For a number of years now, Professor Mike Wilson has been researching the life and work of Breton folklorist François-Marie Luzel (1821-1895). Luzel was one of the leading Breton scholars of his time, and was a prolific collector of folktales at a time when there was a pan-European effort to collect and preserve the oral culture of communities undergoing radical transformation through industrialization.
Luzel’s work has recently been rehabilitated and republished in France after years of neglect, but he remains an almost unknown figure in the English-speaking world and his stories have only very rarely been translated into English.
This research has three strands of enquiry:
- To conduct a critical interrogation of Luzel’s work and practice as a collector and editor of folktales, in the context of both his own time and from a 21st century perspective of storytelling performance practice.
- To re-think the practice of translating folktales, not as an act of literary translation (as it has traditionally been understood), but as the translation of texts of and for performance. Furthermore, to theorize around the translation of folktales as an act of performance in its own right, an act of retelling in a cycle of retellings, and the creation of necessarily provisional, unstable and vulnerable texts.
- To bring together these two strands into a Practice-as-Research project to translate a number of Luzel’s stories into English for the first time, according to principles of performance translation. The idea is for Mike to bring to bear his practical experience of having been a professional storyteller on the translation process itself, so producing texts that bear the hallmark of the sensibilities of a storyteller, rather than a literary editor.
Overall, though, the aim is to make Luzel’s work available to both English-speaking scholars and storytelling practitioners for the first time.
Mike’s latest publications, in the journal Book 2.0, are an essay on Luzel’s contribution to folktale collecting in Brittany, entitled ‘A Succession of Dialogues: François-Marie Luzel and his contribution to the Breton Folktale’ (Vol. 9, No. 1, pp.121-129, doi: 10.1386/btwo_00011_1), and a new translation of a Luzel tale, ‘Tuppenny Jack’ (Vol. 9, No. 1, pp.131-142, doi: 10.1386/btwo_00012_7) will be accessible, in due course, in the University Repository here:
An earlier published essay on translation and a translation of the story ‘The Miller and his Seigneur’ are also available here: