Session 46: Ystafell 10
The politics of Welsh translation: three periods

Chair: Sioned Davies

The position of translations within the Welsh literary polysystem of the sixteenth century

Elena Parina
Prifysgol Marburg

The sixteenth century was a time of radical change in Welsh society and in Welsh literature. This paper sets out to discuss the profound influence of translations on the culture and language within the framework of the polysystem theory proposed by Itamar Even-Zohar. He argues that translations may become central in the literary polysystem in a situation ʻwhen there are turning points, crises, or literary vacuums in a literatureʼ (Even-Zohar 1990: 47). Another implication of the polysystem theory also suggests that ʻthe socio-literary status of translation [is not only] dependent upon its position within the polysystem, but the very practice of translation is also strongly subordinated to that positionʼ (Even-Zohar 1990: 51). As is well known, the sixteenth century witnessed a number of different attitudes and practices of translation. The paper will analyse some translations of this period and evaluate their linguistic profiles in order to extract information on the practices adopted by their translators. This will result in a more detailed picture of the Welsh literary polysystem of this crucial period of Welsh culture.

Translation and politics 1800–1871–1914: the historian’s tale

Marion Löffler
Prifysgol Caerdydd

While researchers of Celtic Studies have long attempted to utilise early and high medieval literature as a windows to earlier social, cultural and political realities, and international entanglements, we have been shy to apply such paradigms to more recent periods.

This paper will compare form, function and performances of three Welsh versions of one of the most famous cultural artefacts emerging from the French Revolution of 1789, ‘La Marseillaise’, in order to chart Welsh political and cultural continuities, disruptions and international contexts in the long nineteenth century. Written as a ‘war song’ in 1792, it was first translated into Welsh as ‘Cân Rhyddid’ by Unitarian Thomas Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi) in 1796, and performed around 1800. This first version will be set against ‘Hymn Marseillaise’, a version created by romantic poet Richard Davies (Mynyddog) for large choirs and eisteddfodau in 1871, and ‘Udgorn y Gad’ by ‘R.O.’, the successful entry in a competition advertised in 1914 to create ‘simple, memorable and patriotic’ war songs for Welsh soldiers, and performed by children on St. David’s Day.

The politics of literary translation in present-day Wales

Angharad Price
Prifysgol Bangor

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, key works of Welsh literature were translated into English as part of Wales’s nation-building project, as a means of bringing together its two linguistic communities. Indeed, throughout the twentieth century literary translation became a way of strengthening national identity and of creating an international profile for Welsh culture.

The post-devolution period has seen greater institutional support for literary translation than ever before, especially with the establishing of the Wales Literature Exchange in 1999. This paper examines some of the controversies surrounding the rise in literary translation from Welsh in recent years, and will analyse key texts in order to address issues such as self-translation, bilingual publishing, the commissioning and reception of translations, the role of public policy and the market, Wales in an international context, as well as possible reasons, both artistic and political, for resisting translation. As in all areas of intercultural negotiation, translation has been a platform for contention and creativity in post-devolution Wales and it is hoped that the paper will be of interest to scholars of translation studies, as well as to students of non-state cultures in general and Wales in particular.