World Literature, Translation, and Diaspora: The Intimately Global Journey of Grace Aguilar’s The Vale of Cedars
Lital Levy, Princeton University
A collaboration between the Department of Comparative Literature and the Hebrew Literature Workshop.
This talk follows the translation history of the Anglo-Jewish author Grace Aguilar’s 1850 novel The Vale of Cedars from Victorian England to Mainz, Warsaw, Vilna, Tunis, and Calcutta. A case study for my project on “Global Haskalah,” it brings together world literature and translation studies, transnational literary history, and Jewish literary studies. Through this project, I argue for two interventions: a rethinking of world literature vis-à-vis diaspora, and a revision of the Eurocentric narrative of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment). The novel’s history begins with a work of minor literature by a Sephardic Englishwoman about a quintessential minority topic: crypto-Jews in the Spanish Inquisition. Originally intended as a refutation of English conversionists, by the end of the century the novel had inspired multiple free translations into Hebrew, Yiddish, and Judeo-Arabic, refashioned to instill readers with pride in historical Jewish nobility and martyrdom. While mapping the book’s multilingual journey and elucidating the cultural markers of its myriad translations, the talk will highlight the influential Hebrew edition and its Judeo-Arabic successors.
Sponsored by the Stanford Taube Center for Jewish Studies.
RSVP to receive Zoom link.