Article published in:Special inaugural issue: Translating the Extreme
[Translation in Society 1:1] 2022
► pp. 35–64
Palimpsests of plague
Translating and narrativizing epidemics and pandemics
This paper examines aspects of how language, translations, narratives, and plagues have been in interplay in the past, with a view to setting out some possible lessons for today. It looks at two types of practices. First, when people make plague-related translations of texts with religious or medical content from one language to another, producing and reproducing texts that enjoy certain forms of persisting authority in guiding thought and practice related to handling and making sense of major disease outbreaks. Second, when people turn plague phenomena into narratives with story arcs, narratives which can endure over time and shape subsequent understandings of later outbreaks. Despite more complexity and multiplicity in social configurations and communications today, many of the phenomena concerning translation and narration that have happened in plague scenarios of the past have again played out during the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit with distinctive modern colourings.
- Plagues and the authority of translated religious texts
- Plagues and the authority of translated medical texts
- Narrativizing plagues
- Discussion and conclusion
Published online: 13 December 2021
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