The “Archival Turn” in Translation Studies
In recent years, archival methods have been rapidly gaining ground in the field of Translation Studies. This renewed interest in the history of translation and its material dimension has resulted in unprecedented attention to translators’ archives, the material conditions of their work, and the traces left by translatorial activity (see for instance Munday, 2014; Raine, 2014; Qi, 2016; Paloposki, 2017), leading to consolidation and significant expansion of archival-based translation scholarship, which seems to point to an “archival turn” in Translation Studies. As Jeremy Munday (2012; 2013) points out, the study of primary sources such as translators’ manuscripts and correspondence may open windows into the translation process and decision-making, but it also has the potential to open up new perspectives on translation history (Munday, 2014), by putting the translator as an individual at the centre of the scene (Pym, 2009). Archives have been recognized as the best sources for recovering and reconstructing a translator's intellectual biography (D’hulst, 2001; Dawkin, 2014), and for investigating agency. As Paloposki (2009, 196) suggests, translators’ manuscripts and correspondence allow us a glimpse not only of individual decision-making processes but also, and more importantly perhaps, of the limits of the translator's power.
As Deborah Dawkin suggests, translators’ drafts and translation-related correspondence are the two main areas that have been investigated by Translation Studies scholars to date. While the study of translation drafts and related documents allows access to the process of decision-making, examination of “the correspondence between translators and their editors and publishers, the original author and even censors” helps to shed light on a most crucial and certainly quite underexplored aspect, i.e. “that translation is rarely carried out in blissful solitude by a translator, but [is] rather the product of many agents in collaboration (or dispute)” (Dawkin, 2014, 33), as pointed out by recent research on collaborative translation (see Cordingley and Frigau Manning, 2016).
Looking at translators’ papers from an archivist point of view, Helen Melody (2014, 41) argues that what is specific to this type of material is that it “require[s] archivists to think differently as the nature of a translator's work crosses geographical and language barriers. […] Decisions about exactly what should be collected also require identification of the types of material which would be of interest to researchers.”