Panel discussion

The historian’s corner: translation and translators in the Mediterranean

METM 06, Barcelona
27-28 October 2006

Panel: Siam Bhayro, Frances Luttikhuizen, Irwin Temkin
Saturday 28, 11:50-13:00, Room 2


On how knowledge of Syriac came to Europe

An often ignored linguistic link between Greek science and the translations that reached Europe through the schools of Spain and Sicily is the 6th century translation movement from Greek to Syriac, the language of learning at that time. We will trace Syriac from its early development as a local dialect of Aramaic, spoken in the Upper Mesopotamia, to its mid-16th century arrival in Europe.

Frances Luttikhuizen was a teacher of English for Specific Academic Purposes at the Universitat de Barcelona, text-book writer, Coordinator of the “Scientific & Technical Writing” workshops, Parc Científic de Barcelona, and Organizer of the International Conferences on Languages for Specific Purposes”, Escola de Teixits, Canet de Mar, until her retirement in 2001.


The sixth-century oriental Christian translation movement

In the sixth century, an oriental Christian translation movement attempted to transmit the science of late antiquity, preserved in Greek, into a dialect of Aramaic called Syriac. Despite its success, the achievements of this movement were maligned by later Islamic scientific translators, and largely lost on modern scholarship who accepted the propaganda contained in the Arabic sources. This paper will introduce this translation movement, place it in its historical context and address the main accusations made against it by its detractors.

Siam Bhayro has been Lector in Semitic Languages, Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University (2002-05); Wellcome Trust Visiting Lecturer in Semitic Languages, University College London; and at present holds a position of Research Associate at the Genizah Research Unit, University of Cambridge.

The Al-Andalus legacy—a report on MET’s spring workshop on the Egyptian film Destiny

This report describes the piloting of a workshop that included a private viewing and discussion of Youssef Chahine’s Destiny. In that film, a group of scribes and translators in the circle of Cordoban philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) work together to protect his work in the face of rising fundamentalism.

The focus of the description will be on the aims of the workshop and the reasons for conceiving it. Also covered will be the approach taken to a pre-screening session on the historical background and longer term importance of Averroes’ contributions. That session also used film shots of certain scenes to place key characters and physical features and scenes in their social context. Feedback from participants suggested that even for those who had seen Destiny before, the preparation and discussion supported deeper understanding and appreciation of the various messages in this complex film, which won a special prize on the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.

Irwin Temkin received his MA in TESOL at Teachers College, Columbia University and came to Barcelona in 1978. He currently works as an English instructor, teacher-trainer and translator.