Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission

Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission

Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission

Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission

Synopsis

Gender in Translation is the first full-length study of the feminist issues surrounding translation studies. Simon takes a close look at specific issues which include: * the history of feminist theories of language and translation studies * linguistic issues, including a critical examination of the work of Luce Irigaray * a look at women translators through history, from the Renaissance to the twentieth century * feminist translations of the Bible.

Excerpt

Because they are necessarily "defective," all translations are "reputed females." In this neat equation, John Florio (1603) summarizes a heritage of double inferiority. Translators and women have historically been the weaker figures in their respective hierarchies: translators are handmaidens to authors, women inferior to men. This forced partnership finds contemporary resonance in Nicole Ward Jouve's statement that the translator occupies a "(culturally speaking) female position" (Jouve 1991:47). And Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood's echoing self-definition: "I am a translation because I am a woman" (de Lotbinière-Harwood 1991:95).

Whether affirmed or denounced, the femininity of translation is a persistent historical trope. "Woman" and "translator" have been relegated to the same position of discursive inferiority. The hierarchical authority of the original over the reproduction is linked with imagery of masculine and feminine; the original is considered the strong generative male, the translation the weaker and derivative female. We are not surprised to learn that the language used to describe translating dips liberally into the vocabulary of sexism, drawing on images of dominance and inferiority, fidelity and libertinage. The most persistent of these expressions, "les belles infidèles," has for centuries encouraged an attitude of suspicion toward the seemly but wayward translation.

Feminist translation theory aims to identify and critique the tangle of concepts which relegates both women and translation to the bottom of the social and literary ladder. To do so, it must investigate the processes through which translation has come to be "feminized," and attempt to trouble the structures of authority which have maintained this association.

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