Essays on Modern Quebec Theater

By Joseph I. Donohoe Jr.; Jonathan M. Weiss | Go to book overview

Language and Collective Identity: When Translators of Theater Address the Québécois Nation

Annie Brisset

T ranslation constitutes a discursive practice that is interesting to observe in as much as language and identity converge therein as both subject and object of discourse. It is easily understood that in intercultural transference the displacement of linguistic material may reveal a metadiscourse. It is less obvious that the subject who translates a foreign work engages the social group he represents or with which he identifies himself, just as the subject that was expressed in the original text was itself immersed in a social discourse.1 Translation is thus a privileged place from which to observe the manner in which collective identity defines itself by and against what it is not. However, all the translations that characterize a society in a given period must be examined, and not just a particular translation of one work without regard for the discursive context in which it appeared.2 This approach assumes that translation is interdependent with social discourse, that it participates in its organicity, that it shares its hegemonic traits.

Translation makes manifest the confrontation of the Self with the Other. The process begins with the cooptation strategies that precede the actual translation. Which texts, and thus which discourses, do we choose to translate from among everything a foreign language or society has to offer? In this sense the translator establishes hierarchies of otherness. The cooptation of certain elements of otherness presupposes some form of recognition. Strategies of identification thus correspond, inversely, to strategies of avoidance or rejection: which texts are ignored, but also and especially, which discourses are silenced in the texts that are translated?

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