Le Deuxième Sexe Seventy Years On: Reading Beauvoir around the World
By Ursula Hurley and Szilvia Naray-Davey
Version française ICI.
This fall, international scholars gathered to celebrate and debate the continued significance of Le Deuxième Sexe (1949) as a fundamental source of philosophical feminist knowledge. The conference set out to explore the intersections of Beauvoirian Studies and Translation Studies in order to trace holistically the dissemination of Beauvoirian thought on a global scale. While the controversy surrounding both translations into English has been well-documented (Simons 1983 ; Moi 2010), the scholars present sought to move beyond Anglophone issues, considering the text’s translation trajectories into other languages and the specific synergies between translations which had yet to be mapped transnationally.
Professor Lynne Huffer’s opening remarks resonated these concerns, describing translation practice as an open edgework, an expansive activity that lives across boundaries and within faultlines. Our keynote speaker Professor Penelope Deutscher extended these concepts by drawing our attention to the ambiguity of lived experience, noting that translation returns us to alterity and the complexity of conceptual networks, revealing Beauvoir as both foundational and made strange by the defamiliarized readings required of translation practice.
These addresses were followed by 13 papers, selected from an open call for abstracts and featuring speakers who considered Le Deuxième Sexe in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Norwegian, Polish, Serbian and Hungarian. These talks surfaced the complexities of translating philosophy, and the political, social, ethical and economic pressures inherent in such acts of translation. The diversity and richness of this material coalesced around the need for a deep understanding of Beauvoir’s intellectual project, her conceptual networks and lineages, in order to communicate her thought effectively.
The talks were followed by a round-table workshop, in which the linguistic/conceptual challenges of translating the key Beauvoirian terms “situation”, “devenir”, “femme”, and “sexe” were explored in detail from the perspectives of multiple target languages.
Our conference, organised by Julia C. Bullock and Pauline Henry-Tierney, was generously hosted by Emory University, whose support enabled a diverse community of scholars working in translation studies, philosophy, literature, linguistics, drama and creative writing to assemble for two warm October days of fruitful exchange and conversation. An edited volume is now in preparation.
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