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Translating science in the long Italian Eighteenth-Century. The role of translators and publishers as “cultural mediators” (1760-1790s)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TransIt (Translating science in the long Italian Eighteenth-Century. The role of translators and publishers as “cultural mediators” (1760-1790s))

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2019-01-31

The research project ‘TransIt’ provides a multi and interdisciplinary examination of the production of translations in the Italian peninsula during the second half of the eighteenth century, considering the phenomenon as a significant – even if still very little known and studied – phase of transmission, dissemination and reception of scientific ideas and languages. In particular, it aims to reflect on both the role played by translators and publishers as cultural mediators and the idea that translations were not a simple quantitative indicator of the success of scientific books among a “general audience”, but rather a lens through which to analyse the quality of the dissemination and reception of European scientific culture in the Italian peninsula. At the same time, the project aims to develop a new theoretical and methodological perspective of analysis of translations that takes into account different disciplines (cultural and social history of translations, intellectual history, history of book and publishing, textual criticism and material bibliography).
The overall objectives of the project are: 1)to select, collect and digitase a corpus of Italian translations of English and French scientific works and to analise this corpus exploring new methodological perspectives and focusing the attention on textual and paratextual strategies of adaptation; 2) to give a first, rigorous and exhaustive overview of the characteristics of Italian translations of scientific texts and of the translators’ policies, in order to both understand how important and radical were the cultural changes undergone by the original books, and facilitate a comparison with the strategies of translation characterizing other European contexts; 3) to reconstruct the circulation and dissemination of these books among different typologies of readers, especially among “common readers”; 4) to complete and enhance Fellow’s formation and research methodology, helping her to develop an independent and international career and reach a complete professional maturity.
In order to achieve all the main objectives, TransIt project has been divited into three main work packages:
A) Work Package 1 – Research, completed during the first year, including 1) a bibliographic survey to carry out a more deep review of the state of art (months 1-2); 2) the selection of translations to be analysed (the Fellow has carried out her research in Florentine libraries and she has made three short visits in the principal libraries of Venice, Naples and Milan); and 3) the analysis and classification of textual and paratextual strategies adopted by translators and publishers;
- B) WP 2 – Dissemination and Public engagement including 1) the participation in national and international conferences; 2) the submission of articles to national and international peer reviewed journals; 3) the organisation of one international workshop; 4) the building of an Internet website (it will be available from the end of September); and 5) the participation in meetings for general audience; C) WP 3 – Training and Career Development including 1) the cooperation with the supervisor in teaching activities, integration in supervisor’s research groups and projects (especially the project 18th Century European Translators Dictionary; and 2) the co-organisation of a course for doctoral students (autum 2017) and the participation in seminars for doctoral students (University of Firenze and Milano).
The activities carried out during the first year (WP 1) has enabled the Fellow to collect and analyse more than 100 Italian translations of English and French scientific works, published in different context of the peninsula during the 18th century.
From the point of view of the exploitation of the project’s results (WP 2), it has been carried out – thanks to the excellent support of both the supervisor and the HI – through several publications (two book chapters and two critical editions of sources on press – forthcoming in 2019; three articles just submitted to intenational scientific journals), participation in 14 international conferences and seminars, organisation of 1 international workshop (October 2018). A specific attention has been devoted also to the dissemination of the research outcomes among a general audience, beyond a strictly scientific environment, especially thanks to the participation in events such as the European Researchers’ Night (including the organisation of two guided visits to Venetian Libraries and the participation in the radio programme “Al Museo con i Marie Curie”, by the official radio station of the University of Venice) or initiatives carried out by the Host Institutions’ partners (e.g. the Department of Historical Studies of the University of Florence) and by Italy Chapter of the Marie Curie Alumni Association.
Finally, thanks to the activities planned in WP 3, the Fellow had the opportunity to enrich both her academic curriculum vitae (especially with regards to publications and teaching activities) and her team working skills. Under the supervisor’s guidance, she has transposed the results of her work into educational tools, especially through graduate and postgraduate teaching. Furthermore, the Fellow had the possibility to be integrated in well-functioning international research networks and teams coordinated by the supervisor, gaining experience in applying for funding, in the coordination of a working group and in the organization of workshops.
From a general point of view, all critical objectives have been achieved during the first period and no significant deviations have been observed between the real and planned research months.
Among the most important contributions to both the state of art could be remarked: 1) the project has provided a first, as exhaustive as possible overview of the Italian theories and practices of translation of scientific works during the second half of the eighteenth century, allowing scholars to approach in detail the role played by different translators; 2) the project has brought to light a new case study and corpus of texts scarcely investigated by historians; 3) the Fellow had the opportunity to develop a new, innovative methodology and to introduce at the Italian research community – through publications and conference’s papers – some of the most recent aquisition in the study of translation.
The project had an important impact on Fellow’s career. Through the development of the project, thanks to the support of the supervisor, she has reinforced her academic network and strengthened her transferable skills (especially communication and linguistic skills), gaining also new competences (management, organisational) essential for the further development of her academic career. Moreover, since her research has been appreciated in Italian scientific community, she has obtained a new fellowship to continue her research on translation practices, funded by the Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e la Cultura della Compagnia di San Paolo.
Finally, it could be highlighted also an impact on non specialised audience. The problem of the encounter and exchange between different cultures is an issue of great interest and actuality in the contemporary Europe. During the non academic events and talks the Fellow has attempted to encourage reflections on these topics, remarking from a historical perspective the question – and the richness – of the cultural mediations.