Call for Papers


Translating the Past: Appropriating the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds

We are pleased to announce the call for papers for Borderlines XIX – Translating the Past: Appropriating the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds – which will be held in Queen’s University Belfast from 10th-12th April 2015.  Proposals for both papers and panels are welcomed from postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers in the fields of Medieval and Early Modern studies.  Held annually across four universities in Ireland, the Borderlines conferences seek to encourage and demonstrate the exciting interdisciplinary work undertaken by early career researchers both in Ireland and the UK.

The theme for this year’s conference focuses on the ‘translation’ of the past, both in terms of the historical work scholars undertake and representations of the past in the primary materials with which we work.  In discussing historiography, Geoffrey Cubitt argues that:

In social and historical discourse (if not strict philosophical necessity), the past is always the past of something – a group, a community, a state, a nation, a race, a society, a civilization … the past in question is our past, the past that … belongs to us as a constitutive element in our common identity.  Representations of the collective past hinge, in other words, on backward projections of current perceptions of identity. (2007: 199-200)

As Cubitt suggests, historiographical discourses are not simply re-tellings of the past but are re-imaginings of it, heavily influenced by the perspectives and concerns of those articulating them.

The act of ‘translation’, or ‘appropriation’, as is sometimes the case, is effected in many guises: the literal linguistic and textual translations by ‘medievalists’ such as J.R.R Tolkien;  adapting poets such as Seamus Heaney and Simon Armitage; the appropriation of pre-modern socio-political themes and events in historical fiction by the likes of George R. R. Martin and Bruce Holsinger; the historically-influenced costume and set design of popular film and television productions such as Merlin and The Tudors. Such contemporary interest in the Medieval and Early Modern era proliferates and continues to grow.

This conference will engage with the idea of ‘translation’ in multiple senses in an effort to explore and debate new directions in the interdisciplinary fields of literature, language, history, archaeology, music, architecture, visual culture and heritage practice. As such it will provide an outlet for discussion of historiographical issues across disciplines and periods, and invites us as scholars to question our assumptions about both our modern perspectives and those of the ‘pre-modern’ cultures we study.

Topics may include but are not restricted to:

  • linguistic or textual translations
  • vernacular translation and interpretation
  • assimilation or influence of the past in ‘modern’ cultural production
  • historical research as creative practice
  • translation from page to screen/stage
  • translation/interpretation of relics, monuments, artefacts
  • interpreting architecture and landscapes of the past
  • historical interpretation/representation of historic events
  • constructions of the past/periodisation
  • museum culture
  • limits to translation
  • anachronism
  • the ‘impact’ of historical documentaries on lay audiences
  • transition from manuscript to print
  • ‘Medievalism’ and ‘Early Modernism’

Abstracts of 250 words for a 20-minute paper and a short biography are welcomed from postgraduates (MA, PhD and Postdoctoral students), as are proposals for panels, and should be submitted by Friday 6 February 2015 to




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