Translation and Culture

Translation and Culture

Translation and Culture

Translation and Culture

Synopsis

"How we view the foreign, presented either in the interrelated forms of culture, language, or text, determines to a large degree the way in which we translate. This volume of essays examines the cultural politics of translation that have determined the production and dissemination of ""the foreign"" in domestic cultures as varied as contemporary North America, Europe, and Israel. The essays address from a variety of theoretical perspectives the question posed almost two hundred years ago by the German philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher of whether the translator should foreignize the domestic or domesticate the foreign."

Excerpt

The history of translation is also the history of the foreign. That which for centuries has been varyingly interpreted as “other” to the domestic has been treated as a category either to be welcomed or to be obliterated and subsumed under the domestic. From Cicero to Diderot translation was seen as the way to enrich one's own language and culture with little or no regard for fidelity to the original. There were no ethics of translation, per se. The operative terms used by Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet in their introduction to a collection of historical essays on translation are those of warfare. Works in a foreign tongue are to be “looted,” ideas are “expropriated,” the “act of translation [is] a rigorous exploitation of the original.” It is only with the advent of the encyclopedistes that the foreign begins to be considered as a culture of equals that demands respect and as such adjustment and adaptation within the domestic language. Whereas in the past the best translation might have been that which seamlessly glossed over cultural and linguistic difference, today great intellectual hopes are attached to the introduction of the foreign to domestic culture. In the industrialized world this can be seen in the guise of multiculturalism and the celebration of ethnic diversity, while in less industrialized and more traditional societies the foreign (read “the West”) is welcomed under the rubric of modernization, industrialization, and westernization.

So, what is the role of translation in this century? Is it what Jacques Derrida has termed an “ethics of the word”? Given the dominance of North American language and culture throughout much of the world, what political and economic inequities can, for example, the translation of minor culture into majority culture address? Central to the discussion of these questions is the work of a group of scholars from around the world, Lawrence Venuti, Anthony Pym, and Antoine Berman, who have over the last ten years produced a body of theoretical work that has opened the field of translation studies up to larger issues of cultural politics in a theoretically provocative manner. With this issue of Bucknell Review I would like to suggest that the treatment of the foreign in the task of translation is inextricably linked to an ethics of the word. And by way of introducing this nexus . . .

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