Hopscotch Translation Series: Lawrence Venuti in convo w/ Emily Wilson!

Please join us as Lawrence Venuti discusses two new works—

his "translation polemic," CONTRA INSTRUMENTALISM
& his translation of J. V. Foix's DAYBOOK 1918: EARLY FRAGMENTS—

w/ Emily Wilson, acclaimed translator of Homer's ODYSSEY!


Contra Instrumentalism questions the long-accepted notion that translation reproduces or transfers an invariant contained in or caused by the source text. This “instrumental” model of translation has dominated translation theory and commentary for more than two millennia, and its influence can be seen today in elite and popular cultures, in academic institutions and in publishing, in scholarly monographs and in literary journalism, in the most rarefied theoretical discourses and in the most commonly used clichés.

Contra Instrumentalism aims to end the dominance of instrumentalism by showing how it grossly oversimplifies translation practice and fosters an illusion of immediate access to source texts. Lawrence Venuti asserts that all translation is an interpretive act that necessarily entails ethical responsibilities and political commitments. Venuti argues that a hermeneutic model offers a more comprehensive and incisive understanding of translation that enables an appreciation of not only the creative and scholarly aspects of what a translator does but also the crucial role translation plays in the cultural and social institutions that shape human life.


Daybook 1918: Early Fragments is the first substantial selection in English from the prose poetry of the major Catalan writer J. V. Foix. The core of Lawrence Venuti’s edition is forty-five prose poems from the beginning of Foix’s career, supplemented by additional poems in prose and verse, prose fictions, and essays that immerse the reader in the heady cultural ferment of early twentieth-century Catalonia.

Deeply committed to the European avant-gardes, Foix explored experimental poetics in the service of Catalan nationalism as Catalonia itself carried out its notable experiments with autonomous government on the eve of Franco’s dictatorship. Foix was particularly attracted to the revolutionary energy of French surrealism, and he endows Catalan life and landscapes with a dreamlike quality while staging a series of unsettling encounters with the femme fatale Gertrudis. 

In translations praised as both fluid and resonant, Venuti plumbs the expressive capabilities of English to evoke the profound impact that the Catalan texts had on their first readers. Daybook 1918: Early Fragments establishes Foix as a key figure in international modernism.

LAWRENCE VENUTI is a translation theorist and historian as well as a translator from Italian, French, and Catalan. He is, most recently, the author of Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic and the translator of J. V. Foix's Daybook 1918: Early Fragments. His translations include Antonia Pozzi’s Breath: Poems and Letters (2002), the anthology Italy: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (2003), Massimo Carlotto’s crime novel The Goodbye Kiss (2006), and J. Rodolfo Wilcock’s collection of real and imaginary biographies, The Temple of Iconoclasts (2014). He won the Robert Fagles Translation Prize for his version of Ernest Farrés’s Edward Hopper: Poems (2009).

EMILY WILSON is a Professor in the Department of Classical Studies and Chair of the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include “Mocked with Death: Tragic Overliving from Sophocles to Milton” (Johns Hopkins 2005), "The Death of Socrates: Hero, villain, chatterbox, saint” (Harvard 2007), and “The Greatest Empire: A life of Seneca” (Oxford UP, 2014). She is the Classics editor of the revised Norton Anthology of World Literature. Her verse translations include Six Tragedies ofSeneca (Oxford), four translations of plays by Euripides in the Modern Library The Greek Plays (2016), Oedipus Tyrannos (forthcoming, Norton), and the Odyssey (2017). She is working on a new translation of the Iliad & a translation of select dialogues of Plato.

Event date: 
Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Daybook 1918: Early Fragments Cover Image
By J. V. Foix, Lawrence Venuti (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780810140653
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Northwestern University Press - September 15th, 2019

Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic (Provocations) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496205131
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Nebraska Press - July 1st, 2019

The Odyssey Cover Image
By Homer, Emily Wilson (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780393356250
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 6th, 2018