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‘Speaking in Tongues’: Staging Hospitality of (Non)Translation

Date: Friday,  October  12, 2018

Time: 11:30-1:00pm

Location: CNH 102

Guest Speaker: Dr. YANA MEERZON

Bio: Professor Yana Meerzon teaches at the Department of Theatre, University of Ottawa. Her book publications include A Path of the Character: Michael Chekhov’s Inspired Acting and Theatre Semiotics (2005); and Performing Exile – Performing Self: Drama, Theatre, Film (2012). She also co-edited Performance, Exile and ‘America’Adapting Chekhov: The Text and Its MutationsHistory, Memory, PerformanceRoutledge Companion to Michael Chekhov, and a special issue of Theatre Research in Canada on theatre and immigration. Her new book project is entitled Performance, Subjectivity, Cosmopolitanism. 

Abstract: As multilingualism has become one of defining elements of today’s world, it has also turned into the marker of contemporary theatre which uses multilingual dialogue to investigate potentials of interpersonal communication and theatrical translation, and to create communities of new cosmopolitanism (Venuti 469). Translation as linguistic (non)hospitality (Karpinsky 2017) is tightly linked with migration, “and while the political nature of language is certainly not exclusive to migration scenarios, migration enhances its visibility, highlighting the interplay of linguistic choices which are variously permitted, frowned upon, singled out for praise, or simply barred.” (Polezzi 346) Performance arts remain one of the primary public venues to construct and discuss the power and the faults of translation and multilingualism. It allows one to ask “whether our obsessive interest in language and its identitarian qualities should necessarily be read as a reification of alterity and whether translation therefore necessarily becomes an instrument of control or whether there are spaces for translators and self-translators to act as witnesses to the experience of migration and to sustain multilingual practices which defy any rigid association between state, language, identity and the apportioning of rights” (Polezzi 347). The work of immigrant Canadian theatre is a good example of such practices. The official politics of multiculturalism and bilingualism has served as catalyst to its multilingual production. From Fennario’s Balconville that imagines its audiences fully bilingual and thus capable of following bilingual dialogue without translation to a many-lingual In Sundry Languages by Babayants that envisions its spectators familiar with many but not all languages used on stage, Canadian multilingual theatre has been staging linguistic (non)hospitality in which a separation between I and myself takes place. The performative strategies of this practice constitute the focus point of the proposed talk.