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Radical Translations

In this digital event of the British Association for Romantic Studies, Radical Translations team members will present on the project’s preliminary findings and open a conversation on the merits and challenges of employing computational methods in literary historical inquiries that depend on qualitative evaluations.

British responses to the French Revolution and its aftermath have been a key object of study for scholars of Romanticism, focusing in particular on the “pamphlet war” triggered by Burke’s Reflections (1790) but also on the struggles of radical writers and organizations under Britain’s repressive government from the 1790s to the defeat of Napoleon and into the Restoration period. More recently, a renewed interest in the transnational dimension of Romanticism has foregrounded the role of translation and cosmopolitan social circles (such as Holland House) in the cultural and political debate at the turn of the nineteenth century.

This roundtable will attempt to bridge the two fields of revolutionary politics and transnational cultural exchange by looking at the circulation of radical texts in translation, not only across the Channel but also to and from Italian. It will feature exploratory research conducted by the team of the AHRC-funded project ‘Radical Translations: The Transfer of Revolutionary Culture between Britain, France and Italy (1789-1815)’, which has unearthed ca. 800 translations of texts seeking to extend ideas of equality and rights to new publics across linguistic, social, and geographical borders. The project’s database (available at www.radicaltranslations.org) also includes information about over 300 translators. Some of them are prominent figures such as Thomas Holcroft or Helena Maria Williams, but many others published anonymously or under a pseudonym and are yet to be identified.

The ‘invisibility’ of translators has long been decried (Venuti 1986). On the other hand, their role as cross-cultural mediators is now widely recognized, at least in theory (Bassnett 2011). Who were the radical translators? What are the mechanisms and channels through which they operated? What were their motivations? What is their position in the national and international fields of cultural production? Do their personal networks map onto established intellectual and political communities (e.g. Republic of Letters, Freemasonry) or do they reveal unexpected connections? This roundtable will be an opportunity to discuss the nexus between translation, the transfer of political ideas, and cross-national networks connecting translators, authors, and publishers.

It will feature three 10-12 min ‘show and tell’ presentations based on the project’s preliminary findings and open a conversation on the merits and challenges of employing computational methods in literary historical inquiries that depend on qualitative evaluations. Dr Perovic will introduce the project’s scope and reflect on some of the methodological and practical issues of constructing a prosopography of radical translators. Dr Mucignat will present a series of network sketches and other kinds of data visualization displays produced in collaboration with King’s Digital Lab, and invite a discussion on what

they might reveal. Dr Ritchie will zoom-in on the specific case study of Robert Merry, the Della Cruscan poet turned revolutionary publicist, who translated Chénier’s anti-clerical tragedy Fenelon in 1795.

This will be followed by a 10-min discussion initiated by the Chair, and a 30 min open Q&A.


Dr Sanja Perovic (King’s College London)

Dr Rosa Mucignat (King’s College London)

Dr Nigel Ritchie (King’s College London)

Chair: Dr Will Bowers (QMUL)

Find out more on the BARS Digital Events here.

  • Blog / Author (blog post)
  • Date
  • False: false attribution such as false place of imprint or false date
  • Fictional place: false imprint contains a fictional, invented place of imprint or date
  • Form: type or genre of writing.
  • Female
  • Male
  • Language
  • Noble: person was born noble.
  • Place
  • Role: the main role of a person or organization in relation to a resource.
  • Subject: content, theme, or topic of a work.
  • Uncertainty: information could not be verified.