Agency, Translation, and the Early Global History of Literature
A new history of early global literature that treats translators as active agents mediating cultures.
In this book, Zrinka Stahuljak challenges scholars in both medieval and translation studies to rethink how ideas and texts circulated in the medieval world. Whereas many view translators as mere conduits of authorial intention, Stahuljak proposes a new perspective rooted in a term from journalism: the fixer. With this language, Stahuljak captures the diverse, active roles medieval translators and interpreters played as mediators of entire cultures—insider informants, local guides, knowledge brokers, art distributors, and political players. Fixers offers nothing less than a new history of literature, art, translation, and social exchange from the perspective not of the author or state but of the fixer.
“In her paradigm-shifting Fixers, Stahuljak boldly rewrites the terms of literary history as we understand it, decentering its national authors and genres to refocus our gaze on a late medieval literature that comes into being by and through its ‘fixers’—worldly translators and emissaries, diplomats, and merchants—whose activities give shape to an early, precolonial world literature. A study that will do no less than force a rethinking of existing accounts of medieval literary production, Fixers is at the same time essential reading for scholars of world literature, translation, and decolonization.”— Shirin Khanmohamadi, San Francisco State University
“In Fixers, Stahuljak provides readers with a provocative and wide-ranging tour of medieval literary encounters and their mediation through multilingual and multicultural knowledge production. By centering the agency and experiences of fixers, she not only opens up new interpretive possibilities for seemingly familiar texts but develops a powerful analytic lens through which to study the multifaceted meanings and contingencies of translation in a medieval world released from the demands of modern agendas.”—Carol Symes, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Zrinka Stahuljak is Director of the CMRS Center for Early Global Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature and French at UCLA. She is author of five monographs, co-author of two books, and co-editor of two volumes, in addition to more than thirty research articles, public humanities essays, and translations. Her work has been recognized, among others, with a visiting professorship at the Collège de France (2018), and fellowships from the Guggenheim (2016), Fulbright (2013), and the IAS Princeton (2005-06). Among her recent books are Les Fixeurs au Moyen Âge: Histoire et littérature connectées (2021; Croatian trans. 2023), Médiéval contemporain: Pour une littérature connectée (2020), and Pornographic Archaeology: Medicine, Medievalism, and the Invention of the French Nation (2013; French trans. 2018).
Table of Contents:
Introduction. Fixers: Towards an Alternative History of Translation and Literature
1 The Politics of Translation: Foreign Language Acquisition, Conversion, and Colonization (13th– and 14th-Century Crusade Treatises)
2 The Economy of Translation: Missionaries to the Mongol Empire, Pilgrims to the Holy Land, and the Gift of Languages (13th-15th Centuries)
3 The Ethics of Translation: Loyalty, Commensuration, and Literary Forms in the 14th Century (Machaut, Froissart, Mézières)
4 Fixer Literature: (Pseudo)Translation and Manuscript Illumination (15th-Century Court of Burgundy)
5 The Hermeneutics of Translation: Authorship and Genre (15th-Century Court of Burgundy)
Conclusion. Fixers: Early World Literature in the Age of Global