Philologisches Seminar

Versio latina

Actors, Objectives, and Functions of Translating Early Modern Literature into Latin

The new project is financed by the DFG in the context of Priority Program 2130 “Early Modern Translation Cultures (1450-1800)” (Speaker: Prof. Dr. Regina Toepfer). In the coming three years, it aims to investigate translations from vernacular source texts into Latin. Hereby, Latin will be the focus not as the source but target language, and Neo-Latin translations will be at the center of our research. Overall, the project intends to (1) analyze the cultural functions and economic objectives of versio latina, (2) to describe these specific complex early modern translation processes which are influenced by their multiple references, and ultimately (3) to increase awareness for the ‘forgotten Latinity’ of vernacular literature, which was of central importance for the internationalization of the early modern literary industry and its commerce.

This project understands translation as a linguistic as well as cultural process: Regarding its cultural context, the Neo-Latin versio is characterized by the fact that Latin, albeit a global language with a relatively large active community, had neither native speakers nor a designated shared physical place for its speakers. Therefore, the term ‘target culture’ has to be redefined for this purpose; For this, the project analyzes its actors, functions, and aims. With this approach based on skopos-theory we want to respond to the disbelief formulated in earlier research regarding those early modern “curiosities”. Deeply intertwined with the cultural transfer are the multiple references of versio Latina: When a German translator sets out to translate a Hispanic novel into Latin, maybe in collaboration with an internationally active publishing house, the various translation processes will not only be influenced by the semantic equipment provided by the long Latin literary tradition, but also by the possibilities and vocabulary of Neo-Latin literature, the translator’s mother tongue, the text’s source language, and probably even by the mother tongues of intended readers and buyers.

For this purpose, translations, their paratexts as well as secondary sources regarding the publishing process will be considered. Versio latina, ultimately, will be recognized as a phenomenon complementary to translation processes from Latin into the vernacular and intermediary for global exchange.