Translating Life: Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics

Translating Life: Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics

Translating Life: Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics

Translating Life: Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics

Synopsis

This volume brings together eighteen substantial essays by distinguished scholars, critics and translators, and two interviews with eminent figures of British theatre, to explore the idea and practice of translation. The individual, but conceptually related, contributions examine topics from the Renaissance to the present in the context of apt exploration of the translation process, invoking both restricted and extended senses of translation. The endeavor is to study in detail the theory, workings and implications of what might be called the art of creative transposition, effective at the level of interlingual transcoding, dynamic rewriting, theatrical and cinematic adaptation, intersemiotic or intermedial translation, and cultural exchange. Many of the essays focus on aspects of intertextuality, the dialogue with text, past and present, as they bear on the issue of translation, attending to the historical, political or cultural dimensions of the practice, whether it illuminates a gendered reading of a text or a staging of cultural difference. The historic and generic range of the discussions is wide, encompassing the Elizabethan epyllion, Sensibility fiction, Victorian poetry and prose, modern and postmodern novels, but the book is dominated by dramatic or performance-related applications, with major representation of fresh investigations into Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night's Dream to The Tempest) and foregrounding of acts of self-translation on stage, in the dramatic monologue and in fiction. Contributions from theatre practitioners such as Sir Peter Hall, John Barton and Peter Lichtenfels underscore the immense practical importance of the translator on the stage and the business of both acting and directing as a species of translation.

Excerpt

A Midsummer Night's Dream is profoundly and constantly— though also delicately and humorously—concerned with processes of change, of translation from one state to another, and its audience is frequently made aware that for human beings translation—any kind of translation—is likely to be a difficult process requiring that obstacles be overcome, and that it may involve loss as well as gain. The most prominent, and most frequently discussed, aspect of translation in the play is from the unmarried to the married state. In no other play by Shakespeare is the process of courtship leading to marriage so central a concern. Almost all his comedies portray attempts to overcome obstacles to marriage, but at the end of most of them marriage is deferred, not accomplished. This play, however, opens with preparations for marriage, continues with the story of wooings at first thwarted but then successfully concluded, and ends with the celebration of not one but three marriages. But the transition from the unmarried to the married state is not the only form of translation with which the play is concerned, and I shall consider the idea less in relation to the lovers than to the labourers, or mechanicals, and especially Bottom. ‘Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee’, says Peter Quince at a climactic moment, ‘Thou art translated’ (III.i.113). But Bottom is a translator as well. I shall look at both roles, and I start with the passive rather than the active.

At the moment of his translation, Bottom's appearance wearing an ass's head comes to Quince and his fellows as a total, and unwelcome, surprise. It is a surprise for the audience, too, though one for which there has been, in Shakespeare's usual . . .

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