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02 April 2019

Departments of French and Comparative Literature at King's awarded £1M grant

Zaiba Hakim

A team led by Dr Sanja Perovic from the Department of French has been awarded a circa £1M AHRC Standard Grant to fund a research programme involving the circulation of radical texts between Britain, France and Italy during the revolutionary period.

Image: King's College London, Strand Campus
Image: King's College London, Strand Campus

A collaborative venture by the Department of French and the Department of Comparative Literature at King’s College London called Radical Translations: The Transfer of Revolutionary Culture between Britain, France and Italy (1789-1815) has been awarded a c. £1M AHRC Standard Grant. The award will support funding for researchers to carry out a multifaceted programme which seeks to understand the circulation of radical texts between Britain, France and Italy during the revolutionary period.

This project will be the first comparative study to consider translation as an essential element in the transmission of democratic and free-thinking ideas between Italy, France and Britain during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era.

The project’s main objectives are to:

  • Map the impact of translation on revolutionary thought and politics in the revolutionary period
  • Reconstruct a still obscure network of radical translators and their works using prosopographical data models
  • Extend our knowledge of the linguistic and cultural strategies of mediation used by radical translators
  • Show how misappropriations and failures of translation can be used to reveal cultural fault lines as well as demonstrate how cultural influence works in practice

The project will also investigate how translation makes it possible for radical works to be ‘living’ texts that continually move forward into new communities, new places and new times, including the present moment. This aspect of the study will invite students, translators, theatre practitioners and activists to translate and perform a selection of radical texts in contemporary language. These research activities and series of public events, translation workshops and performances will be documented on a public-facing website that will incorporate a database containing information of an estimated 400 translations with a radicalising purpose, dispersed in libraries and archives around the world.

The project is led by Dr Sanja Perovic, Reader in Eighteenth-Century French Studies in the Department of French. She specialises in  eighteenth century French literature and history at King’s College London and most recently published a book The Calendar in Revolutionary France: Perceptions of Time in Literature, Culture and Politics.

Translation has always served as a vital resource for revolutionary struggle. I am thrilled to work together with translators, performers and researchers to bring this rich vein of revolutionary practice back to life. It is my hope that this project will enable us to re-conceptualise some of our basic assumptions about translation, agency and cultural transfer in the revolutionary period and since.

Dr Sanja Perovic, Department of French

Co-Investigators Professor Erica Mannucci joins Dr Perovic from University of Milan-Bicocca alongside Dr Rosa Mucignat, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature at King’s and a team of translators, creative practitioners, members of the King’s Digital Lab and two postdoctoral researchers from King’s College London.  

I am very excited to have been given the opportunity to work with such a broad range of partner institutions and researchers on this significant programme of research, which will help us to understand how radical, democratic and anti-religious ideas became a shared European heritage in the revolutionary period and to what extent they still shape social, political, and cultural identities today”.

Dr Rosa Mucignat, Department of Comparative Literature

The project hopes to conclude whether political radicalism is a shared European heritage still capable of generating new understandings and meanings today.

(Aug 2022 - The Department of Comparative Literature is now the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures).

In this story

Sanja Perovic

Reader in 18th-century French studies

Rosa Mucignat

Reader in Comparative Literature

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