What does translation mean? Introducing the new Translatio series

Translation in its various guises – as practice, concept, field, and metaphor – has always been integral to my research into early modern French and comparative literature and my other scholarly work. My first publications were co-authored literary translations from French into English. My most recent book, Émigrés: French Words That Turned English (Princeton University Press), explores the cultural history of words and phrases that English has borrowed from French. It is a book about translation, then, and its other: the transit of untranslated, perhaps even untranslatable, words between languages and cultures.

The idea for Translatio came to me as I reflected on how important translation in these various guises is to my home discipline – modern languages and literatures – as well as to neighbouring disciplines such as history, philosophy, theology, classics, linguistics, and visual culture. The prospect of promoting innovative translational work within and between these disciplines, and in a global perspective, excited me both as an intervention in the field and as a founding contribution to the new Durham University IMEMS Press.

Translatio asks what translation means, what it relates, and what it shapes, across the islands and continents of the medieval and early modern world. It tracks texts that move between languages, literatures, and cultures and it asks how the movement of texts relates to the movement of peoples, objects, practices, images, forms, and media. In this way, it models a critically enlarged conception of translation studies, placing the translational at the heart of the medieval and early modern humanities.

Translatio logo

We are committed to the idea that such work does and should take various forms. We therefore publish a wide variety of formats: monographs and shorter manifestoes, meditations, provocations; edited volumes enabling collaboration between scholars in pursuit of a shared research question; and – last but not least – facing-page English translations of primary texts.

Translatio is unique in the global spread of languages, literatures, and cultures that it brings into relation. Our logo stands as an emblem of its uniquely relational character. A hybrid T, formed of the Celtic and Arabic-Persian-Turkic letters, it invokes a series of T words relating to translation in many languages and cultures, such as targama across the Middle East, translatio in European languages and cultures, and tintúd in Classical Irish.

We strive also to be uniquely agile in our approach. We encourage submissions that variously challenge, realign, and remake the disciplines of the humanities, and which unsettle their established geographical and historical boundaries, including the period categories – ‘medieval’ and ‘early modern’ – that are offered as points of departure for the series. We welcome work that not only relates to the translational, but that also calls the concept into question, not least by reflecting on its own deployment of translational methods when it studies one language and its culture and society from the perspective of another.

We believe, then, in a diversity of critical approaches to the study of the translational humanities. The Translatio series editors and advisory board model that diversity. In the editorial board alone, we cover the languages and cultures of East Asia and the Islamic world as well as Europe; we range from late antiquity to the late eighteenth century; we work on translational topics in language, literature, cultural and intellectual history, and the history of art, science, and technology. Our advisory board adds significantly to the breadth and depth of the expertise that we can call upon.

We are interested in working with authors and translators of all kinds. We understand that each project is unique. We are committed to supporting early career researchers as they prepare to intervene in the field. If you think Translatio might be the right home for your work, please visit the Durham University IMEMS Press web pages to find out more about how to submit a proposal, and please feel free at any stage to get in touch directly with me.


This guest post was written by Richard Scholar, General Editor of the Translatio series and Professor of French, Durham University, UK.

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