Reading Blog — “Dis-Unity and Diversity: Feminist Approaches to Translation Studies” by Luise Von Flotow — M.Paczkowski (11.28)

Von Flotow begins by saying “Feminist work in translation and translation studies is diversifying: it is not only extending in the bounds once posed by gender difference and confronting assumptions that derived from them, it is beginning to explore what theorist Alice Parker has tentatively termed polysexual and multigendered approaches to translation”. She focuses on the dis-unity of conventional feminist work being done in the translation studies field. The appreciation of diversity in the translation of feminist literature is seen as a survival strategy. Diversity and complexity develop or even mutate towards productive progress in response to criticism, however, it seems as though current feminist approaches in feminist translation has veered away from concerns of survival. “Critical responses in regard to feminist work are rarely neutral; factors of cultural or ideological conditioning, academic ambition, or institutional constraints are inevitably involved”. Von Flotow concerns herself thus with diversity and dis-unity and the factors underlying such within contemporary feminist work. The changes in essentialist feminist work has transitioned from viewing all women as sharing more or less a similar form of social, cultural, economic, and political oppression to a more differentiated approach in which cultural, ethnic, economic and many other differences between women are recognized and brought to bear in critical discourse. She details three factors in feminist work that are acknowledged in order to avoid gross generalizations and dissemination of culturally and politically questionable material: identity politics, positionality, and the historical dimension.

She desires to inspect three aspects of the current discourse on dis-unity and diversity in feminist literature: mainstream English translations of third world women’s texts for anglophone consumption; elitist and inaccessible work which has little to do with the socio-political concerns often ascribed to Anglo-American feminism; theoretical incoherence and hypocrisy in feminist translation and feminist critique of patriarchal theories. In regards to the translation of third world women’s literature, much of the translation constructs a largely misrepresentative view of the texts. It disregards the rhetoricity of the source text by focusing on making the women’s writing as possible available to the West/North. Mainstream anglophone translation obscures the differences between women of very different and differently empowered cultures, ostensibly in order to make the texts “accessible”. It can deprive texts of their individual style. The law of the strongest endorses translation into English as the easiest way of being “democratic with minorities”. These feminist attempts to understand and make available third world women’s experiences and writings turns out to be appropriation, misrepresentation, and the salving of guilty consciences. In regards to Elitist translation, Gillam criticizes the feminist approaches from the approach of  Canadian “feminist iconography”. She suggests that translations produced from a deliberate feminist perspective make the already difficult source material even more obscure by producing English texts that privilege sound associations and extend already complex wordplay. Criticism is based on the view that French and English speaking languages inherently have different respective political relationships. The distortion/deconstruction of the language in itself means something different in a text in Quebec than in English-Speaking Canada. It has different political value. In regards to hypocritical translation, Arrojo is concerned with what she deems the hypocritical, anxious, and theoretically not coherent work by mainly anglophone women and men who apply feminist activism in translation. These translators often assume the right to alter the text on a political level in order to sometimes mitigate an offensive form of machismo or misogyny. It is where they can consider it an applicable place to make an explicit feminist message that might have been previously implicit in the source text. Arrojo comments upon this in three manners. Some feminist translators’ claims that their work is faithful to the tenor of the source text as not congruent with their openly feminist politicals and therefore cannot let go of the fidelity ethic. Feminist criticism of male violence in translation as no less violent and therefore hypocritical. She also generalizes references to various post-structuralist theories with which some textual interventions are justified travesties of these theories. She might have overestimated the limited scope of feminist interventions in translation: “Their political rhetoric sometimes does outstrip the actual interventions carried out on translations”. She is correct that these translators are politically and personally invested in biased, seeking to undermine bias yet are conscious and acknowledge such. Yet, Arrojo may not do the same for herself and her own work. Thus, Von Flotow says, “I am led to ask who ‘we’ are and exactly how ‘we’ should go about simply accepting our infidelities”. Gilliam’s criticism is diametrically opposed to Spivak’s: She wants the feminist text to be made meaningful and accessible for the translating culture and its feminist activists of all kinds, while Spivak calls for translation practice that resists the homogenizing demands for “easy-reading” of the target culture feminist reader.

Gilliam expects feminist interaction to extend past simply just an academic level. Spivak is concerned with languages and cultures whose relationship is marked by glaring economic inequalities and a history of colonization, seeing translation to popularize womens’ literature by producing accessible texts as another form of imperialism. Von Flotow says that “the diversification of feminist discourses on the subject of translation is a noticeable recent development, visible not only in these critical writings but also in numerous papers and publications, which will hopefully lead to further dis-unity. Feminist work is largely produced by anglophones or in response to translations in English.

She enters into a discussion surrounding the factors motivating the responsible and desirable disunity. Jouve Ward demonstrates how a critic’s subjectivity and position of her particular historical context determines her perceptions and approaches. Like her, many others are aware of such relative nature of insight and value, understanding they come as specific individuals with specific historical moments. “Identity politics” acknowledges that the academic’s personal interests and needs are based on the initial premise that all persons have a material and outward identity that will influence and pass judgment upon others as well as receive. Therefore, it incorporates identity as a specific individual with certain identifiable cultural/political characteristics that determines her insights or opinions or prejudices. Lotbiniere-Harwood takes a similar approach in regards to the concept of “positionality” which relativizes the situation to a constantly shifting context, accounting for shifting contexts and elements of economic, cultural and political conditions and so on. Von Flotow says that “this concept not only allows researchers/academics to acknowledge and account for constantly shifting personal and intellectual settings and the effects of such shifts on scholarly knowledge and analyses, but it can also be used as a fluid location from which to construct meaning, a perspective from which values are interpreted and constructed — differently at different times”. Some believe that such conditions in countries of primary anglophones can be newly constructed under feminist “pressure”. It may aid in understanding the death of feminist scholarship in translation studies. “An interesting question in this regard might focus on the institutional and economic factors that are involved when hundreds of works of both mainstream and experimental feminist writing are translated from English into various European languages, yet virtually no theoretical or analytical work has been stimulated by this massive influx of translations”. The third factor is the historical dimension, used by Alcoff to articulate a concept of gendered subjectivity “without pinning it down one way or the other for all time”. It is the influence that causes gendered subjectivity to change with the times and with the political and institutional constellations that determine concrete options…etc. It’s powerful in identity and positionality. Von Flotow concludes elegantly with much hope of further dis-unity in feminist literature: “It would seem that feminist work in translation continues to expand and develop in the 1990s, fuelled on the one hard by institutionally sanctioned interests in gender difference in some parts of the world, and on the other by conflicts between scholars that may stem form cultural, ethnic, ideological and institutional affiliations. The complexities and dis-unities resulting from the interplay of these factors are more productive, however, than consensus on the sometimes sensitive issues they address”.

Reading Blog — “Translation and World Literature: Love in the Necropolis” by David Damrosch — M.Paczkowski (10.24)

Damrosch employs some short lines from a love poem found in “The Contendings of Horus and Seth” to use as a testing-ground and demonstrate the challenges faced in translation. He enters into a discussion of how papyrus became vastly demanded and thus the poem that appeared at the end of the verso was slowly put out of out inspection/practice. Therefore, the poem arrives to us (the modern day reader) relatively unencumbered by any transmission history. Yet, many problems arise from issues of decipherment, of grammar, of vocabulary, and of cultural framing. Thus, in attending to these issues, it becomes clear the issues of choice in taking a piece from its original time and transporting it to our own world. Gardiner’s initial publication of the poem occupies a boundary of both historical and transcendent. It appears to acquire the aesthetic feel of the original time period in which it was written, employing paleographic techniques to assess the original calligraphic style, as one method. He presents the poem’s thematic elements of love as universal throughout all stages of history.

However, Gardiner runs into some very basic yet important issues such as who is supposed to be speaking in the poem. He demonstrates the multiplicity of choices in translating an ancient poem, deciding upon ideas of style and syntax. He acknowledges the issue with lack of punctuation in Egyptian writing, posing as an issue for the translation into modern English. “Like all translations – like all reading – Lichtheim’s version is informed by context. Her translation recalls other Egyptian poems in which a hesitating young lover is offered advice by a third party”. In doing so, she was able to fix the grammatical issues previously encountered. The issue becomes though that without comprehensive context the translator may take too many liberties: “Lichtheim may have created a dialogue where none would have existed to begin with”. Thus, the negative argument against context can be made as there were not many Egyptian pieces similar at the time thus constricting context. Much of the debate over replicating style, context, etc.. seems to be over context, yet how does one decide the scope and breadth of such context? The debate over the gender of the speaker seems to weigh heavily into the construction of the translation. In regards to ancient translation, it seems as though context provides clues but never many that are straightforward enough to be accurate. Thus the question becomes: “It appears that two different options work grammatically and make sense within the context of the surviving corpus of Egyptian poetry: the poem records either a man’s internal debate and resolution, or a woman’s decisive acting upon her love. Is there any way to decide between these renderings?” Damrosch answers the call by looking at the gender of the hieroglyphs which demonstrate a seated man. Yet, the signs are inconsistent with the

Thus the question becomes: “It appears that two different options work grammatically and make sense within the context of the surviving corpus of Egyptian poetry: the poem records either a man’s internal debate and resolution, or a woman’s decisive acting upon her love. Is there any way to decide between these renderings?” Damrosch answers the call by looking at the gender of the hieroglyphs which demonstrate a seated man. Yet, the signs are inconsistent with the mss being worn by both sexes. Damrosch makes claim that “our mistake, however, may lie in assuming that we need to make a definite choice. The scribe’s casual alternation of genders may reflect an openness in the poem’s original usage”. However, the harder problem is actually in terms of the mss as there is no equivalent garment. Thus, there are limits to the extent to which a translation should convey the full cultural specificity of the original, but how should the translator construct and understand these limits? Do these limits change for the piece or genre? Are there universal limits? 

The original context should not be made to overpower us, interfering with our engagement with the fictive world the poem creates for us to enter. There must be a proper balance of information given and information sought within the translated text: “loading us up with much information of this sort would make it hard to experience the poem itself, turning it instead into an object of study”. The translation cannot impose a wholesale modernization directly onto objects such as mss that cannot be directly translated into modern terms. “The Egyptian poems operates for us today on three registers: of likeness, of unlikeness, and of a shifting like-but-unlike relation to our own world”. There are variations in liberty that each translator seems to attain by taking various objectives into account. The poems taken together do create an important window to inspect that various social, economic, and political practices that occurred within the necropolis of Thebes. Thus, much of the extrapolation can be seen as an inspection into historical norms of various time periods. Translation can be an uncovering of history. “Such culture-specific associations tend to be weakened or erased outright in modernizing translations like Foster’s”. It is to achieve a boundary by which you feel their immediacy but also their distance, both their universality and their temporal and cultural specificity. Yet, how is this determined? 

Translations sill remain intimately linked to the culture of  origin. These Egyptian poems can offer us much more insight into ourselves and own cultures as long as we can keep their differences in play. Has been observed that translations age fairly rapidly, since cultures and literary values change. Translations often fail to evolve in tandem with the culture of the target language. Translations never genuinely reflect their original whether faithfully or not, but rather refract their original. Every translation is a negotiation between “source” and “target” cultures, as the results are evident by shifting literary values. All translations are bad by violating some certain literary norm. A translation can fail in two basic ways: either by outright error or by failing in a fundamental adequacy to the force and beauty of the original. Good translations stand up to close inspection. Many of the ancient authors would have been shocked to learn that their poems would outlast the age-old reign of Amun Re. Even though his reign is no longer, the poem continues to live on and is refracted through the shifting lens of translation.

Reading Blog — “Retranslations: The Creation of Value” -Lawerence Venuti — M.Paczkowski (10.19)

Venuti begins by relaying that translation, like other cultural practices, is the creation of value. Yet, translation is unique through the value-creating process, taking the form of the inscribed interpretation of a foreign text. He says that “Translation is the inscription of the foreign text with intelligibilities and interests that are fundamentally domestic, even when the translator maintains a strict semantic equivalence with the foreign text and incorporates aspects of the foreign-language cultural context where the text first emerged”. Retranslations often have unique values as doubly domestic. Important, retranslation may not even consider or be aware of a previous translation of the foreign text. However, can such translation be considered a retranslation if the author has no knowledge of the prior translation? 

The retranslator’s strategies and techniques are of his or her choice in regards to the domestic constituencies of its further use. A typical case is the choice of the foreign text that has achieved canonical status in the translating culture i.e. the Bible. The text has sheer cultural authority. Retranslation will occur by competing claims of normative values in various other cultures. The choice of retranslation is through a different interpretation that was previously prescribed in the translation. Retranslation may claim to be more adequate to the foreign text. This claim should be viewed critically. The standard to judge the inadequacy of the translation is by assessing the competing claims of interpretation, yet how can one absolutely justify one translation over another? Readership is exceedingly important in considering retranslation, often designed to form particular identities and have particular institutional effects. Retranslations can affirm the strength and authority of the social institution by reaffirming the institutional interpretation of the text. Yet, retranslations can also challenge such institutions and their authority. Often, competing claims over retranslation by academic disciplines and commercial publishers. Venuti says that “A foreign text positioned on the margin of literary canons in the translating language may be retranslated to in a bid to achieve canonicity through the inscription of a different interpretation”. Retranslations of marginal texts are often motivated by a cultural-political agenda. Retranslations also help to advance translation studies by illuminating issues that bear directly on practice and research through linguistic operations.

One of the most important aspects is the translator’s agency, the underlying motivations and conditions that inform the work of translating in creating far-reaching social effects. Issues of agency and intertextuality often point to history.

Agency: any translating is towards an intended action. The translator’s motivates and actions are already collective, determined by linguistic usage, literary canons..etc. These can undermine the act of translation, the readership is able to reject the translation as unacceptable by differing ideas of interpretation. Even if the translation succeeds in regards to one audience, there will always be another audience who will find such unacceptable. In retranslations, the translator’s agency is distinguished by a significant increase in self-consciousness. Retranslations often highlight intentionality, by selecting and interpreting the foreign text from a different perspective of values. Retranslations may try to maintain, revise or subvert norms and the institution by which they are housed. Retranslations may also call to attention the overdetermining role of the institution in trying to have the text reinforce a specific ideology. Venuti sights the difficulties of commercial publishing in regards to such idea. ALSO, retranslation may just be a demonstration of the translator’s appreciation for the text.

Intertextuality – “the translator’s agency centers on the construction of intertextual relations, starting with the production of a text that relates to another, foreign text”. Forms of intertextuality that a translation might construct are always diverse. The most prevalent intertextual relationship in translation is analogical or metamorphic. Often considered lexicographical, in which the intertext consists of relations to dictionaries. However, this method can be misleading by suggesting a one-to-one correspondence exists between the foreign and the translated, when the translator has, in fact, a limited correspondence. An alternative textual approach is metonymic: a translation might focus on recreating specific parts of the foreign text which acquire significance and value in relation to literary trends and traditions in the translating culture. Since retranslations are to challenge a previous version of a foreign text, they are likely to construct a more dense and complex intertextuality so as to signify and call attention to their competing interpretation. However, does retranslation necessarily have to be more complex and dense in order to demonstrate competing claims of interpretation? Simplicity may allow for the reader to more readily view the difference. 

The more dense and complex the translation, the more the retranslation risks effacing the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign text to serve a domestic cultural politics. Retranslations hold the ability to select and narrow the audience range. Yet since the audience may be general and knowledgeable of the previous version, they may perceive the difference signaled by the retranslation even when the fail to recognize the particular intertextual connection. Sometimes retranslation is accompanied by a form immediate form of intertextuality which more readily signals the explicit nature of the competing claims of interpretation. Paratexts are supplementary tools in better understanding the retranslation. “Paratexts might go some way toward restoring the linguistic and cultural differences that translation necessarily removes from the foreign text by rewriting it into another language with different cultural traditions”.

History: Translations are linked to their historical moment in reflecting the cultural formation by which they were produced. The cultural formation mediates every stage of the translation process, so then is the translator’s choice in process always constrained? Translation may be highly characterized by linguistic variations that are favored by translators at specific historical moments. Translators inscribe through discursive strategy, which often points to historically specific standards of accuracy which make clear that even definitions of  translation vary from point to point. Retranslation clearly and deliberately mark the passages of time in distinguishing themselves from differences in discursive strategy and interpretation. ALSO, retranslations are historiographical in efforts to signal and rationalize their differences from previous versions through various narratives genres. The most common is romance. Retranslations are often presented as significant improvements because they rely on the definitive edition of the foreign text which was not readily available. Retranslations also may be conservative. Also, the retranslator may offer critique, he or she may also leave doubts about further amplifying or clarifying the text in retranslation by returning to previous discursive strategies that proved to be inadequate.

Retranslations reflect changes in the values and institutions of the translating culture, but also produce ways in which such changes can inspire a revitalization of the text by allowing for new appreciation. Retranslation is best in allowing the retranslator to open up new avenues for understanding the text within various cultural backgrounds that maintain various values and interpretations. It is only through inscription that a translator can hope to make a linguistic and cultural difference that signals the foreign at home.

Reading Blog — “The Translator’s Task” by Walter Benjamin — M.Paczkowski (10.17)

When inspecting a work of art, it is important to take the audience into account. The concept of an ‘ideal’ audience is harmful to any discussion of art theory. Benjamin says that “Art itself also presupposes man’s corporeal and spiritual essence – but no work of art presupposes his attentiveness”. He then questions whether a translation is meant for readers who do not understand the original. Such question seems to underly much of the discourse about translation studies. He states that a bad translation is defined by the inexact transmission of inessential content. If the translation is intended for the reader, then how should the original be considered?

Translation is a form. He suggests that in order to fully grasp it we must return back to the original. A work’s translatability is ambiguous. Benjamin says “Accordingly, the translatability of linguistic structures would have to be considered even if they were untranslatable for human beings”. I am relatively unsure what he necessarily means from this quote. He suggests that translation is essential to certain works. “It is clear that a translation, no matter how good, cannot have any significance for the original”. Translation continues the life of the original work in many respects. It is the “afterlife” or the “survival” of the work. Benjamin says that “translations that are more than transmissions of a message are produced when a work, in its continuing life, has reached the age of its fame”, but when does one consider a work to have reached such a stage of fame? When can you consider a translation as a work of art in its own? Doesn’t a translation always owe some of its fame to the original? 

Translation has the ultimate aim to express the intimate relationship among languages. Yet, translation cannot reveal or produce this hidden relationship. Languages are not alien to one another. The relationship of texts and languages through translation is far deeper and complex than the superficial and indefinable similarity of two literary texts. Benjamin seems to believe that the original is changed through translation. The translator’s native language is also transformed over centuries. Kinship of languages manifests itself through the vague similarity of original and copy. “Whereas all the particular elements of different languages – words sentences, structures – are mutually exclusive, these languages compliment each other in their intentions”. By intentions, does Benjamin mean the transmission of overall meaning?

“To say this is, of course, to admit that all translation is merely a preliminary way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages to each other”. The translation becomes more than merely just a message. One can extract and extrapolate all communicable content but its true linguistic element always stays out of reach from the translator’s reach. Is he speaking about the cultural remainder? Such fracture hinders the translation. The translator’s task is different and distinctive from that of the poet’s.

The translator’s task is to find the intention toward the language into which the work is to be translated, on the basis of which an echo of the original is awakened in it. However, how does the translator decipher such intention? The translation looks at the original from a frontal position in which it serves to construct a perception of echoing the original. Fidelity of rendering word for word in the translation does not render the same sense of the original. Words carry emotional connotations. Word for word translation completely thwarts the reproduction of sense. Translations must correspond to the original in the minutest sense but not necessarily resemble the original in the literal sense. True translation is transparent: it does not obscure the original, does not stand in its light, but rather allows pure language, as if strengthened by its own medium, to shin even more fully on the original. The word is the translation’s original element.

Beyond communicable content, there is something further that is untranslatable. What seeks to be developed and represented is that kernel of pure language. Translation alone possesses the mighty capacity to unbind it from meaning, to turn the symbolizing element into the symbolized itself, to recuperate pure language shaped by linguistic development. Freedom in translation acquires a new and higher justification. Freedom is to prove itself within its own language for the sake of pure language. The extent to which the translation can correspond to the essence is determined objectively by the translatability of the original. However, how can one objectively determine the level of translatability in the original? Or is it always a subjective assessment? 

Accordingly, the more distinctive the work, the more translatable it is. “For to some degree all great writings, but above all Holy Scripture, contain their virtual translation between the lines. The interlinear version of the Holy Scriptures is the prototype or ideal of all translation”.

Reading Blog — “Translating from the Ancient” by Robert Alter & “From The Preface to Ovid’s Epistles” by John Dryden — M.Paczkowski (10.12)

“Translating from the Ancient”

Alter believes that the translations of the Bible from the second half of the twentieth century have been out of synch with recent translations from other ancient literatures.  He says that “The general procedure for translating the Greek and Latin classics has been to recast them according to the poetics and the stylistic norms of the translator’s own age” (Alter 172). However, such process of translating the classics into contemporaries has vastly changed since the beginning of WWII.

For the most part, the new translated text looks to serve as an imitation to that of the original, ancient text through. Alter believes that there are serious problems with the King James version. He believes that one of the major issues is simply that the language of English has simply evolved and changed over time. Furthermore, Biblical Hebrew is now more comprehensively understood than it previously was. Often, the new translation tone down the archaic voice previously found. Alter says that translators have thought to scratch the usage of the KJV and start from “scratch to create a truly modern and accurate version of the Bible” (173). Were the previous ancient translations then truly not as accurate or merely different within their contextual knowledge? Contemporary translators lack the richness of language than those versed in the King James Version, so do they lose authenticity for accuracy? 

Translators now labor to make information and content be clear and agreeable to the reader. He offers some principles for representing the Bible justifiably in English: cannot discount the precedent of the King James Bible Version (more often times than not inherently comes into considerations when translating; it is part of a cultural history in understanding the Bible); the KJV was right in that it maintained a literal translation (allowed for the reproduction in various literary patterns). Alter believes that it is partial “strategy” in adhering to some of the choices within the KJV.

Alter states that KJV is an “ineluctable precedent” and desires to state some principles for the translator:

  1. Make it Old – to adhere to the diction that appears more or less timeless, using various older words and formal devices. Must appear closely to that of the original in style and tone.
  2. Keep it Simple – the bible maintains relatively simple and easy to parse vocabulary and thus so should the translator. Although perfection is not attainable, a relative consistency in regards to simplicity is.
  3. Be Concrete – Abstractions are through concrete images, so that it is able to be relatable across cultures (using images such as body parts or the sky). Always avoid abstraction.
  4. Be Compact – the Bible is considered to be concise and thus presenting that the translator also be concise. Alter does understand how various languages have different measures and thus can sound more wordy or less, making it up to the translator to look for ways to reduce length or wordiness. This also pertains to the number of syllables. It is to favor compact language.
  5. Honor Hebrew Syntax – He finds it a fundamental sin in translating the Bible to “repackage every sentence to conform to the norms of modern English”. The prose of the Bible is glorious according to Alter and thus should be maintained in translation.

He concludes with saying that “This list could be extended, but what it implies is for the translator is a single two-sided strategy: scrupulously respect for the literary distinctiveness of the Hebrew, and dare to push English, with a due sense of regard for idiomatic aptness, beyond its conventional modern contours” (178).

“From The Preface to Ovid’s Epistles”

Dryden says that “all translation I suppose may be reduced to these three heads”

First, that of metaphase in which translation is word by word, line by line, or from one language into another. Second, paraphrase, which Dryden considers “translation with latitude” by which the author is kept within view but his words are not so strictly adhered to within the translation. Third, imitation by which the  translator assumes liberty in changing words and sense, only taking occasional hints from the original.

In regards to Metaphrase, it is a slippy slope as it is almost impossible to translate verbally and well at the same time. The verbal copyer experiences a plethora of difficulties at once, which become hard to free oneself from. He must consider the original and the translation within completeness in order to render a considerable translation, which poses as a problem in creating a valuable and viable translation. Dryden says that “either perspicuity or gracefulness will frequently be wanting”. A poet cannot be translated literally because his genius becomes too strong and almost too abstract for literal translation.

In regards to Imitation, it furthers the culture of the original within the text but also poses as a problem in that the translator is able to pick and chose what he or she deems worthy within the original to be incorporated in the translation. There is always something new produced through translation. Something further excellent may be invented, something that is unique. No longer called Author if neither thoughts nor words are derived from the original when “translating”. Both imitation and paraphrase are two extremes.

Dryden believes that poetry is unable to be translated. So, how would he account for translations of poetry that are considered to be accurate and viable by the majority of the public? 

He believes that no man is capable of translating poetry, besides the genius of that art. He believes to translate is to give a different dress to the content but never change the substance. The spirit of the author may be transferred yet not lost. There is no authority by which the lines or words must be confined to that of the original. Yet, the right maintains no such supersede the authority of the author? He believes that there are few versions which are tolerable.


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.

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”.

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.