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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow The Age of Translation: Early 20th-century Concepts and Debates

Reforms in higher education in the arts

As Tymoczko notes (21-22), positivist studies since the late nineteenth century, which focused on the humanities (the arts in the broad sense, but identified with classics), would condition how translation was approached and studied in the West. In both Spain and Portugal we can date the reform of further education broadly to the mid-nineteenth century, with the gradual implementation of philological studies over the first third of the twentieth century. Successive reforms have been accompanied by research of a positivist nature, based on seeking and publishing old documents and literary works, as well as investigations into dialect and folk traditions with a view to recovering the historical heritage. In Portugal this movement can be dated to 1859, when the Curso Superior de Letras was created by King Pedro V, leading to the nationalisation of ancient and modern historical literary learning (Cunha 222) and its subsequent diversification into the different specialised subjects of philology. It was above all in the Memoria drafted by teachers in 1879, twenty years after the Curso was created, where a number of new proposals were made:

In it mature knowledge of the state of higher education in Europe was revealed, weighing up the defects of the Portuguese system; [...] philological approaches were defended back then, in tune with which it was proposed that specific sections should immediately be set up (which would only come to fruition in 1911 and would be so broad that they were not even maintained in the 1957 reforms, when Sanskrit philology disappeared); [...] the quality of secondary education was called into question to adapt it better to higher education and improvements were proposed to be able to correspond to more elaborate levels that were consistent with the requirements of university teaching; [...] new ways of working became accepted (a greater analytical sense and less oratory redundancy in lectures, and a greater practical sense when it came to working with texts); lecturers advocated extending the disciplinary framework (geography, history of the fatherland, ethnology, archaeology of art, Semitic philology).

[Nela se revelava um conhecimento amadurecido da situa^ao do ensino superior na Europa e se sopesavam os defeitos do sistema portugues; [...] defendiam-se agora orientates filologicas e, em consonancia com elas, propunha-se ja a constitui^ao de sec^oes especfficas (que so viriam a ser consagradas em 1911 e tinham tanta largueza que nem a reforma de 1957 manteve - pois se perdeu a filologia sanscrita); [...] questionavam a qualidade do ensino secundario para melhor articula^ao com o ensino superior e pro- punham melhorias para poderem corresponder a niveis mais elaborados consentaneos com as exigencias de ensino universitario; [...] admitiam novas formas de trabalho (maior sentido analitico e menos redundancia oratoria nas exposi^oes magistrais, maior sentido pratico no trabalho com os textos); pretendiam os professores alargamento do quadro disciplinar (Geografia, Historia Patria, Etnologia, Arqueologia da Arte, Filologia semita).] (Nascimento 13)

The first half of the twentieth century, which saw the installation of the Spanish Republic in 1910 and the Second Portuguese Republic (Estado Novo) in 1926, would be marked by the experience gained from the Curso Superior de Letras, resulting in the Higher Education Reform of 1911. Centred on the University of Lisbon’s arts faculty (FLUL), it served as the model for the setting up of all the other arts faculties and the respective BA courses: classical arts, modern arts and the beginning of modern-language teaching, and also the founding of the Centro de Estudos Filologicos (1932) to consolidate the study of philology and linguistics.

In Spain, the 1957 “Moyano” Public Education Act framed general education within the new centralist liberal system, after a long process of projects and reforms lasting nearly fifty years. In 1900 a Royal Decree regulated the creation of faculties of philosophy and arts. In 1910, the Centro de Estudios Historicos was created in Madrid, dependent on the Junta para la Ampliation de Estudios, which was the seed of what has been termed the “Menendez Pidal school”, named after the founder of Spanish philology. In 1911 the Escuela Central de Idiomas — the model for today’s Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas — was created in Madrid (Monterrey 68), and during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, in 1927, Institutos de Idiomas were set up at all universities, with two sections: classics (where Greek and Latin were compulsory and Arabic and Hebrew were optional) and modern languages (with German and English and either French or Italian) (Monterrey 69); in the 1930s, during the period of the Second Republic (1931-1936), classical philology, Semitic philology and modern philology were introduced as new subjects; the study of other Spanish languages besides Castilian became legal, and Pompeu Fabra, a member of the Instituto de Estudios Catalanes, was commissioned to implement the study of Catalan; Schools of Arabic studies were created in Madrid and Granada (1932), as were classical studies and Arabic studies sections at the Centro de Estudios Historicos (1933) and the Instituto de Lenguas Clasicas in Madrid (1936). After the Spanish Civil War, the new regime encouraged the study of German or Italian, in accordance with its ideology, and there was a backward development as the exclusive use of Castilian Spanish was stipulated for official purposes (Monterrey 73); from the 1940s awards, under a 1944 decree, classical and Semitic philology courses were maintained in arts studies, but modern philology was replaced by Romance philology, which required students to translate and speak at least two Romance languages and also translate from German (Monterrey 73-74).

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