures; to the linguistic implications of the internationalism of political
movements inspired by the October revolution, in its worldwide train of consequences; to the
verbal processing of the Great War in the age when newsprint was acquiring an unprecedented
Secondly, the place that translation has recently acquired in the panorama of inquiry of the
humanities and social sciences has made it a master trope for intercultural designs, and hence a
source of conceptual footholds for revising the complex relations introduced in human
experience by the historical developments commemorated in 2017.