1990 - Translating Shakespeare in the Romantic Age (Antwerp)

The conference on ‘Translating Shakespeare in the Romantic Age’ was organised on 19-21 April 1990 in the historic town of Antwerp, Belgium. It was hosted by the local Higher Institute for Translators and Interpreters (HIVT). The organising committee consisted of Dirk Delabastita, Lieven D’hulst, Theo Hermans, José Lambert, Frank Peeters, Brigitte Schultze, Johan Soenen and Carlos Tindemans (in alphabetical order). Significantly, except for Delabastita (Namur), none of these was working at an English Department. D’hulst (then Antwerp, now Leuven) and Lambert (Leuven) are historians of French literature and literary comparatists with a special interest in translation studies; Theo Hermans (London) combines Dutch and comparative literature with translation studies; Soenen (Antwerp) was a translation teacher specialised in German; Brigitte Schultze (Mainz) has a background in Slavonic studies, and Frank Peeters and the late Carlos Tindemans (both Antwerp) are known for their work in theatre studies.

The composition of the Board was indicative of the conference’s objectives. Indeed, the purpose was not to indulge in Bardolatry by strengthening its international extensions, but rather to focus systematically on the receptor cultures. How was Shakespeare perceived, received and translated in the crucial decades of the Romantic period? For at least a number of speakers the conceptual framework was provided by Descriptive Translation Studies and a further important impetus came from the massive project (Sonder­forschungs­bereich) on literary translation which was then in full swing at the university of Göttingen.

Papers were devoted to Shakespearean translations – always placed in the wider context of literary and theatrical reception – in a wide range of countries or areas. The following were covered: France (José Lambert, Jacques Gury), Germany (Werner Habicht, Wolfgang Ranke, Norbert Greiner), Hungary (Peter Dávidházi), Italy (Gaby Petrone Fresco), the Low Countries (Dirk Delabastita), Portugal (Maria João da Rocha Afonso), Russia (Yuri D. Levin), Scandinavia (Kristian Smidt) and the West Slavic area (Brigitte Schultze). Despite the (somewhat traditional) prominence of France and Germany and the striking absence of a number of countries (Spain, for example), this represents a very broad survey of European traditions indeed. Moreover, several of the papers commented specifically on trans-national or pan-European developments, so that the conference amounted to more than just a juxtaposition of separate case-studies. As José Lambert put it in his paper (one of the two in French), Shakespeare became “un dossier européen” par excellence.

Delabastita and D’hulst edited the proceedings of the conference, which were published by John Benjamins under the title European Shakespeares. Translating Shakespeare in the romantic age (1993). The use of the plural in “Shakespeares” was deliberate and programmatic, of course, and so was the allusion to the first volume of Alternative Shakespeares, edited by John Drakakis (1985), which had made quite an impact a few years earlier. European Shakespeares includes most of the papers that were given at this small-scale but successful conference. The volume also includes ‘reports’ by Raymond van den Broeck, Theo Hermans and Theo D’haen on the three sections of the book, as well as an edited transcript of the Round Table that was held at the end of the conference.

Dirk Delabastita