While Alistair McCleery’s talk was titled “Postcolonial Penguins,” his discussion extended far beyond the nuances of the book trade and into areas such as book historical theory and international politics. At the outset, he explained that his research stemmed from two sources of interest, one professional and one personal. His professional interest, he recounted, was based in a desire for book historians to work harder at finding patterns and models rather than sticking to the kind of case study tradition he has observed for many years. Professor McCleery gave a brief explanation of the British publishing structures post-World War II, and why things changed so dramatically in the world of books at that time. Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, in the aftermath of the war, opened satellite branches all over the world. These wholly-owned overseas branches grew and grew until some locations began to devolve based on further development of local communities and new international involvement in publishing.
Dr. Brecht de Groote showed how the figure of the translator can serve to reflect critically on two central characteristics of Romanticism, in particular late Romanticism: the importance of diverse forms of transfer and transmission, and the tension between aesthetic aspirations and the realities of commercial publication. He began by outlining two conflicting understandings of Romanticism: as determined by socio-political and economic structures, or, in the words of Joep Leerssen, as ‘generated by the cultural communication and dissemination of ideas’. Reception studies have analysed various Romantic-era practices and figurations of reading and writing in order to elucidate how people understood contemporary participation in aesthetic and socio-economic processes, but de Groote suggested that a specific subset, namely figurations of translation, deserves to be examined in more detail.