Translating World War One: The Case of T. E. Lawrence
During the current Centenary of the First World War, we are commemorating the first mass industrialised war. If the number of victims was unprecedented, so too was the manner in which this quickly became a literary war. Amongst those caught up in the conflict were many who wished to describe this radical break with normality. Some of these narrations appeared in the course of the conflict itself, while others formed part of the second wave of war literature, between 1929 and 1930. The prevalent literary model is that of the muddy fields and trenches of the Western Front. However, this journée d’étude will concentrate upon the Middle Eastern Front and, in particular, on the person of T. E. Lawrence, whose war book Seven Pillars of Wisdom describes his participation in the Arab Revolt from 1916 to 1918. Whereas the novelists and poets of the First World War are for the most part describing an experience of being immobilised for long periods, unable to advance, Lawrence is describing a rapid and mobile guerilla war, in the vast open spaces of the desert. Later, during the 1960s, his war experiences would be translated into visual form in David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia.
Whatever the theatre of war, the ability to exist within it and to describe it requires a kind of translation. Here, the concept of translation – its etymological root signifying the act of carrying across a space – is not used primarily in its linguistic sense. Rather, it is used in order to suggest the difficulty of understanding and of communicating the trauma of the battlefield. How did Lawrence’s experience translate itself in literary, psychological, and visual terms? How were these experiences received by his contemporaries, and by other observers up to the present day? How do the answers to these questions contribute to an understanding of Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt, and in the wider context of the First World War? We shall approach these questions with the help of specialists in history, biography, philosophy, audiovisual media, and literary criticism.
09.30 : Coffee, Introduction, Welcome
09.45 : Session 1: Historical Perspectives
Chair: Claudine Moulin (Fellow, IEA de Paris)
Christophe Leclerc (auteur, biographe): ‘T. E. Lawrence et Edouard Brémond : Deux Visions du Moyen-Orient, Deux Expériences de la Guérilla’
Henri Laurens (Collège de France): ‘La Place de Lawrence dans la Première Guerre Mondiale’
11.15 : Break
11.30 : Session 2: Translating a Life
Chair: Dúnlaith Bird (University of Paris-Sud)
Jeremy Wilson (University of Bristol): ‘Two-thirds of a Life: The Challenge of Writing about T. E. Lawrence’
Barbara Cooke (University of Leicester): ‘”As the war gets more distant, it gets more horrible, truly”: Reading Lawrence’s The Mint as a Working-through of Wartime Trauma’
13.00 : Lunch
14.00 : Session 3: Visual Translation
Chair: Jeremy Wilson (University of Bristol)
Marie-Dominique Montel (Réalisatrice): ‘TE on TV: Re-interpreting Lawrence for a Television Generation’, including the showing of: T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence d’Arabie (1888-1935), France 3, Collection ‘Un siècle d’écrivains’.
15.15 : Break
15.30 : Session 4: Lawrence in Company
Chair: Barbara Cooper (Fellow, IEA de Paris)
Jérôme Lèbre (Enseignant en classes préparatoires littéraires, directeur de programme au Collège international de philosophie): ‘Le charakter de T. E. Lawrence, ou l’écriture en guerre’
Dúnlaith Bird (Université de Paris-Sud): ‘Seeding the Desert: Spycraft, Sedition, and Suspicion in the Wartime Work of Gertrude Bell and T. E. Lawrence’
17.00 : Concluding Discussion
Chair: Brian Sandberg (Fellow, IEA de Paris)