Lecture series

Lecture: Untranslatability and the Challenge of World Literature: A South African Example


There are strong arguments for considering the world’s speech practices as a continuum rather than as a series of discrete languages, the establishment of the latter very often being a political as much as a linguistic process. This talk will consider the implications of such a view of language for the question of translation and for the concept of ‘world literature’. As an example, the history of Afrikaans in South Africa will be considered, focusing on a poem in ‘Kaaps’ – a language traditionally viewed as a dialect of Afrikaans which incorporates vocabulary from English, but which is spoken by more people than the ‘pure’ form of Afrikaans that was consolidated and policed in the early twentieth century.

Derek Attridge is the author of books on South African literature, James Joyce, poetic form, and literary theory; his most recent publication is The Experience of Poetry: From Homer’s Listeners to Shakespeare’s Readers (Oxford University Press, 2019). He has taught in the UK and the United States and held visiting professorships in South Africa, France, Italy, Egypt, and Australia. He is Emeritus Professor of English and Related Literature at the University of York, UK, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Organized by

An ICI Event organized by Francesco Giusti and Benjamin Lewis Robinson

Source of description: Information from the provider

Fields of research

Literature from Sub-Saharan Africa, World Literature, Theory of translation




ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry



ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry
Date of publication: 29.04.2019
Last edited: 29.04.2019