Sara Sullam: uncovering valuable documents in the University’s special collections.

Sara Sullam is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Milan.

Sara Sullam is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Milan. She spent her six-month Visiting Fellowship funded by the British Academy at our Department. In this blog post she tells us what she discovered in the University’s Special Collections.

In her 1925 essay on “How Should One Read a Book” Virginia Woolf reflected on the fact that the very act of reading was always, in a way, taken for granted, while it in fact deserves further scrutiny and attention: “For though reading seems so simple – a matter of knowing the alphabet – it is indeed so difficult that it is doubtful anyone knows anything about it”. Research on reading has undoubtedly progressed since then: however, much remains to be discovered on how reading habits are formed and on how our experience of reading across languages and cultures is shaped.

Funded by a Visiting Fellowship of the British Academy hosted by the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies under the supervision of Dr Daniela La Penna, my project British Novels for European Readers, European novels for British Readers: A Working Hypothesis for the Anglo-Italian Case (1945-1965) has investigated the crucial function of publishing for the development of reading culture in a key moment in the history of European integration. In particular, it has focused on the strategies devised by Italian and British publishers to select, evaluate, translate, promote and market fiction from 1945 to the mid-Sixties. Who were the people involved in these processes? What was their way of reading? And how did it impact on the way the common reader in both countries made sense of fiction coming from abroad?

To address these research questions, I literally plunged in the incredible wealth of materials of the Archives of British Publishing and Printing housed at the University of Reading’s Special Collections. I read the correspondence between English and Italian publishers – Chatto & Windus, The Hogarth Press, Jonathan Cape, The Bodley Head on this side of the Channel, Mondadori, Feltrinelli, Einaudi in Italy. I studied the reports written by professional readers, key actors in the process of literary transfer, whose work has very often remained buried in the archives. I was able to see how much is gained, and not lost, in translation. Working on these papers has made literature come alive.

Illuminating the transnational networks of people who shaped the availability of post-war European novels in the British and American markets has also inspired the research practice underpinning the project, aimed at building research networks across disciplines and languages. Besides funding a number of presentations of the project at other UK universities (Manchester, Nottingham), the BA grant allowed me to co-organize with my host Daniela La Penna an international conference (https://readingconference.home.blog/) that brought together publishing historians, scholars of Italian and English literature, from Italy, Germany, the US and the United Kingdom. The conference gave us all the opportunity to reflect on the networks of the past to build the research networks of the future.

 

Sara Sullam

A Working Life Built on German

On 4 February, students and staff of German had the enormous privilege to meet Andrew Sims, a German alumnus, who has pursued a successful career as an interpreter and translator with the German Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Andrew studied German and Russian at Reading in the 1980s. Since his MA in translation and interpreting, he has worked first for the West German government in Bonn and, after 1990, for the government of unified Germany in Berlin. His talk introduced students to the different types of interpreting, from simultaneous and consecutive to whisper interpreting, and gave an insight into how the types of interpreting determine the role of the interpreter within this quite daunting process. To reassure students who are thinking of choosing this career path, Andrew showed us the interpreter’s survival kit. It included strong nerves, good knowledge of shorthand, the ability to be invisible in the middle of a room, an insatiable appetite for new words and phrases (to be learnt for each new policy, political development, and project), the art of inserting place-holder words as long as the message of the sentence remains unclear, absolute confidentiality, and a good grasp of the audience you are interpreting for.

Andrew also talked about his work as a translator, a rapidly changing profession. The future of translation will depend on ever-improving translation software while a highly qualified translator is needed for the post-translation editing. While the rough work will be managed by machines, human linguistic and cultural know-how – including superb knowledge of the target as well as the source language – will remain central for producing a text fit for sensitive political communication.

Students were inspired by the talk and encouraged by Andrew’s assessment that English natives who master both their own language and German are desperately needed, and will always be welcome in Germany.

First Year Student at WriteAUT prize giving in London

 

Emily Woodall (1st year German) and UoR-OEAD lecturer Elisabeth Koenigshofer
Pictures: © Elisabeth Koenigshofer

On 24th April 2018, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London awarded students from British and Irishuniversities the first WriteAUT literary prize.

 

Last week, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London invited all competitors and their OEAD lecturers to the prize giving ceremony of the first WriteAUT literary prize. This prize was initiated by OEAD lecturers in Great Britain and Ireland, with a trip to Vienna as its first prize and many books, CDs, and films for all other participants, sponsored by the City of Vienna, OEAD, the Austrian Ministry of Education and the Austrian Cultural Forum.

 

Competitors and lecturers on the balcony of the Austrian Cultural Forum in London
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

 

The competition was open to German language university students across Great Britain and Ireland and seventeen texts were entered.Students had to write a literary text of any format or style for the topic “2018 – Jahr der Erinnerung / 2018 – Year of Remembrance” to commemorate various jubilees such as the centenary of the birth of the first Austrian Republic, the Anschluss 1938, or the 1968 student revolutions. 17 Texts entered the competition, amongst them one by University of Reading student Emily Woodall (first year German).

A jury of experts then chose the winner and another first prize was awarded for the audience favourite. Members of the public were able to read and to vote for all texts via www.writeaut.at and more than 1,000 people participated in the vote. Iona Charter’s “Werte Entwindet” (University of Leeds) and Conor Gleeson’s “Achtung!” (Trinity College Dublin) won the competition.

Prizes for competitors
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

The ceremony started with opening remarks from OEAD Lecturers Judith (University of Leeds) and Annelise (University College Dublin) and representatives of the Austrian Cultural Forum. Iona and Conor read their winner texts to the fascinated audience and the afternoon was complete with drinks and the opportunity to mingle with German students from various universities.

 

 

Emily, our University of Reading participant, saw

WriteAUT magazine
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

the competition as an opportunity to revive her love for creative writing, combining it with her interest in the German language. Her modern fairy tale “Ein Märchen der Revolutionen” can be read in the MLES Resources room in the WriteAUT magazine or online at www.writeaut.at.

 

 

We look forward to next year’s competition.

German Studies Project – Der Fund by Veza Canetti

“I enjoyed working with others as a team to tackle the story of “Der Fund” and present it in a new and interesting way that shows the creativity and diversity of the German Department as a whole. We were able to show that through our common knowledge of the German language, one story could be translated to an audience through a variety o

(from left: Sian Buller (Year 2), Sophie Allen (Year 3), Angelina Lotter-Jones (Year 3), Sophie Payne (PhD student), Emily Stanga (Year 3), Elisabeth Koenigshofer (OEAD-lecturer), Nick Bricknell (Year 1), © Regine Klimpfinger)

f means, be it speech, music, or paintings.” (Sian Buller, Year 2)

While the beast from the east had its icy claws around Reading, some of our talented German Studies students braved the cold and set out to present the outcome of this year’s German Studies

Project “Der Fund by Veza Canetti” at Christchurch Reading.

The project was a voluntary extracurricular activity that should help students to develop and foster their German language and creative skills. For this project, which focused on text transformation, students from all years read a short story by almost-forgotten Austrian author Veza Canetti and interpreted it in their own way through various media.

Sophie Payne, a PhD student in the department, was our host for the evening. She gave the audience an insight into the author’s life and led the Q&A after the recital of the translation.

(Emily Stanga, presenting her translation © Melani Schroeter)

Veza Canetti and her short story Der Fund

Author Veza Canetti, wife of Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti, never stepped out of her husband’s long literary shadow but published extensively from the 1930s onwards. Born in 1897 in Vienna, she emigrated to London with her husband in 1938, fleeing the Nazis who had annexed Austria. During her life time, she published mainly short stories in Viennese working class newspapers but could not find a publisher for her novels. Those were only published from the 1990s onwards.

Her stories focus often on women from lower class backgrounds and their day-to-day struggles. Her short story Der Fund (The Discovery) is no exception, telling the story of Knut Tell, an impoverished poet who is forced to work at a lost property office. There, he finds the letter of an illiterate woman who had been treated ill by her former doctor and lover. Fascinated by her letter, Knut sets out to find her. Love, jealousy, and star-crossed lovers dominate this little gem.

Why Veza Canetti?

Veza Canetti is one of many forgotten female authors of the last century who worked alongside men but did not achieve fame. Like many other artists, Veza had been born into a Jewish family and therefore decided to flee to England when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. She had worked as an English teacher before she moved to London. Veza was chosen because she reflects anniversaries that are commemorated in 2018: the centenary of women’s rights to vote and 80 years since the annexation of Austria and the dissolution of Austria as an independent nation.

Our students

Nick Bricknell, Year 1, used music to make the text accessible to the audience. During the presentation he played variations of Bach’s Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme Cantata 140 which reflected

(Sophie Payne, introducing Veza Canetti © Melani Schroeter)

the mood and events in Canetti’s text. Nick deliberately chose a lesser known work by a famous German-speaking composer. He has worked as a church organist at Christchurch since the beginning of his studies at Reading and impressed the audience with his skills.

Sophie Allen, Angelina Lotter-Jones and Emily Stanga, all Year 3, put their translation skills to practice and produced a great translation into English. All three worked hard throughout the last months and weeks because Veza’s language is quite different from what our students work on in their translation classes. During the presentation, all three translators read their texts aloud to the audience, accompanied by the organ recital.

Angelina: “Prior to this project I had not heard of Veza Canetti before and there was not an English translation in existence at the time we did this project. What attracted me to participating in this project was the opportunity to have more practice translating.”

Sophie: “I was able to use my methods from my university classes to write the translation, which involves envisioning the target audience and retaining the style of the text.”

(Sian Buller, Der Fund No.1 © Sian Buller)

Sian Buller, Year 2, proved herself as a visual artist. She created four canvases to accompany the narration. She chose a different style and media for each piece, for example acrylic paint, paint-pens and artist pencils. Her fascinating work added a visual dimension to the way in which a text can be interpreted.

Sian: “Through my participation in this project, I felt that I have learnt many valuable skills. I had to be organised and time efficient, in order to give myself enough time to complete each canvas to a suitable level of standard on time, whilst still keeping up with my own university work. I also needed to be conscientious whilst thinking of designs that would be clear to an audience and fit in with any narration or musical pieces created by other participating students. Additionally, I had to make sure that the pieces were captivating as they were used in advertised posters around the university and so served as a public representation for the project itself.”

All participants showed great interest in the project and dedicated a lot of time, energy and effort to their tasks. It is great to see that our students are so engaged and were able to transfer their skills to a new and experimental project. The audience on the evening of the presentation was small due to the weather condition but our students made it worth coming out that evening and the audience truly enjoyed the presentation.

If you would like to see their great work for yourself, the project is exhibited in room EM 274 (Resources Room) in the Edith Morley building.