Earlier in the day, several School of International Letters and Cultures professors participated in some of the conference’s concurrent panel sessions.

Associate Professor of Japanese William Hedberg gave a talk on “Meiji-Period Translations of Chinese Narrative into Vernacular Japanese” during a session on “Sacred and Vernacular Languages in Asia” that put his work in conversation with that of several scholars from around the world. And Assistant Professor of French Isaac Joslin presented his research on “Multi-Lingual Poetics: Mediating the Mind in Francophone Africa” as part of a session centered on “Orality, Narrativity and Translations of Afro-Diasporic Thought.”

Both their presentations engaged with the tensions between languages when texts are translated from one to another to reach a target audience, or when pieces of one language are included in texts written in another tongue. The question of audience is a long-standing one for African literature, Joslin said, although perhaps not the most important factor for writers to consider.

“Rather than focusing on one’s public, whether one is writing for a global or a local audience, the question should address first and foremost the author, who writes for him or herself as a means of expressing his or her memories, thoughts, emotions and reflections on life,” Joslin said. “The question that follows then is which language is best for accomplishing this feat, again, regardless of the potential audience.”

This emphasis on language as, above all else, a powerful tool for self-expression was underscored in many of the presentations throughout the conference. It is clear that language inflects many facets of everyday life, from conversations with friends and family, to interactions in legal or medical settings, to experiences in educational and governmental environments.

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures