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National Literary Prizes and Translation: Elsa Morante’s transnational reception 

Cecilia Benaglia (University of Limerick, Ireland)
Klaudia Ruschkowski (Independent Translator, Germany)
Monica Zanardo (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy)

Cecilia Benaglia (University of Limerick, Ireland), Pascale Casanova, literary prizes and the mechanisms of consecration in the (transnational) literary field

This presentation delves into the role of literary prizes within national and translational literary fields. Drawing on the works of Pierre Bourdieu and Pascale Casanova among others, I discuss prize-giving as a practice that plays a pivotal role in the process of literary consecration, which is to say in establishing which works are recognized as legitimate literature in a given historical period and context. In considering the logics that structure prize-giving, in the second part of my presentation, I will explore more closely the gender dynamics at play in the processes of canonization and assertion of the authority to produce cultural value inherent to literary prizes. This aspect, often overlooked in Casanova’s analysis which tends to prioritize a focus on national identity, is in fact a crucial factor, particularly when considering the work of women writers. I hope to demonstrate how a gendered and more broadly intersectional lens applied to literary prizes, and to the analysis of the literary field in general, can enrich our comprehension of the mechanisms behind literary consecration and the transnational circulation of texts.

Monica Zanardo (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy) Before and after the ‘Strega’ Prize: Elsa Morante's strategies of self-promotion

Contrary to what is generally believed, Morante proved to be very careful about the strategies of self-promotion of her works: not only did she carefully choose the publishers with whom she collaborated (and carefully negotiate the conditions of publication and distribution with them), but she also controlled the information about her life and biography that she shared with readers through the few interviews she conceded and through the peritexts of her works. These strategies of self-promotion became more effective after she won the ‘Strega’ Prize for her novel Arturo’s Island (1958), which brought her to the attention of a wider public and was translated into several countries. My talk will focus on how Morante used the Strega Prize to promote the worldwide distribution of her works.

Klaudia Ruschkowski (Independent translator, Germany), Elsa Morante: Re-translating “La Storia” after nearly fifty years
Can National Literary Prizes facilitate the translation of a literary work and therefore its global circulation? Yes, indeed. In the case of Elsa Morante, the prestigious Premio Strega in 1957 for L’isola di Arturo led to the translation of her second novel into several European languages in a short period of time. No, not necessarily. La Storia, Morante’s third novel, classified as a masterpiece, did not receive any National Prize but is her most translated book worldwide. Between the appearance of the novel in 1974 and Elsa Morante’s death in 1985 it has been translated into 12 languages and until now it seems to have been translated in nearly 30 languages. A Literary Prize, therefore, even a very prestigious one, does not guarantee anything. There has to be some kind of transmitter – agent, agency, maybe a passionate and known translator and/or publisher, somebody in the media sectors, maybe a National Institute interested in presentation etc. etc. – for every book, even for an award-winning one. Nearly 50 years after the appearance of the German translation of La Storia (by Hannelise Hinderberger, Piper 1976) Maja Pflug and I did a new translation of this amazing novel, again for Wagenbach, which appears in March, 2024. I’d like to focus on our experience in re-translating Morante’s masterpiece half a century after its appearance and the first German translation and the expectations that may be associated with it.

All are welcome to attend this free seminar which will be held online via Zoom, starting at 6pm BST (UK time). Please register to receive the zoom link, by clicking Book Now at the top of this page.

Seminar Series Convenors: Carolina Rossi (Pisa University) and Mara Travella (Zurich University)

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Translating Feminism in the Early 20th Century. Una donna by Sibilla Aleramo
11 April
Grazia Deledda's Trajectory. National and Foreign Reception of a Nobel Prize-Winning Female Author
18 April
Becoming a cosmopolitan writer. Alba De Céspedes between Italy and France
25 April
National Literary Prizes and Translation: Elsa Morante’s transnational reception
2 May
Roundtable on the 'Before Ferrante' Project