Theory in Translation. French Theory in East Central Europe (1960–2000)

This project explored the history of translation of French theory in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany during the second half of the 20th century. It started from the observation that the migration and circulation narratives that dominate the international history of theory since the 1980s (such as Edward Said’s traveling theories) are only partly relevant in the context of this research interest. For example, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, the migration of scholars took place predominantly in one direction, from East to West. At the same time, however, intense efforts to translate French theory can be observed within East Central European theory cultures during this exact period—despite minimal spatial mobility and the fact that it mostly takes place at the periphery of institutionalized literary studies and philosophy as well as in the sphere of the unofficial (Samizdat/underground circulation, illegal reading groups, living room seminars).

On a methodological and theoretical level, this project explored the possibility of conceptualizing the history of theory as a history of translation(s). This approach seemed all the more relevant in light of several recent publications that, in their theoretical-historical analyses, considered translations paratextually or from the perspective of their edition-history while, at the same time, widely neglecting dimensions of language and terminology. This project aimed to bring these two together. It also inquired after the repeatedly purported “interrelationship” of theory and translation and if it actually was a specific feature of language-bound theory formations such as French theory during the second half of the 20th century. The question was whether a focus on translation processes holds the proper potential to reveal something more fundamental with regard to the formation, mediation, and diffusion of theoretical knowledge.

Head researcher(s): Anna Förster


Anna Förster


12 Nov 2022 · 7.30 pm

Anna Förster: Translation and the Becoming of Theory. Todorov, Bakos, and Russian Formalism

Palmer House Hilton, 17 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603, USA

read more
30 Jun 2022 · 11.00 am

Anna Förster: Derrida a jiné dekonstrukce


read more