Livetweet: WIGS2011

Ingrid Sharp and I are presented with gorgeous orchids for our work in organising the conference


Phew! I think I’ve pretty much recovered from the annual Women in German Conference, held at Leeds last weekend – but the energy of the conference is still buzzing with me. It was a fantastic success, with nearly sixty female Germanists from Ireland and Great Britain present, as well as two brilliant and opinionated crime writers, Sabine Deitmer and Gitta Kloenne. The feminist fictioneers kept us entertained as well as enraged with hilarious and troubling readings from their novels about prostitution, debates about women’s rights and bumping off unnecessary husbands.

The papers were also wonderful, and the extraordinary turnout meant that we could have themed panels covering topics ranging from mediaeval printing to Muslim feminist hip-hop. Not all that wide a leap, indeed – both are very much about means of circulating, marketing and adapting texts! The conference began and ended up with papers given by postgraduates on the ways that the GDR has been represented in the British media and publishing industry. That was an unintended coincidence, but I think it represents what WiGS does best – promote brilliant young postgraduates and talk about the ways in which German culture matters in Ireland and the UK.

I think I’m particularly exhausted post-conference because I also took on the task of live-tweeting all the way through. The results are below! Another post on the trials and benefits of live-tweeting is to follow, but for now, enjoy WiGS in 140 characters or fewer…

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Portsmouth: Translation and Memory Conference, 5.11.11

I’ve had a wonderfully exciting and stimulating Reading Week at two conferences – just what Reading Week should be about, except that I didn’t actually have any time to read! Can we have a second Reading Week to follow up on all the wonderful ideas that others propose at conferences?

The first conference was the Portsmouth Translation Studies Conference, on Translation and Memory. I was speaking on H. G. Adler, and my abstract was as follows:

Translating Trauma: the fiction of H. G. Adler

The Prague German writer and scholar H. G. Adler (1910-1988) wrote a massive body of work concerning the Holocaust, much of which has sunk without a trace until a recent revival of interest in his work. While his works of historiography, principally his ‘Theresienstadt: Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft’ (1955) have been viewed as classics of Holocaust scholarship, his literary works and novels have received little reception, despite repeated republication since the 1960s. In particular, publishers rejected them in the 1950s because the way in which they translated Holocaust memory into literature was felt to be inappropriate. Following Adler’s centenary, however, these novels have begun to be translated into English, French and other languages, and are finding a new audience.
This paper addresses itself to two intertwined questions: Firstly, how do Adler’s novels, particularly ‘Eine Reise’/’The Journey’ and ‘Die Unsichtbare Wand’, both written in the late 1940s, address the problems of translation of memory within the texts themselves? Although the two novels have very different poetic strategies – one a highly experimental and polyvocal text, the other a first-person narrative told in mostly realist fashion – both are answers to the question of how to translate memory into text. Artur Landau, the protagonist of ‘Die Unsichtbare Wand’ and Paul Lustig, the only survivor of his family in ‘Eine Reise’, struggle to communicate their experiences in a post-war world bent on forgetting and on the creation of new forms of language that elide the specificity of Holocaust experience, and when faced with a dislocation of the self that makes saying ‘I’ impossible. Drawing on the theories of Agamben, I look at the various strategies that Adler employs to translate the memory of ‘homo sacer’ into literary language, that further draws on the literary memory of the destroyed Prague School. Further, I address some of the problems facing the translation of these texts into our post-memory-boom culture.

Of course, I didn’t get through all of that material at all – abstracts are always so over-ambitious! – but I did manage to get as far as using Agamben to talk about Adler’s impossibility of saying ‘I’, and I look forward to writing up the material into a paper.

I also had a go at livetweeting the event, and rather than have the tweets disappear into the ether, I thought I might as well paste them below. Obviously the chronology now runs from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom, but that’s the multi-directional, non-linear nature of the internet, isn’t it?
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