Discussion Questions — “What is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” by Derrida — M.Paczkowski (9.29)

Is Derrida describing translation or interpretation?

Which text maintains greater meaning, the original or the translation? It seems as though translation according to Derrida. Is this once again a choice in the intermediary space for Derrida?

Within the intermediary space, how does one judge which choice is the most appropriate? Does Derrida believe that meaning is always able to be extrapolated?

Class Presentation/Reading Blog–“What is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” by Jacques Derrida–M.Paczkowski (9.29)

Michael Paczkowski

Professor Faull

Translation Studies

29 September 2016

Class Presentation—“What is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” by Jacques Derrida


“What is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” is derived from a lecture that Derrida gave in 1998 at the fifteenth annual seminar of the Assises de la Traduction Littéraire à Arles, a French organization that promotes the process of literary translation. This helps to explain Derrida’s address of his inexperience in translation when speaking to an audience well-versed in the subject:

“How dare I proceed before you, knowing myself to be at once rude and inexperienced in this domain, as someone who, from the very first moment, from his very attempts (which I could recount to you, as the English saying goes, off the record), shunned the translator’s métier, his beautiful and terrifying responsibility, his insolvent duty and debt, without ceasing to tell himself ‘never ever again’: ‘no, precisely, I would never dare, I should never, could never, would never manage to pull it off’?” (365)

“If I dare approach this subject before you, it is because this very discouragement, this premature renunciation of which I speak and from which I set out, this declaration of insolvency before translation was always, in me, the other face of a jealous and admiring love, a passion for what summons, loves, provokes and defies translation while running up an infinite debt in its service, an admiration for those men and women who, to my mind, are the only ones who know how to read and write —translators.” (365-366)

Ironically, this lecture and thus text of Derrida’s is considered to be instrumental and revolutionary in the field of translation studies.

Derrida’s reference to lines within the Shakespearean play The Merchant of Venice is integral in understanding his argument for deconstruction. Thus, it is important to understand the contextual situation of his reference. Here’s a quick summary: Desiring to impress Portia, Bassanio borrows 3,000 ducats from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, and has Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice, operate as the loan’s guarantor. Due to his past with Antonio, a candid antisemitic, Bassanio reluctantly agrees to lend the money to Shylock with the one stipulation that he would owe Bassanio a pound of his flesh if unable to repay him by a certain date. Bassanio receives Portia’s hand in marriage. Antonio is unable to repay Shylock by his specified date, thus prompting Shylock to seek Antonio for a pound of his flesh. Ultimately, Portia dissuades Shylock from cutting a pound of Antonio’s flesh by reason that he must be of exact precision or he will lose all his possessions. Importantly, this is where Portia’s speech on “mercy” occurs, the line by which Derrida inspects within his text. Shylock agrees to Antonio’s monetary compensation, yet Portia once again calls upon Venetian law in that Shylock, being a jew and making an attempt at another’s life, must give up half of his payment to the state. Shylock keeps the money yet must convert to Christianity and offer his estate to Lorenzo.

The Text: 

Derrida presents the choice that underlies his entire argument of deconstruction. Words have multiple meanings within various linguistic, cultural and political contexts, therefore you must choose what is relevant. Words do not have any meaning innately attached but rather gain semiotic relevance through human application.

“It is impossible to decide the source language to which, for example, the word ‘relevante’ answers… Nor the languages to which it belongs at the moment when I use it, in the syntagms or the phrases where I move to reinscribe it. Does this word speak one and the same language, in one and the same language? At the same time, we don’t even know if it is really one word, a single word with a single meaning, or if, homonym or homophone of itself, it constitutes more than one word in one.” (367)

Derrida mainly calls into question, as offered by the title, what is considered a relevant translation. His answer is rather diplomatic in suggesting that the assessment of relevance is in relation to the individual (whether translator or reader) in viewing such translation. A relevant translation is that which seems appropriate, whatever feels right, etc.

“What is most often called ‘relevant’? Well, whatever feels right, whatever seems pertinent, apropos, welcome, appropriate, opportune, justified, well-suited or adjusted, coming at the right moment when you expect it” (368)

** Question: Look above, with what you know about Derrida after reading this text, can you make any observations about this passage? Is he demonstrating a deconstructive tendency?**

“A relevant translation would therefore be, quite simply, a ‘good’ translation, a translation that does what one expects of it, in short, a version that performs its mission, honors its debt and does its job or its duty while inscribing in the receiving language the most relevant equivalent for an original, the language that is the most right, appropriate, pertinent, adequate, opportune, pointed, univocal, idiomatic, and so on. The most  possible, and this superlative puts us on the trail of an “economy” with which we shall have to reckon.” (368)

Derrida asserts that translation is both possible and impossible. That translation stands between the these two possibilities through his principle of economy.

“As a matter of fact, I don’t believe that anything can ever be untranslatable- or, moreover, translatable.” (369)

He draws attention to two signifying properties: property and quantity.

Law of Property:

“… translation is always an attempt at appropriation that aims to transport home, in its language, in the most appropriate way possible, in the most relevant way possible, the most proper meaning of the original text, even if this is the proper meaning of a figure, metaphor, metonymy, catachresis or undecidable impropriety…” (369)

Law of Quantity:

“…when one speaks of economy, one always speaks of calculable quantity” (369)

In regards to the law of quantity, Derrida is speaking of measurements in lexical units.

For Derrida, translation occupies the space in between being translatable and untranslatable.

“How does a principle of economy permit one to say two apparently contradictory things at the same time (1. ‘Nothing is translatable’; 2. ‘Everything is translatable’) while confirming the experience that I supposed is so common to us as to be beyond any possible dispute, namely, that any given translation, whether the best or the worst, actually stands between the two, between absolute relevance, the most appropriate, adequate, univocal transparency, and the most aberrant and opaque irrelevance?”

Derrida understands translation as participating in an “economy of in-betweenness” as suggested above. The translation occurs within this intermediary realm. Words and languages have multiple meanings rooted in various cultural and social contexts. In translation, the replacement of a foreign text’s signifier with alternative signifying sequence can only be interpreted through the signified that is fixed and established within the target language and culture. Translation thus should be seen as interplay between languages, meanings, and cultures within this intermediary space. This space functions as the proper environment in which semiotic transfers can be assessed and potentially understood.

**Question: In regards to Derrida, is it translation or interpretation”**

Derrida attends to the notion of the interplay of meaning and words in his inspection of The Merchant of Venice. He demonstrates the supposed oath of translation to be continuously subject to treason. To have mercy on the translator/translation is to transcend above and be excused. Translation surpasses the law of language, the law of the source language and text due to its stringent rules based on structure, grammar, syntax, etc. He shows the multiplicity of meaning within the intermediary space. Translation is continuously subject to choice.

“At every moment, translation is as necessary as it is impossible. It is the law; it even speaks the language of the law beyond the law, the language of the impossible law, represented by a woman who is disguised, transfigured, converted, travestied, read translated, into a man of law. As if the subject of this play were, in short, the task of the translator, his impossible duty, his debt, as inflexible as it is unpayable” (372)


“First, there is an oath, an untenable promise… all translation implies an insolvent indebtedness and an oath of fidelity to a given original… a promise that is, moreover, impossible and asymmetrical… an oath doomed to treason or perjury.” (373)

“Then there is the theme of economy, calculation, capital, and interest, the unpayable debt to Shylock: what I said above about the unit of the world clearly set up a certain economy as the law of translation”

“In The Merchant of Venice, as in every translation, there is also at the very heart of the obligation and the debt, and incalculable equivalence, an impossible but incessantly alleged correspondence between the pound of flesh and money, a required but impractical translation between the unique literalness of a proper body and the arbitrariness of a general, monetary, or fiduciary sign” (373)

“This impossible translation, this conversion, between the original, literal flesh and the monetary sign is not unrelated to the Jew Shylock’s forced conversion to Christianity… And the relève, like the relevance I am prepared to discuss with you, will be precisely what happens to the flesh of the text, the body, the spoken body, and the translated body — when the letter is mourned to save the sense” (373).

Derrida’s understanding of language as a contract to the “economic structure” of the source language is interesting in relation to his “translation” of Shylock’s contract within The Merchant of Venice. Like Shylock, the translator and the translation are offered “mercy” within the intermediary space due to the “economy of in-betweenness”. The translation is able to rise above the contract and offer a greater and more variable meaning.

“This superb speech defines mercy, forgiveness, as the supreme power.”

“Both place something (the oath, forgiveness) above human language in human language, beyond the human order in the human order, beyond human rights and duties in human law”

**Question: Do you, in general, agree with Derrida’s understanding of translation? Within the intermediary space, how does one judge which choice is the most appropriate? Does Derrida believe that meaning is always able to be extrapolated?**

Derrida offers three justifications in which he express translation as a continuous process of reductions and additions in meaning in order to find the most relevant translation that achieves a higher essence.

“First justification…Relever first conveys the sense of cooking suggested here, like assaisonner. It is a question of giving taste, a different taste that is blended with the first taste, now dulled, remaining the same while altering it, while changing it, while undoubtedly removing something of its native, original, idiomatic taste, but also while adding to it, and in the very process, more taste, while cultivating its natural taste, while giving it still more of its own taste, its own, natural flavor — this is what we call ‘relever’ in French cooking” (382)

“Second justification… ‘relever’ effectively expresses elevation…Thanks to forgiveness, thanks to mercy, justice is even more just, it transcends itself, it is spiritualized by rising and thus lifting itself above itself” (383)

“There is a, finally, a third justification for the verb relever. I used this word justification to reconcile what would render this translation relevant to the conjoined motif of justice and justness or appropriateness, to what must be the appropriate word, the most appropriate possible, more appropriate than appropriate”

**Question: Which text maintains greater meaning, the original or the translation? It seems as though translation according to Derrida. Is this once again a choice in the intermediary space for Derrida?**

Discussion Questions — “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation” — Roman Jakobson — M.Paczkowski (9.25)

Among his three ways of interpreting a verbal sign, when would Jakobson use which method and why?

How would Jakobson tackle a phrase or word that is devoid of meaning in the source language such as nonsense?

Jakobson presents that “it is more difficult to remain faithful to the original when we translate into a language provided with a certain grammatical category from a language devoid of such category”. He thus presents it as the choice of translator in picking a grammatical structure, yet how does the translator choose what is proper?

How would Jakobson account for certain cultural aspects in language such as dialect? They invariably contribute to the underlying tone and meaning of the text but not necessarily the primary meaning.

In his emphasis on translating the overall meaning (i.e. translate the entire message), does that ironically present issues towards the loss of meaning? I am thinking mainly in regards to certain cultural or contextual aspects that may be specifically present within a word or phrase but not necessarily integral to the overall meaning.


Reading Blog — “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation” — Roman Jakobson — M.Paczkowski (9.25)

In using the example of cheese, Jakobson says that “we are obliged to state that no one can understand the word ‘cheese’ unless he has an acquaintance with the meaning assigned to this word in the lexical code of English” (126). The meaning of words and of any word or phrase whatsoever is inherently linguistic and a semiotic fact. There is no signatum without signum. Various linguistic signs are needed to introduce unfamiliar words. “The meaning of any linguistic sign is its translation into some further, alternative sign”

Three ways to interpret a verbal sign:

  1. Intralingual translation or rewording is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs of the same language
  2. Interlingual translation or translation proper is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language
  3. Intersemiotic translation or transmutation is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of signs of nonverbal sign systems

Intralingual translation uses more or less synonyms. However, such is not complete equivalence. Code-units (an idiomatic phrase-word or word) can be interpreted through an equivalent combination of code-units. Contrastingly, in regards to interlingual translation, there is no full equivalence between code-units. “Translation from one language into another substitutes messages in one language not for separate code-units but for entire messages in some other language” Translation involves two equivalent messages in two different codes. Jakobson says that equivalence in difference is the primary problem of langue and concern of linguistics. (<–VERY IMPORTANT). Comparing languages must account for their mutual ability in translatability. He urges the need for differential bilingual dictionaries.

Speaking is talking about the language being spoken. Metalinguistic understandings must attend to the notion that revision and redefinitions of vocabulary is a must. “All cognitive experience and its classification is conveyable in any existing language” However, there are experiences that are unable to be transmitted through language, so how would Jakobson account for this? With deficiencies, terminology may be qualified or amplified by loan-words, loan-translations, neologism, semantic shifts, or circumlocutions.

“No lack of grammatical device in the language translated into makes impossible a literal translation of the entire conceptual information contained in the original” Without a grammatical category, the meaning can be translated into this language by lexical means. Translation without grammatical number presents issues in selecting from one of two possibilities, yet how does the translator decide upon which possibility is proper? 

Languages differs in what they must convey verse what they may convey. Language is minimally dependent upon grammatical patterns because definitions of our experience are in complementary relation to metalinguistic operations. Thus, Jakobson presents the idea that “any assumption of ineffable or untranslatable cognitive data would be a contradiction in terms.

Often difficulty in maintaining the symbolism of genders in translation. Verbal equations become a constructive principle of the text. Poetry by definition is untranslatable.

English & Spanish Versions of “Life is Fine” by Langston Hughes for Class on (9.20)


Langston Hughes  (February 1st, 1902 – 1967)

“Life is Fine”    

I went down to the river,

I set down on the bank.

I tried to think but couldn’t,

So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!

I came up twice and cried!

If that water hadn’t a-been so cold

I might’ve sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!


I took the elevator

Sixteen floors above the ground.

I thought about my baby

And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!

I stood there and I cried!

If it hadn’t a-been so high

I might’ve jumped and died.

But it was high up there! It was high!


So since I’m still here livin’,

I guess I will live on.

I could’ve died for love–

But for livin’ I was born

Though you may hear me holler,

And you may see me cry–

I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,

If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!



“La Vida es Buena”

por Langston Hughes


Fuí al río

Me senté a la orilla

Traté de pensar sin éxito alguno,

Entonces me lancé al agua y me hundí

¡Salí una vez y grité!

¡Sali una segunda vez y lloré!

Si el agua no hubiera estado tan fría

Me habría hundido y habría muerto

¡Pero estaba

Frío en el agua!

¡Hacía frío!


Tomé el ascensor

Quince pisos arriba

Pensé en mi amor

Y pensé que me tiraría

¡Estube un rato y grité!

¡Estube un rato y lloré!

Si no hubiera estado tan alto

Habría saltado y muerto.

¡Pero estaba muy alto allá arriba!


Entonces ya que estoy aquí vivo,

Supongo que seguiré viviendo.

Yo podría haber muerto por amor,

Pero para vivir nací

Aunque me oigan gritar—

Y me oigan llorar

Que desgracia la mía, dulce amor,

Si tu me vas a ver morir.

¡La Vida es Buena!  ¡Buena como el vino! ¡La Vida es Buena!

Reading Blog — “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign” by Antoine Berman — M. Paczkowski (9.19)

Berman explains that translation is the “trial of the foreign” in a double sense. First, it constructs the relationship between the “self-same” and the foreign with hopes of making us familiar with the foreignness of the text. On the other hand, translation is a trial for the foreign due to the notion that the foreign work is uprooted from its own language ground. Berman further explicates this idea, saying, “And this trial, often an exile, can also exhibit the most singular power of the translating act: to reveal the foreign work’s most original kernel, its most deeply buried, most self-same,  but equally the most ‘distant’ from itself” (Berman 240). For Hölderlin, translation is to free the work of violence through a series of intensifications (more aptly put: emphasize its strangeness). He brings up the long debate on the divide in the field of translation: “literary” translations vs. “non-literary” translations. He claims however that in looking at literary history of translation it can be presumed that the second form of translation seemed to devour, encompass, and interestingly conceal the first. There must be a reflection on the ethical aims of translation.

He moves into inspecting the system of textual deformation that operates in all translations to prevent it from being a “trial of the foreign”, calling this the analytic of translation. He claims the analysis to be provisional (formed on the basis of him being the translator). He believes that it requires additional inputs from other “domains” such as linguists and poeticians as deformation constitutes many censures and resistances. Negative analytic should be considered through its positive counterpart. Negative and positive will allow for a critique of translation.

Negative analytic is concerned with ethnocentric, annexationist translations and hyper textual translations (translation where deformation is freely exercised). Translator cannot be freed by becoming aware of these unconscious forces, yet why not? It is through “controls” that the translator can hope to be free. Only languages that are cultivated can be translated, but they are the ones that put up the strongest resistance to translation. Deforming tendencies interfere on the domain of literary prose. Language-based cosmos is in some aspects shapeless, which has generally been described negatively. Often, prose is considered bad writing by a lack of control in their texture. “If one of the principal problems of poetic translation is to respect the polysemy of the poem, then the principal problem of translating the novel is to respect the shapeless polylogic and avoid arbitrary homogenization”

Twelve Deforming Tendencies:

  1. rationalization
  2. clarification
  3. expansion
  4. ennoblement and popularization
  5. qualitative impoverishment
  6. quantitative impoverishment
  7. destruction of rhythms
  8. destruction of underlying networks of signification
  9. destruction of linguistic patterns
  10. destruction of vernacular networks and their eroticization
  11. destruction of expressions an idioms
  12. effacement of the superimposition of languages

Rationalization – concerned with syntactical structures of the original, starting with punctuation. It rearranges sentence sequences in relation to a certain idea of discursive order. Free sentences run risks of rationalizing contraction. Rationalization destroys the element of drive towards concreteness in prose. It means abstraction. “To sum up: rationalization deforms the original by reversing its basic tendency”

Clarification – corollary of rationalization, concerned with level of clarity in words and meanings. The translation should be clearer than the original. Explicitation can be a manifestation of something not openly visible, but instead concealed in the original. Power of illumination of manifestation is a high power in translation. However, sometimes explicitation can explain something in the original that was never meant to be explained.

Expansion – translations tend to be longer than original. Its “inflationist”. Sometimes the unraveling can be considered empty in a translation. Sometimes the addition truly does not add anything. Expansion is a stretching or slackening which impairs the rhythmic flow of the work.

Ennoblement – point of classic translation. poetry it is “poetization”. Prose it is “rhetorization”. Ennoblement is only rewriting, a “stylistic exercise” based on the original. It believes it to be justified in recovering the rhetorical elements in prose.

Qualitative Impoverishment – the replacement of terms, expressions and figures in the original with terms, expressions, and figures that lack their sonorous richness. It creates an image that has a perceivable “resemblance”. Struggling a little bit to understand this concept, ask Prof. Faull in class.

Quantitative Impoverishment – Refers to lexical loss. Prose has certain proliferation of signifiers and signifying chains, which are unfixed. Often, there is a loss as translations contain fewer signifiers than the original. Loss coexists with an increase in gross quantity or mass of text with expansion. Translating results in text that is poorer and longer. Expansion works to often mask this quantitative loss.

Destruction of Rhythms – Hard to often destroy the rhythm of translation, as even badly translated novels continue to “transport” us. Often, punctuation can destroy the rhythm of the original.

Destruction of underlying networks of signification – literary works contain hidden dimensions, where certain signifiers correspond and link up to form the networks beneath the surface of the text. It is the subtext that carries word-obsessions. What makes signifiers valuable is their linkage to another. Without the transmission of the networks, the signifying process in the text is destroyed.

Destruction of Linguistic Patterns – Goes beyond level of signifiers, it extends to types of sentences and sentence constructions employed. When translated is more homogenous, it is more incoherent and inconsistent. The discourse of translation is asystematic. Readers perceive this inconsistency in the translated text, which they are right that it is not the “true” text.

Destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization – essential as all great prose is rooted in vernacular language. Polylogic of prose includes plurality of vernacular elements. Tendency towards concreteness includes these elements, as vernacular language is more physical and iconic than “cultivated” language. Prose often aims to recapture the orality of vernacular. Traditional method for perserving vernaculars is to exoticize them. This can take two forms: typographical procedure to isolate what does not exist in the original and “added” to be more “authentic” by emphasizing the vernacular in accordance with a stereotype.

Destruction of expressions and idioms – Prose is abound in images, expressions, figures and proverbs, partly derived from vernacular which can rind a readily parallel image, expression, figure or proverb in other languages. Replacing idioms with equivalents may not seem that big of a deal but on a larger scale it displaces the meaning. “To play equivalence is to attack the discourse of the entire work”. The problem is that equivalents do not translate it.

Effacement of the superimposition of languages – relation between dialect and common language. Superimposition of languages is threatened by translation. Every work is characterized by linguistic superimpositions. Need some more clarification on this idea.

Deforming tendencies are historical in an original sense. “All tendencies noted in the analytic lead to the same result: the production of a text that is more clear, more elegant, more fluent, and more pure than the original”.

Discussion Questions – “On then Different Methods of Translating” – Schleiermacher (9.13)

To what level of foreignization can the reader be brought to in order to truly understand the text and its meaning? 

How does the translator transmit the spirit and expressive powers of the text to the reader from the author? Much of translation seems almost to be a recognition and transmission of language patterns along with their meanings, yet how can you account for peoples’ different perceptions of the pattern? 

What happens when the reader’s natural language provides inflexible avenues for being open and receptive to understanding the foreignness of the translation? 

Does Schleiermacher believe that one must possess knowledge of more than one language in order to translate? Does he believe that the foundation of understanding the dialogue between two languages be understood before engaging a foreign text? (Not sure if I worded this correctly as to be perfectly understood)

Reading Blog – “On the Different Methods of Translating” – Friedrich Schleiermacher (9.13)

Utterances are translated from one language to another. Schleiermacher questions our ability to come together for the purpose of translation. In order to create similar meanings, we must employ different words and phrases than the other in order to encompass such.  “Produce a purely moral state of mind in which the spirit remains receptive even to what is most unlike itself”. The act of translation is the act of opening a dialogue of two different tongues between the translator and the author. Translation always and invariably deals with the translator’s trade of interpretation. The higher degree of art by which the author constructs his or her piece will require a higher degree of powers and skills of the translator in interpreting. Much of interpreting and translating thus deals with the particular state of affairs within a specific framework. “The translator ascends higher and higher above the interpreter until he reaches the realm most properly his, namely, those works of art and science in which the author’s free individual combinatory faculties, on the one hand, and the spirit of the language along with the entire system of views and sentiments in all their shadings represented in it, on the other, count for everything”. Business borderline regions generally are well defined by objects and terms,  arithmetical or geometrical in nature, so that there will have fixed usages and thus only present small errors in translation. “So long as the speaker does not smuggle in hidden vagueness with the intent to deceive”, but how would the translator be able to understand wether or not such is occurring? In this realm, translation becomes a mechanical task by which anyone with moderate knowledge of both languages will be able to perform. However, issues of translation/interpretation become muddied in the translation of artists and scientific works.

The opposite is true of languages in that they are not so closely related to account almost as different dialects of a single tongue but are removed further from one another. Even for the most well-versed scholars, when ideas of the inability to translate occur, how do these scholars go about finding the most fitting word. Translation is different than the ordinary act of interpreting. Intellect and imagination are bound by the language of the individual. On the other hand, every intellectual and free individual shapes the language in his turn. The act of speech and meaning becomes a particular and special sense of that person’s being. Understands speech as both a work of language and an expression of meaning, but how do you delineate between the two? Isn’t language and meaning intrinsically linked or is this his point? 

Schleiermacher is extremely in favor of the total immersion of the translator into the target language, but in doing so does he lose his identity? Intercultural dialogue thus becomes the goal in translation. In order to fully understand, the audience must grasp the genius of the language by which was native to the original writer. He then questions: Is translation not just a foolish endeavor? Two methods for grasping/making one acquainted with foreign works – satisfy an intellectual need and an intellectual art. The two methods are thus paraphrase and imitation. Paraphrase overcomes the irrationality of language but only in a mechanical way by approximating value by adding restrictive and amplifying modifiers. Yet, who is to say which restriction and which amplification is the best or most correct method in translation? 

The translator is tasked with bringing together the writer and the reader by helping the reader leave the bounds of his native tongue. Schleiermacher generally presents the notions that the translator either brings the reader closer to the author or the author closer to the reader, but in which way does one decide and how does the translator go about each variation? Why doesn’t there exist a middle ground, a notion that Schleiermacher denies by saying there is no third option. To what level of foreignization can the reader be brought to the author? 

What happens when the reader’s natural language provides inflexible avenues for being open and receptive to understanding the foreignness of the translation? 

For the first, the translator is endeavoring to compensate for the readers lack of knowledge in the source language. Moving the reader to his position which is foreign. The other way is to show the reader as though he knows the source language which possess many issues with readability and reliability. He says that there are no other possible ways of preceding. He then goes into the general merits of both methods.

The first is to imitate. The first should awaken the readers’ appetites and allow for fluid yet general comprehension and interpretation of the meaning. The translator must “furnish his reader with just such an image and just such enjoyment as reading the work in the original language would have provided the well educated man”. Does Schleiermacher believe that one must possess knowledge of more than one language in order to translate? Does he believe that the foundation of understanding the dialogue between two languages must be understood before engaging a foreign text? 

How does the translator transmit the spirit and expressive powers of the text to the reader from the author? Much of translation seems as though a recognition and transmission of language patterns along with their meanings, yet how can you account for peoples’ different perceptions of the pattern? 

Much of the question becomes how can the translator exemplify the foreign when presenting a text to a reader in his or her native tongue. We must grant two achievements: that the understanding of the foreign text be acknowledged as a known and desirable state and that a certain flexibility be granted to our native tongue. He does say that there is the availability for one to write in languages not of their native tongue.

He does seem to believe that much of the destruction and loss of the German language is restored by translation. I think that this is an interesting topic but an idea he needed to more fully develop. 

Discussion Questions (9.8)

Steiner says the failings of the translator localize and are projected as onto a screen, but does this assume that the reader has knowledge of both the original and the translated text to make such failure apparent?

Steiner says that “some translations edge us away from the canvas, others bring us up close”. By what criteria would we understand translations that bring us close or pull us away?

Since translation presents the issue of cultural and societal dissolution (i.e. loss of identity), how can you translate without losing your own identity?

Reading Blog Post – “Hermeneutic Motion” – Steiner (9.8)

George Steiner begins by defining hermeneutic motion, saying “The hermeneutic motion, the act of elicitation and appropriative transfer of meaning, is fourfold” (156). Steiner is concerned with asserting the idea that in the hermeneutic motion there is something there and that the transfer between languages will not be an empty and futile effort. The act of translation is an act of trust. Generosity of the translator by instilling his trust in the “other” with the idea that there will be something of interpretation. It is that the translator must believe the world as symbolic in which one symbol can stand for another. Yet, Steiner presents a gloomy reality in that the trust cannot be final in that sometimes there is simply just nothing there to be found or to translate. The donation of trust necessitates a proof through realization and labor. Steiner says, “As he sets out, the translator must gamble on the coherence, on the symbolic plentitude of the world” (157). In many ways, the translator must find that anything for almost anything can mean everything. But does that mean the translator may be searching for meaning where it is not?  On the other hand, there may be words and meanings that cannot be divorced from its formal autonomy.

After trust, the second stage of the translator is aggression; it is incursive and extractive. Understanding is an act, and a violent one at that, which is a Hegelian thought. Steiner believes that the act of understanding is that of “primary being”. Thus, comprehension is invasive and exhaustive (aka. why people are tired after having read/spoken in their non-native tongue all day). He then goes on to say that “decipherment is deceptive”. The translator will experience sadness after both failure and success. There are certain texts or genres that are exhausted by translation. Does that mean that there are texts or genres in which their translations are fully accepted? I am confused by his statement that “There are originals we no longer turn to because the translation is of a higher magnitude”. Can translations maintain the ability to transcend the importance and meaning of the original? 

The third stage is incorporative. It deals with the importation of meaning and form, embodying the original so that the translation is not “made in a vacuum”. Problematically, importation can dissolve or disband the entirety of the native structure. All translations and meanings maintain risks of being transformed. “The incremental values of communion pivot on the moral, spiritual state of the recipient”. When the native matrix is disturbed, the importation will not enrich? (Relatively confused by this idea). The dialectic can be seen in a sense of individual sensibility. Translation adds to our means, in ways that we being to embody the energies of the feeling. “Writers have ceased from translation, sometimes too late, because the inhaled voice of the foreign text had come to choke their own”. This is an exceedingly intriguing sentence that I think plays to the concepts of the translator as a mere bridge, but not the creator. Since translation poses the issue of cultural and societal dissolution, how can you translate without losing your own identity? Our movement of trust can put us off balance. “The hermeneutic act must compensate”.

Reciprocity in order to restore balance thus is the centerpiece of translation. There is a dimension of loss and break occurs through translation. There is a residue that is left over on the original that is positive. The work that is translated is enhanced and heightened. The over-determination of the interpretive act does so. To consider a source text worthy of translation is a dynamic of magnification. Yet, what does it mean to classify a text as worthy of translation and how does one do so? It is that the source texts gains “light” from the orders of diverse relationship and distance between it and the translation. The reciprocity is dialectic. Steiner says that “Some translations edge us away from the canvas, others bring us up close”. By what criteria would we understand translations that  bring us close or pulls us away?

Steiner says the failings of the translator localize and are projected as onto a screen, but does this assume that the reader has knowledge of both the original and the translated text to make such claim about the translator’s failure? The claim to style is a claim based on relations to other articulate constructs, by which translation is the most graphic. Genuine translation will therefore seek to equalize. There doesn’t exist a perfect “double”. The ideal makes the explicit the demand for equity in the hermeneutic process. Add substantive meaning to the notion of “fidelity”. Fidelity is ethical, but also, economic. The translator-interpretor find a significant exchange. Translation is an act of double-entry; both formally and morally the books most balance. Therefore, the hermeneutic of trust will allow us to overcome the sterile triadic.