English and Film Studies

The F. M. Salter Lectures on Language

The F.M. Salter Lecture on Language were established in 1988, in commemoration of Professor Frederick M. Salter (1895-1962), a former Cape Breton coal miner, Author and Scholar, who first served this Department as a lecturer in 1922, becoming a permanent member of the faculty in 1939, and serving as Head in the early 1950's. Salter was a specialist in early English literature, authoring an important study of Medieval Drama in Chester, but his greatest influence was as a teacher of creative writing. He established this country’s first creative writing course in 1939, the year he was hired, and went on to teach such luminaries as Rudy Wiebe, who delivered the Salter Lectures in 1992, and WO Mitchell. In 2005, FM Salter was named one of the 100 Edmontonians of the Century (formal recognition of Edmontonians who have made a significant impact on the development of Edmonton as a community).


The Department of English and Film Studies presented the 2018 F.M. Salter Lecture on Language with Professor Christine Wiesenthal


The experimental poet and classical scholar Anne Carson has quipped that her poetic versionings of poets such as Catullus “bear about the same relationship to translation as Francis Bacon’s paintings do to mug shots.”

Working “the space between languages” in ways that stretch translation into adaptation and beyond, and often ironically or ambiguously inscribing traces of the translator’s mediation, Carson’s experimental translation poetics raise a fascinating set of questions that are, at least in part, intrinsically ethical in nature. This talk will begin with a consideration of Carson’s translation strategies, focusing particularly on her recent “art books.” We will look especially at Nox (2010), a double-elegy “scrapbook” which extends the work of translation to a meta-poetic reflection on multimedial as well as multilingual forms of reproduction. How does an artefact like Nox ask us to think about ethics in relation to the poet-as-translator? We will consider the provisional proposition that Carson’s deliberately “foreignizing” methods can be seen to encode an “ethics of translation.”  But what is implied by the term “ethics,” so often invoked in conjunction with literature today? We will try to pursue this question, using Carson’s work as a springboard to broader issues of the “post-poststructuralist” moment. How do we understand the current disciplinary investment in literary ethics?
In an era anxious about viral new forms of reproduction and (not coincidentally) fixated on risk-management in every sphere, what questions does our turn to ethics raise in relation to experimental art that deliberately sets out to take significant risks with language and meaning?    

The audio recording of the lecture is available on our Youtube channel as well as by clicking on the lecture title.