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Outward bound: women translators and scientific travel writing, 1780–1800

Martin, A. E. (2016) Outward bound: women translators and scientific travel writing, 1780–1800. Annals of Science, 73 (2). pp. 157-169. ISSN 0003-3790

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00033790.2014.904633


As the Enlightenment drew to a close, translation had gradually acquired an increasingly important role in the international circulation and transmission of scientific knowledge. Yet comparatively little attention has been paid to the translators responsible for making such accounts accessible in other languages, some of whom were women. In this article I explore how European women cast themselves as intellectually enquiring, knowledgeable and authoritative figures in their translations. Focusing specifically on the genre of scientific travel writing, I investigate the narrative strategies deployed by women translators to mark their involvement in the process of scientific knowledge-making. These strategies ranged from rhetorical near-invisibility, driven by women's modest marginalization of their own public engagement in science, to the active advertisement of themselves as intellectually curious consumers of scientific knowledge. A detailed study of Elizabeth Helme's translation of the French ornithologist Françoise le Vaillant's Voyage dans l'intérieur de l'Afrique [Voyage into the Interior of Africa] (1790) allows me to explore how her reworking of the original text for an Anglophone reading public enabled her to engage cautiously – or sometimes more openly – with questions regarding how scientific knowledge was constructed, for whom and with which aims in mind.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > Languages and Cultures > German
ID Code:36599
Publisher:Taylor and Francis


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