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Home > Bibliography > Bibliography: The Scandals Of Translation

"A translation always communicates an interpretation, a foreign text that is partial and altered, supplemented with features peculiar to the translating language, no longer inscrutably foreign but made comprehensible in a distinctively domestic style. Translations, in other words, inevitably perform a work of domestication. Those that work best, the most powerful in recreating cultural values and the most responsible in accounting for that power, usually engage readers in domestic terms that have been defamiliarized to some extent, made fascinating by a revisionary encounter with a foreign text." p5


"What Kafka would write in French can be no more than another French interpretation, not a rendering more faithful or adequate to the German text. The fact that the author is the interpreter doesn't make the interpretation unmediated by the target-language values." p6


"Circulating among diverse cultural constituencies and social institutions, these forms are positioned hierarchically, with the standard dialect in dominance but subject to constant variation from regional or group dialects, jargons cliches and slogans, stylistic innovations, nonce words, and the sheer accumulation of previous uses. Any language use is thus a site of power relationships because a language, at any historical moment, is a specific conjuncture of a major form holding sway over minor variables. Lecercle (1990) calls them the 'remainder'. The linguistic variations released by the remainder do not merely exceed any communicative act, but frustrate any effort to formulate systematic rules. The remainder subverts the major form by revealing it to be socially and historically situated,... " p10


"English is the most translated language worldwide, but one of the least translated into (Venuti 1995a: 12-14),..." p10


"This translation ethics does not so much prevent the assimilation of the foreign text as aim to signify the autonomous existence of that text behind (yet by means of) the assimilative process of the translation." p11


"Insofar as minoritizing translation relies on discursive heterogeneity, it pursues an experimentalism that would seem to narrow its audience and contradict the democratic agenda I have sketched. Experimental form demands a high aesthetic mode of appreciation, the critical detachment and educated competence associated with the cultural elite, whereas the communicative function of language is emphasized by the popular aesthetic..." p12


"Yet translation that takes a popular approach to the foreign text isn't necessarily democratic. The popular aesthetic requires fluent translations that produce the illusory effect of transparency, and this means adhering to the current standard dialect while avoiding any dialect, register, or style that calls attention to words as words and therefore preempts the reader's identification." p12


"The heterogeneous discourse of minoritizing translation resists this assimilationist ethic by signifying the linguistic and cultural differences of the text - within the major language. The hetergeneity needn't be so alienating as to frustrate a popular approach completely; if the remainder is released at significant points in a translation that is generally readable, the reader's participation will be disrupted only momentarily. Moreover, a strategic use of minority elements can remain intelligible to a wide range of readers and so increase the possibility that the translation will cross the boundaries between cultural constituencies, even it if comes to signify different meanings in different groups." p12


"Because copyright law decisively contribues to this unfavourable economic situation, it diminishes the incentive <i>for translators</i> to invest in translation projects." p48


"Yet the exclusive translation right given to authors means that it is customarily they (or publishers as their assignees) who initiate translations in an effort to sell licenses and create foreign language markets for their works, and so they sell licenses and create foreign-language markets for their works, and so they directly approach foreign publishers, who then commission translators." p48


"Current copyright law, then, ensures that translation projects will be driven by publishers, not by translators." p48


"As a result, publishers shape cultural developments at home and abroad. Seeking the maximum returns for their investments, they are more likely to publish domestic works that are also publishable in foreign countries, yet are not so culturally specific as to resist or complicate translation." p48


"Translation discredits the legal institutions that maintain this situation by exposing a basic contradiction in their aims and operations. In diminishing the translator's incentive for investment, copyright law deviates from its "traditional goals" of encouraging and rewarding creative efforts (Bently 1993: 495). The law now curtails creativity in translation, the invention of translation projects and methods, as well as the creativity in literature that is inspired by the availability of foreign works in inventive translations."" p49


"These alternatives from the past can be useful in challenging the present legal status of translation. They make clear that the historical development of an exclusive authorial copyright coincides with, and indeed depends on, the emergence of a Romantic concept of original authorship that negates the translator's work. But they also enable the formulation of a different concept of authorship, one in which the translator is seen as a species of author, and originality is revised to embrace diverse writing practices. What I shall present here is a genealogy of copyright that contests the cultural assumptions of the law and aims to foster legislative reform designed to further both the interests of translators and the practice of translation." p49


"This is not to say that translation can ever rid itself of its fundamental domestication, its basic task of rewriting the foreign text in domestic cultural terms. The point is rather that a translator can choose to redirect the ethnocentric movement of translation so as to decenter the domestic terms that a translation project must inescapably utilize. This is an ethics of difference that can change the domestic culture." p82


"A translation practice that rigorously redirects its ethnocentrism is likely to be subversive of domestic ideologies and institutions. It too would form a cultural identity, but one that is simultaneously critical and contingent, constantly assessing the relations between a domestic culture and its foreign others and developing translation projects solely on the basis of changing assessments. This identity will be truly intercultural, not merely in the sense of straddling two cultures, domestic and foreign, but crossing the cultural borders among domestic audiences (cf. Pym 1993). And it will be historical, distinguishing an awareness of domestic as well as foreign cultural traditions, including traditions of translation." p84


"A translation project can deviate from domestic norms to signal the foreignness of the foreign text and create a readership that is more open to linguistic and cultural differences - yet without resorting to stylistic experiments that are so estranging as to be self-defeating. The key factor is the translator's ambivalence toward domestic norms and the institutional practices in which they are implemented, a reluctance to identify completely with them coupled with a determination to address diverse cultural constituencies, elite and popular. In attempting to straddle the foreign and domestic cultures as well as domestic readerships, a translation practice cannot fail to produce a text that is a potential source of cultural change." p87


"A pedagogy of translated literature can help students learn to be both self critical and critical of exclusionary cultural ideologies by drawing attention to the stituatedness of texts and interpretations. Translations are always intelligible to, if not intentionally made for, specific cultural consitutuencies at specific historical moments. The repression of translation makes ideas and forms appear to be free-floating, unmoored from history, transcending the linguistic and cultural differences that required not merely their translation in the first place, but also their interpretation in a classroom. The effort to reconstruct the period in which the foreign text was produced, to create a historical context for interpretation, does not so much compensate for the loss of historicity as a complicate and exacerbate it: students are encouraged to regard their historical interpretations as immanent in the texts, not determined by translation discourses and critical methodologies that answer to the cultural values of different, later moments. As a result, students develop a concept of interpretative truth as a simple adequacy to the text, ignoring the fact that they are actively constituting it by selecting and synthesizing textual evidence and historical research, and that therefore their interpretation is shaped by linguistic and cultural constraints - which include their reliance on a translation. Recognizing a text as translated and figuring this recognition into classroom interpretations can teach students that their critical operations are limited and provisional, situated in a changing history of reception, in a specific cultural situation, in a curriculum, in a particular language. And with the knowledge of limitations comes the awareness of possibilities, different ways of understanding the foreign text, different ways of understanding their own cultural moments." p93


"The remainder is pedagogically useful because it can be perceived in the translation itself, in the various textual effects released in the target language. It enables a close reading of translations <i>as translations</i>, as texts that simultaneously communicate and inscribe the foreign text with domestic values. Hence, this reading is also historical: the remainder becomes intelligible in a translation only when its diverse discourses, registers, and styles are situated in specific moments of the domestic culture." p99


"The temporal aspect of the remainder is perhaps most dramatically revealed when several translations of a single foreign text are juxtaposed. Multiple versions bring to light the different translation effects possible at different cultural moments, allowing these effects to be studied as forms of reception affiliated with different cultural constituencies." p99


"The remainder in a translation demonstrates, with varying degrees of violence to the foreign text and the target language, that the philosophical project of concept formation is fundamentally determeind by its linguistic and cultural conditions. Translation remains the dark secret of philosophy precisely because the remainder shatters the bedrock assumption of this project in its modern academic form: the stability and authority of the philosophical subject as the autonomous agent of reflection." p115


"<p>Since translating can communicate only by reconstituting the foreign text, a translator can choose to judge a translation good when it signifies the linguistic and cultural difference of that text for domestic constituencies. The ethical value of this difference resides in alerting the reader that a process of domestication has taken place in the translating, but also in preventing that process from slipping into an unreflective assimilation to dominant domestic values. Foreign philosophies can retain their difference in translation when they differ to some extent from those that currently dominate the discipline at home, or when they are translated so as to differe from prevailing domestic interpretations of their concepts and discourses. The best philosophical translating is itself philosophical in forming a concept of the foreign text based on an assessment of the domestic scene. But if the philosophy of the translating values difference, the concept will be defamiliarizing, not based on a ratification of that scene. </p><p> The translator's responsibility is not just twofold, both foreign and domestic, but split into two opposing obligations: to establish a lexicographical equivalence for a conceptually dense text, while intelligibly maintaining its foreignness to domestic readerships. Translating motivated by an ethics of difference seeks to inform domestic readers of foreign philosophies, but also to provoke them into new thinking. </p>" p115


"For the translation of philosophy, the most important factor in this development is the experimentalism. Heidegger's translators created an equivalence that tampered with current usage, whereby they didn't just communicate his difficult concepts, but practiced them through various discursive strategies." p119


"Transnationalism depends not only on foreign markets, but on the effectiveness of local translations to compete in those markets, a cultural dependence that enforces new forms of authorship (corporate) and of publishing (tie-ins) to strengthen the bottom line." p165


"The translation practices enlisted by transnational corporations, whether publishers, manufacturers, or advertising agencies, function in the same fundamental ways as those that underwrote European colonialism. The main difference is that translation now serves corporate capital instead of a nation state, a trading company, or an evangelical program. What remains unchanged is the use of translation practices that establish a heirarchical relationship between the major and minor languages, between the hegemonic and subordinate cultures. The translations enact a process of identity formation in which colonizer and colonized, transnational corporation and indigenous consumer, are positioned unequally." p165


"And yet a subordinate position in the global economy must not be seen as passive submission. Under colonizing regimes the functions of translation a extremely diverse and unpredictable in effect, always allowing the colonized the discursive space to evade or tamper with the discriminatory stereotypes imposed on them." p165


"<p> Tutuola's authorship was not self-originating or individualistic but derivative and collective, characterized by an elaboration of the various oral and literary traditions available to an uneducated Nigerian writer under British rule. </p><p> Tutuola's translating likewise prevents his narratives from being described as an expression of cultural authenticity, whether from a Eurocentric standpoint that prasies them for representing the "true macabre energy of Africa" (Lindfors, 1975:30) or from an Afrocentric one that criticizes their lapse from "folk purity" (Bishop 1988: 75). For despite Tutuola's reliance on Yoruba folklore and literature, the calquing never rendered a specific Yoruba text; no purely indigenous original existed behind Tutuola's eccentric English. In fact, the lexical and syntactical peculiarities indicate that Yoruba was <i>already</i> a heterogenous language containing English borrowings. </p>" p176


"These diverse effects and functions bring a new complexity to a translation ethics that takes as its ideal the recognition of cultural difference. If domesticating strategies of choosing and translating foreign texts are considered ethically questionable - a narcissistic dismissal of foreignness in favor of dominant domestic values - minority situations redefine what constitutes the 'domestic' and the 'foreign.' These two categories are variable, always reconstructed in a translation project vis-a-vis the local scene." p187


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