Call For Papers

Translation and the culinary arts are universal human activities. Both have been practised since time immemorial. They are also eminently cultural. When Larbaud says “you are who you translate” (“Dis moi qui tu traduis, je te dirai qui tu es” – 1946: 95), he is obviously thinking of Brillat-Savarin’s aphorism, “you are what you eat” (“Dis moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es” – [1825] 2017, Aphorisme IV, p. 19). Each has long been an object of investigation in the humanities and beyond, and the recent growth of research in the field of Translation Studies has been mirrored in the field of Food Studies. It is also arguable that they are historically inextricable, being intertwined domains of intercultural transfer. The two earliest cookery books in the French and English languages (the Viandier of Taillevert and The Forme of Cury, both published in the fourteenth century) contained rival adaptations of recipes from the Latin Liber de Coquina. In fact, it seems curious that the complementary areas of investigation have not been combined more often. We have therefore decided to marry these two ingredients at an international conference to be held at the University of Lille, France, from 18 to 20 March 2020.

These burgeoning and dynamic research fields concern activities that are also highly practical vocations. The interdisciplinary conference, which will mark the culmination of a seminar programme organised throughout 2018-2019, will seek not only to associate experts in various academic domains – translation studies, food studies, linguistics, sociology, intercultural studies, communication science, history, literature, environmental studies, visual studies and so on – but also to bring together researchers and practitioners: translators and LSP professionals, chefs, food and drink industry professionals, culinary journalists, artists, photographers etc.

The term “translation” is broadly understood to mean the transfer from a language A to a language B, but it is worth highlighting the fact that translation can also occur within what is normally considered to be the same language (Jakobson’s “intralingual translation”). Verbal communication within the culinary field would seem to be a particularly fertile environment for this kind of “rewording”. Jakobson also describes a third form:
intersemiotic translation – the transfer from one symbolic system to another, for example from a verbal system to a visual one – which is often referred to as “adaptation”.

But what actually is culinary translation? Is it not, in fact, always a matter of “adaptation”? Does this loaded word, which is occasionally used to encapsulate a whole host of supposed indiscretions, have the same meaning for the cook as it does for the translator? It is a question of functionality. The former might adapt a recipe to suit his or her own tastes, or those of guests, or for reasons of practical necessity. The latter might do so to suit the realities of the target culture. And adaptation is not only within the remit of specialist culinary translators. It is also common among literary translators: why, in the French version of
Harry Potter, does a Christmas pudding mutate into a French Yule log (bûche de Noël), while the goal of a recipe for Christmas pudding would always be the successful cooking of a Christmas pudding, and never a Yule log? Culinary and translatorial considerations can sometimes find themselves at loggerheads. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but first we need to decide what the pudding actually is.

What, for example, do we mean by “culinary” in the context of translation? The term not only refers to food and its preparation – recipes, names of dishes, descriptions, menus, advertising, agriculture, cookery equipment, catering terminology, visual representations, and so on. It also covers a range of sub-categories, including drinks: tea and coffee, beer and wine. These are themselves culturally inflected phenomena with associated rituals of social interaction and tasting, which have their own vocabularies and styles. A translator might be called upon to deal with any and all of these things.

The ambition of this conference is to establish a truly multidisciplinary conversation that is capable of addressing these kinds of fundamental issues, whilst developing the myriad possibilities of its research interactions. Papers might cover any of the following topic areas (non-exhaustive list):

Intralingual Translation / Information and Communication Studies

  • Culinary and gastronomic languages (the difference between the two?); tools and utensils, techniques, names and descriptions of dishes, culinary onomastics, recipes, tasting notes, etc.


Professional / Technical Translation

  • Specialised translation: cookery books, menus, advertising/publicity, labels/packaging, websites, instruction manuals, industrial documents, medical texts (nutrition science, food allergies, etc.)
  • Intersemiotic translation: audiovisual translation, multimodal translation, text/image integration, dubbing, subtitling (interlingual and SDH), audio-description, sign language interpretation, etc.

Artistic exchanges and responses

  • The culinary metaphor of “pastiche” and the way it is adapated between artforms
  • The cultural adaptation of visual representations of food, drink and other culinary objects
  • The concept of consumable art and the repurposing of culinary imagery and materials in the visual and plastic arts

Cultural, political and sociological aspects

  • Cultural adaptations: sociological, ethnological and anthropological perspectives
  • Culinary traditions and the construction of identities via translation. Relationships between Other and Self, global and local, etc. (Levinas; Benjamin pain vs Brot; Berman, Venuti, Cronin)
  • Lexiculture and culturemes
  • Culinary metaphors in translation, and translation as a culinary metaphor
  • Political issues: animal rights, workers’ rights, migration, fair trade, vegetarianism/veganism, ecology, organic vs chemical farming, biodiversity, feminism, privation (hunger, famine, dieting), etc.

Literary and journalistic translation

  • Culinary elements of literary translation: e.g. what strategies are employed by translators?
  • Fantastic and demonic culinary aspects of literary translation: e.g. fictional food and drink, invented culinary cultures, magic potions, cannibalism, vampirism, poison

Keywords: translation, adaptation, dubbing, subtitling, terminology, lexicography, communication, culinary, gastronomy, cookery, food, drink, recipes, menus, tasting, culture, literature, ecology, pastiche


Conference Languages: English and French

(Research topics related to any and all geographical locations, historical periods and languages of study are welcome, as are joint proposals from research groups for a relevant panel or round table.)


   Cecille EA4074
   Université de Lille
   Texte Image Langage EA4182
   Région Hauts-de-France
   Ministère de l'enseignement supérieur