Cultural Transmission in the Middle Ages: Dissecting a Medical Translation
On February 22, Religions and Public Life will host a seminar featuring Dr. Michael McVaugh (UNC-CH), Dr. Gerrit Bos (Cologne), and Dr. Joseph Shatzmiller (Duke), speaking on the medieval transmission and translation of Arabic medical texts through the West.
The transforming effect of Islamic learning on medieval European civilization, far more poorly known today than it should be, was facilitated by a flood of Arabic-to-Latin translations of medical and philosophical writings in the years 1000-1300. The interreligious and intercultural aspects of these translations and transmissions are notable: Jews were often intermediates in translation because they could read the Arabic and translate it into the Romance vernacular for the Christian translators to go on and turn into Latin. The speakers will give a summary account of this movement, and then go on to examine its effects more closely by studying one specific medical translation that is an utterly unique witness to the process of Arabic-Latin translation in general-its difficulties and its successes, and its methods, with their combination of faithfulness to the original and successful adaptation to new circumstances. This 12th-c Arabic work exists in a Latin version made by a Jewish scholar who translated the Arabic into the Romance vernacular for a Christian surgeon to turn into Latin, and then made his own Hebrew translation of the same text.