As part of its Distinguished Talk Series, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development, hosted two lectures on literary translation by noted academic Dr Elias Muhanna, the manning assistant professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University in the US.
During the first lecture, Dr Muhanna discussed the experience of translating one of the most famous encyclopedic texts in classical Arabic literature, the 14th-century compendium, Nihayat al-arab fi funun al-adab (The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition) by Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri. This 31-volume universal work is a remarkable collection of facts, myths, poems, legal contracts, fables, anecdotes, recipes, legends, and more. Dr Muhanna addressed the challenges and pleasures of translating an encyclopedic text of this kind.
Dr Muhanna said: “I hope that readers will recognise in al-Nuwayri’s work a sign of just how rich and colourful the intellectual heritage of Islamic civilisation is.”
“Perhaps more than any other literary genre, the medieval encyclopedic compendium reflects the full range of a culture’s selves, not just its elite self. It contains its official histories, but also its unofficial histories: the kitschy, crass, and embarrassing alongside the noble and self-important.”
Dr Muhanna’s second lecture focused on a popular 21st-century text: the screenplay of the animated Disney movie Frozen. In a lecture that was designed to appeal to a diverse Education City audience, Dr Muhanna considered the complexities of translating Frozen into Modern Standard Arabic in a way that maintains the full meaning of the original English text.
Dr Muhanna’s talks were organised by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to help draw attention to the practice and study of translation and to increase awareness about the HBKU’s two master’s programmes in the field of translation and interpreting: a Master of Arts in Translation Studies and a Master of Arts in Audiovisual Translation. The college is currently accepting admissions for its fall 2017 intake.
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