It all manifests here: Compose a statement

Translation is absolutely crucial to the concept of world literature. Not only does it allow literary texts to travel across linguistic boundaries but it, but the very act of translation is a facet of world literature. Translation encompasses cultural, historical, and economic elements along with its linguistic core to much of the same extent that world literature does and therefore can be seen as twin notions. They constitute a dynamic relationship, one is not nearly as significant without the other. World Literature loses a great deal of its credibility without translation just as translation loses much of its validity or purpose without world literature.

Where translation is concerned with crossing linguistic along with cultural, economic and historical barriers effectively, world literature is interested in the products that come of this exchange. Thus, translation must be studied not only as part of world literature but also as an integral contributor to it Translation should never be neglected when thinking about world literature; it should become an automatic response to question the fidelity, accuracy, intentionality, abuse, violence, and everything that makes up translation studies when looking at a text.

And as a speaker of only one language, I’ve got translation to thank for allowing me to study World Literature at all.

And after all, as Pound would say, “a great age of literature is perhaps always a great age of translations or follows it.”

Domesticizing Math

So I have come to the conclusion that I see translation everywhere. I see it in everything.  I see it in advertisement, on television programmes, in conversations with my friends from abroad, in how I speak differently in different spaces and to different people. I am sure this is part of the point in this class – that you can make a case for translation in every sector of communication. I guess this is also remniscient of the mantra we are always told in world literature: having more than one language in your repertoire will broaden your horizons in ways you can’t even fathom when you are uni-lingual – like me. Translations studies is the first taste of it for me in this respect. As I become more and more comfortable with my second language – Italian – I am becoming aware of the world that is opening up for me. Even at its most basic level, another language gives you another way with which to structure the world. As the structuralist would say – and I’m starting to think I’m an advocate for them – language is the way by which we structure the world. Human existence is a very real thing but it is much too chaotic without having structures in place with which to organize the chaos so that we can have any hope at understanding it. Language is one of these – if not the most important – structures. If this is the case, than knowing more than one language (and thus having under your belt more than one way to organize the chaos) allows you to not only see things in a much broader way but also gives you more tools with which to structure  – and thus better understand – the world.

Ok fine, but what does this have to do with math? Well I took this class called Space and Shape in order to fulfill my Q and B-Sci credit requirements this term. It was the strangest class I have ever taken. It forced us to completely reconceptualize our traditional ideas of geometry. We were looking at “taxi-cab” geometry and hyperbolic geometry as pitted against conventional Euclidean geometry. For students like me – who find Euclidean geometry difficult to grasp on its on – this was like learning a new language. I am now able to see “space and shape” in different ways and this allows me a new method by which to structure the world.

What I really want to talk about however, are some videos that my professor sent me soon after we handed in our final exams. They are very interesting and are available here: Doodling

How they play into translation is this: they are instances of domestication. Broad and abstract ideas are being domesticated for a struggling, bored mathematics student audience. The author/director has inserted appropriate media and style in order to get the attention of her audience and convey the meanings she is transmitting from source to target language. She is committing an abusive translation which entirely considers the audience. The meanings that come across are faithful but she has manipulated the process in order to fully account for the target audience.

I know my math teacher was (perhaps unknowingly) aware of this. I just wanted to demonstrate how translation truly is everywhere.

A multidimensional intermedia translation?

I want you to watch this and think about it in terms of translation.

What is it? Well, it’s a creative adaptation of Irish dancing. Can this also be thought of a translation?

Well, why not? The Irish hand dancing (target media) is based on the same structures as Irish dancing (source media). They are both structured around the beat of the music and they are both choreographed so that for the majority of the piece, only one half of the body is moving. By way of using your understanding of Irish dancing, you can make the connection from the translation to the original.

Now, consider the music: Yolando Be Cool’s “We Speak No Americano.” Ok sure, the beat lends itself to Irish (hand dancing). But what is the song actually saying? I would venture to say that “Americano” is the popularized dialect of the world’s English language and by claiming to not speak it, aren’t the lyrics parodizing it? More, aren’t they pointing to the issue at the core of translation? Language can only divide people so far as it won’t allow itself to change (or be changed as translation would have it) and music does not contain the same limitations or restrictions. Of course they speak Americano, they have produced a song worthy of the American canon, the popularity of it testimony to this.

This video is an example of a multidimensional translation that has little – if anything all – to do with language. Perhaps it is a queue for what we’ve got to open our minds to in the translation field as our world continues to globalize – culturally, linguistically and technologically.

Evaluating Goethe Translations

So I went down to Seattle with my mum for the weekend, something we do every year. We finally found a weekend that didn’t interfere too much with our respective lives so we made the best of the opportunity, even if it happened to be American Thanksgiving Weekend, and put us right in the midst Black Friday shopping mania.

The things I mainly look for in the States are books because they are significantly less expensive south of the line. This is because publication prices, as seemingly melded into the barcode of books, do not reflect the changing dynamics of the American and Canadian dollars. My mum and I also love to spend hours in used book stores scouring the shelves for the best finds. I always try to bring my book lists down with me and try to get the best deals on books for my upcoming semester. However, when World Literature is your major, you’ve always got to keep translations in mind. You don’t want to be reading a different translation than the rest of the class – or maybe you do, if you’re like me – so you’ve always got to be wary of the specifications on the course syllabus. This year, I foolishly forgot the syllabi and had to rely on my quick notes and memories to recall the books I’ll be needing for Spring. I came across Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther at Barnes and Noble, a brand new (well, 2005) The Modern Library Classics version, translation by Burton Pike – a novel I knew I needed. The same day, in a used bookstore in the University District, I found Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther again – only this time, it was a slightly worn (75% less expensive) 1962 Signet’s Classics version with translation by Catherine Hunter. Interesting.

Needless to say, I bought both. And while I haven’t had time to begin reading them – and I will read them, despite having only to read the former for class – there are a few things I have picked up on in only examining them briefly.

First the 1962 edition was translated by a woman and yet, there is not trace of the woman – Catherine Hunter – anywhere in the novel aside from a brief (single page) translator’s note. The introduction of this version was written by Marcelle Clements, something prominently advertised on the novel’s cover and his name and brief biography are featured directly under Goethe’s own. Catherine Hunter, however, does not enjoy such prominence. She has been subjugated as the translator, and probably as a female one at that. The more recent version has an introduction by the translator himself. His name is featured on the cover, and his brief biography is placed at the back of the text.

I would also like to comment on the italicized pre-text of the novel. I have neither read the novels (in either translation) nor have I read the original in German, obviously, but I do find quite a divide in the two translations simply by looking at this brief – yet crucial – foreward.

The 1962 version goes like this:

Whatever I could find concerning the story of poor Wether I have collected and present it to you herewith in the belief that you will thank me for it. You will not want to deny his spirt and character your admiration and love, nor his fate your compassion. And you, my good man, who may feel a similar urge – take comfort in his suffering and let this book be your friend if, through fate or your own fault, you can find non better.

The 2005 edition goes like this:

I have conscientiously gathered everything I have been able to find out about the story of poor Werther and here lay it before you., knowing that you will thank me for it.You cannot withold your admiration and love for his mind and character, nor your tears for his fate.
And you, good soul, that feels the same pressures as he, take comfort from his sufferings and let this little book be your friend , if through fate or your own fault, you can find no closer one.

Which one is longer? The latter. Which one is more succinct? The former. But which one is better? Which one is more accurate? Hard to tell. What can be evaluated is the extent to which they say different things and convey different meanings. After all, it is the business of translation to be as faithful as possible to the underlying meaning of the text and not necessarily be a word for word (and consequently clunky and awkward) transfer process. After all, this too would rid the work of some of the meaning – the meaning which is conveyed via particular style (modernist fragmented writing, an example – translating a stream-of-consciousness style writing word for word would defeat the purpose of the fragmentary style thus losing meaning on the style front in conjunction with any content interference).

Ok so what are my conclusions? Well, I can’t make any yet. But I have begun studying these two translations comparatively upon merely picking them up and looking at them from a critical perspective. Perhaps Pike was suffering from Bloom’s anxiety of influence and felt psychosexually trapped by his predecessors. More likely than not, the role of the translator is part of the patriarchal system that holds Catherine Tate down in the double whammy as a female and a translator (Robyn’s translatress). These are places I could and will go in further analyses of these two texts but it is also interesting – and indeed integral in terms of translation studies – to look at Goethe’s original in order to find differences in the functional process from target to source language. After all, this is how we can draw conclusions about fidelity.

Sure, neither of these translations is controversial (at least in the public sphere, I’m sure each has its fair share of critics within literary professionals circles) and neither seems to be doing traumatic violence to the original. Yet there is still something to be said for the existence of new and/or revised translations of translations into the same languages. Does it say something about simply about the previous translations or more, does it make statements about translation processes and practices in times gone by and of changing societies and consumer culture.

After all, what can you say about the two covers?

1962 Edition


2005 Edition

Personally, I’d take 2005 over his older, classical counterpart. But I’m a sucker for facial hair.

Me, my friends and our 404 projects

I guess I haven’t really written a post yet about my project. Well here is the title: “The Hegemony of the English Language: Translation Theory and the Canadian Tradition.” There she is. It’s an economic rendering of translation studies, focusing on the French-English divide with in Canada. I discuss the potential of Canada to contribute to an different, bilingual tradition but how in reality, Canada only serves to mimic what is going on in the grander scheme of things: English is dominant.

I spent the past week reviewing my classmates’ projects. While my TA-ing has improved my feedback-giving ability exponentially, it is still difficult to devote yourself to someone else’s project in a way that would beneficial for them. The very act of giving feedback allows you to contribute things from a different, less focused perspective and requires you to step outside the box and think about alternative suggestions for the direction and outcome of the project. Since I was able to view such a wide range of projects – Daniel’s, Robyn’s, Krisi’s and Brittany’s, I was stepping outside of many different boxes. I tried to provide as much feedback and as many suggestions as I could think of, but I can honestly say, I am very impressed with the level of complexity that my classmate’s have engaged with in each of their respective projects.

Similarly, I am very glad to be on the receiving end of some very well thought out feedback. It helps me to focus the direction of my own paper and I have been pointed towards the weaknesses in my writing that either I hadn’t been aware of, or had recognized but had been repressing. I think this was an absolutely crucial part of our project and I am sure glad we had the opportunity.

What is modernism again?

I just got back from the Modernist Studies Association Conference in Victoria. I was lucky enough to volunteer my time at the World Literature booth and sneak into a couple of sessions. I love my program.

I find I just keep getting inspired every where I look when it comes to World Literature. This conference only further drove my ambitions to go to grad school. I have started writing a pseudo-manifesto for academia as a reflection of the conference I just attended and maybe I’ll submit it to Lyre.

In the meantime, I know that translation and modernism have some sort of relationship (aside from both being facets of literature) but I will pinpoint it when I’m not so tired. Perhaps in some sort of Honours proposal type thing.

Write like a motherfucker

A girl in my WL200 class posted this for discussion and I think it is particularly interesting.

I do not feel any recognizable anxiety of authorship as far as I can tell but perhaps it manifests itself in different ways. In being a student. In being overwhelmed by the sheer number of texts that are out there. By this realism era that tells us to write about what we know and yet feeling like what I know will never be interesting enough or intellectually sufficient or adequately happy or sad or tragic or comic to get published. Just generally. But as a woman, I do not feel marginalized. But then again, I am white, middle-class and educated.

Learn why you should write like a mother fucker.

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