This project is a comparative study of the cities of Prague and Montreal as linguistically divided cities. It analyzes periods of intense language rivalry —1880-1930 for Prague and 1940-2015 for Montreal, and focuses on sites of translation —that is material sites of the everyday world which crystallize language consciousness. Drawing on urban studies, cultural analysis, literature and translation, the project will show how the many ‘languaged’ practices of urban cultural life contribute to the sensibility of the city, and create its special character. At the same time, language rivalries result in winners and losers, and this project will study the ways that language memory is commemorated, transformed or neglected in urban space.
Encouraged by the broad intellectual role which the concept and practice of translation increasingly occupies within the humanities, this study uses an expanded definition of translation. More than interlingual transfer, translation is understood as an activity which acts in the world – whether that be as a mechanism of cultural and linguistic redress and rememoration, as a practice tilting the balance of uneven global cultural trade, as a dynamic nourishing a poetics of hybridity and transculturation, or as a process of negotiating movements of migration and acculturation. Translation is enacted and authorized by a broad spectrum of agents including translators and publishers, but also political and cultural institutions responsible for naming and those who mediate across language cultural practices. One of the tasks of this study will be to expand and delineate the range of actors who effectively produce the translations which act on cultural space. It is important to emphasize that translation, both in Prague and Montreal, will be understood less as interconnection than as a practice highlighting tension and rivalry. Translation will be understood as replacement (a writing-over, an effacement, a smothering of a competing tongue) and as a form of territorialization (marking, branding, city space), in the ongoing narrative of language competition in the city.