I. Translation as Criticism
Returning to ‘Ithaca’ in Translation
KIM ALLEN GLEED
Because James Joyce’s writing falls at varying distances outside of what we might call standard English narrative prose, his works force a translator to critically interpret the text, weigh multiple options, and make deliberate decisions about words, phrases and indeterminate references. As a result, the translation becomes transparent, and a bilingual reader has an amazing opportunity to witness the possibility of language and translation, seeing how the translator works, what choices he or she has made, and why. An analysis of Joyce’s works and their translations can reveal much about the process of translation and what happens to the Joycean text when translated into another language and for another culture. By using Fritz Senn’s model of translation as an approach to interpreting and understanding Joyce, we have the opportunity to see what happens to a text in translation as well as what happens to translation in a text. This technique teaches us as much about reading and understanding Joyce as it does about the task and craft of the translator.
Translating Colette: Bisexuality and Modernism in La Maison de Claudine
This essay analyzes the English translations of Colette’s novel, La Maison de Claudine, offers a new version of selected episodes, and argues for a reading of the text that has bisexuality at its core. The analysis offers a fresh psychoanalytic reading of the novel, building upon Venuti’s study of the sexual norms of the target culture and Kristeva’s examination of psychic formations in Colette. While acknowledging their achievement in making the acclaimed novelist available in English, the essay reveals the weaknesses of the translations by Enid McLeod and Una Vincenzo Troubridge in 1953 and Andrew Brown in 2006. The translations are inadequate to the complexity of this Modernist text, that of a bisexual woman revealing the historical and political conditions of her life in early twentieth-century France. The new version of selected scenes enables the text to voice the homosexual desire for the maternal that is at the same time a radical politics in Colette’s fiction.
Celebrating the Inevitable
MARILYN GADDIS ROSE
Jane Austen’s posthumous Persuasion (1817) has been promoted as a ‘fairy tale for grownups’. The translations of this novel intended for French, German, Italian, and Spanish classrooms inevitably illustrate Eugene Nida’s formulation of 1947. That is, these translations can be expected to add, abstract, and skew Austen’s information. It should be added that such translations could inevitably also flatten or
intensify, focus or disperse information. A novel in translation is bound to exemplify all of these operations intermittently, even simultaneously. This discussion, restricted to examining translations that stay close to Austen’s text, will explore stereoscopically Captain Wentworth’s written proposal of marriage to Anne Elliot; this letter that brings their romance to a conclusion after an eight-year interruption. Semantically there is hardly any loss and only minimal enhancement. Phonically readers with the help of the translators can create an Austen voice for themselves. Would the energy surrounding the current Austen cult predispose readers to enter Persuasion regardless of the language? Anecdotal evidence from the Jane Austen Society of North America suggests that bilingual Janeites regard a translation as another Austen novel and duly celebrate it.
II. Epistemologies of Translation
Metalanguage and Ideology: Conceptual Frameworks of Translation in the Work of Itamar Even-Zohar
and Muhammad al-Khatib
This paper examines the metalanguage employed in two theoretical approaches to translation – the polysystem theory of Itamar Even-Zohar, formulated to analyse translation into Hebrew in the early 20th century, and the work of the Syrian critic Muhammad Kamel al-Khatib in his study of literary translation into Arabic in the late 19th and early 20th century. Despite parallel conceptual frameworks, the terminology each used reflected different ideological attitudes. Through a comparative analysis of these two approaches, the paper investigates the influence of translation metalanguage on research methodologies. My intention is to demonstrate that the choice of terms is not a purely technical matter; it reflects and affects ideological positions. It is further argued that the multiplicity of terminological systems in translation studies, even when designating more or less ‘similar’ phenomena, is not a symptom of fragmentation, but an inevitable, even a healthy, situation.
Translation and ‘the Fourth’: An Account of Impossibility
JOSEP DÁVILA MONTES
Within the body of scholarly works usually arrayed under the rubric of ‘translation theory’, there is a sort of ‘dialectics’: a ‘dialectics in the theory of translation’ that, in its extremes, tends to regard translation either as ‘impossible’, or as an exercise of ‘extracting true meaning’. There is an almost infinite number of intermediate positions and approaches between both ends. Also, translation theory presents itself under the fashion of several other dichotomies such as faithfulness/unfaithfulness, literal/free translation, foreignizing/domesticating translation. This paper contends that the seeming dichotomy between possibility and impossibility that appears to permeate any discourse on translation theory has an intrinsically metaphorical basis, and that, in spite of the many maps of binary relationships that the couplet source/target invites to sketch, the true nature of translation belongs not to the dominion of binary dichotomies but to one of triadic, mediated and unstable relations.
Awakening the Inner Ear: Gadamer and Bachelard in Search of a Living Logos
The aim of this essay is to test the limits and explore new possibilities in our ongoing ‘search for a living
logos’ amid the twists and turns of translation/retranslation, as we learn to tune our inner ear to the subtle reverberations and resonances in philosophical and poetic texts which reveal themselves uniquely in different reading contexts. This challenge is first addressed by comparing and contrasting the hermeneutic perspectives of German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) and French philosopher Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962). When highlighting and summarizing their hermeneutic principles and practices, as well as their respective notions of the ‘living logos’, their key texts will be cited in English translation – namely, Gadamer’s Truth and Method, and Bachelard’s series on the elemental imagination, as well as his Poetics of Space, and his Poetics of Reverie.Later in the essay, certain passages from Bachelard’s texts will be quoted in French, especially in those cases when his interpretive reading or controversial translation of another author’s work is at issue, offering opportunities for fertile meditation and discussion – namely, his readings of Thoreau’s ‘Walking’ and Roupnel’s Siloë, including a pivotal line on ‘truth’ from Samuel Butler’s Life and Habit.
The Art Concealed: Translation as Sprezzatura
In his influential treatise, The Book of the Courtier (1528), the Italian Renaissance writer Baldesar Castiglione introduces the fascinating concept of sprezzatura (translated as ‘nonchalance’ or even ‘disdain’), which he urges the perfect courtier to practise in order to disguise his meticulous training and make his actions appear graceful and effortless. This essay applies the concept of sprezzatura to the sphere of translation in order to give a healthy twist to the notion of invisibility. Indeed, far from reflecting a humble acceptance of a marginal role or the refusal to acknowledge one’s centrality and responsibility to the text, through sprezzatura invisibility becomes the effect of a skilful strategy whereby translators, unseen and therefore ever more in control, create an artful spontaneity, forging an artificial but seemingly natural connection between the audience and the truly invisible player – the author. Ultimately, sprezzatura allows translators to see themselves as consummate illusionists and promotes a translating style that, rather than chasing perfect equivalence and mourning losses, trusts the suggestive power of language to evoke the distant echoes of a foreign text.
III. Translation and Writing: Poetics and Politics
Entry and Threshold: Translation and Cultural Criticism
This essay explores what can be gained by applying the methodology of ‘stereoscopic reading’ to cultural encounters, particularly at the point of differences in power. I argue that stereoscopic readings at these nodal moments of cultural domination can potentially be not only interpretive: they can have a transformative effect. In other words, a stereoscopic reading of a cultural encounter interacts with and affects the cultures, languages, and politics it interprets and theorizes. I review two examples of how such an approach might be applied. This essay is largely methodological, in the sense of specifying and exemplifying a theory for how research could proceed. Along the way, I clarify what might be a ‘cultural’ translation and how that enriches our experiences of difference. In countenancing power-exchanges, the moments I analyze are anguished, the protagonists ambivalent, and the situations rife with ambiguity.
Translating Latin America: Reading Translators’ Archives
MARÍA CONSTANZA GUZMÁN
Translation played a crucial role in the path Latin American letters followed throughout the 20th century, and it continues to shape the way Latin American writing is inscribed in the world of literature. Contemporary Latin American writing is to an important extent a function of its international reception. Translators are key agents in this dynamics of literary and cultural production. Both their work and their reflection on their practice at times dispute essentializing concepts of the literary. They also illuminate aesthetic and geopolitical connections. This article investigates the ‘archives’ of three North American translators of Latin American literature: Gregory Rabassa, Suzanne Jill Levine, and Sergio Waisman. It focuses on the translators’ views and understandings of their own practice, on the conceptualizations of language and textuality that inform their characterizations of their practice, and on various determining elements that condition their role, image, and position as agents of the Latin American narrative imagination.
The practice of translation is a process of contacting and connecting between languages and their cultures and the work it involves is one of exploration. The translator seeks to open a text and create a path giving access to the sense composed of the words/ideas/images of the first, original text. It must be done in such a way that readers of the newly written work will have an understanding of the first writer’s meanings that connects with their own, culturally specific understandings to form a new energy. The reader/translator’s understanding requires a secure grounding in that cultural specificity but at the same time must be open to other ways of making sense of the world. The theories of Edouard Glissant, most specifically those articulated in his Poétique de la relation (Poetics of Relation), shed light in many different ways on the difficulties and pleasures of translation as discovery.
An Interview with Marilyn Gaddis Rose
Selected publications by Marilyn Gaddis Rose (books and articles)
Translations by Marilyn Gaddis Rose
Notes on Editors and Contributors