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Jacques Lezra



“’Puta vieja/old whore’: Matter in Translation”

Jacques Lezra, New York University

 

The ambiguous, even contradictory relation between early-modern secularization and the practices and theory of translation is the subject of this paper.  All of my terms are up for debate—whether modernity should be understood in relation to secularization; what those terms, as well as the words “theory,” “practice,” and “translation,” might convey about the state of affairs in elite and mass culture between (say) 1499 and 1613, in Spain and England principally; how “translation” as we understand it today, in its practice and theories, might have emerged from this clot of uncertainties.  I’ll approach the matter with this thought in mind: that the period of early modernity provides far fewer affirmative theories or definitions of translation, than negative or counterfactual definitions and theories based in the analysis of limit and exceptional cases (the word of the sovereign, of the divinity, of the animal, of the wholly other, of the native…).  I’ll focus on two such cases—from Rojas’s La Celestina and from the 1605 Quixote and Shelton’s translation(s). 

 
 

Jacques Lezra is Professor of Spanish, English, and Comparative Literature at New York University.  His most recent book is Wild Materialism: The Ethic of Terror and the Modern Republic (Fordham, 2010); he is also the author of Unspeakable Subjects: The Genealogy of the Event in Early Modern Europe (Stanford, 1997) and co-editor of Sebastián de Covarrubias’s Suplemento al ‘Tesoro de la lengua castellana española’ (Polifemo, 2001).  He has published articles on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, contemporary and early modern translation theories and practices, Freud, Althusser, Woolf, ethics and infanticide, and other topics.  He is the co-translator into Spanish of Paul de Man’s Blindness and Insight.  With Emily Apter and Michael Wood, he is the co-editor of the translation into English of the Vocabulaire européen des philosophies (Seuil 2004; ed. Cassin).  Also with Emily Apter, Lezra is leading a Mellon Dissertation Seminar on the topic of “The Problem of Translation” during summers 2011 and 2012.



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