Academic journal article Bucknell Review

Introduction

Academic journal article Bucknell Review

Introduction

Article 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. (1) Works in a foreign tongue are to be "looted," ideas are "expropriated," the "act of translation [is] a rigorous exploitation of the original." (2) 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"? (3) 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 of language, culture, and ethics, I turn to German philosopher and theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher.

In his volume on the interconnections between German Romanticism and twentieth-century critical theory, Andrew Bowie summarizes Schleiermacher's definition of the act of interpretation as follows: "it does not derive final foundation from already existing rules, but rather imposes a continuing obligation upon free actors to attempt to see the world from the viewpoint of the other, and to articulate the potential created by the other, including oneself as other in a self-reflexive interpretation." (4) It is not without reason that I introduce this volume with reference to Friedrich Schleiermacher. For both Schleiermacher's hermeneutical theory (and this includes, I will argue, his essay on translation) and his aesthetics have as their linchpin his particular notion of ethics. And it is the ethics of translation and the intertwining of culture, politics, and language that form the common thread of the essays in this volume.

Schleiermacher's essay "On the Different Methods of Translation" was originally presented as a lecture to the Prussian Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin on 24 June 1813. (5) Schleiermacher wrote the essay in a matter of days while deeply occupied with the development of his dialectics, ethics, and hermeneutics. The lecture is also shaped by political and cultural resistance to Napoleonic France. As Scharnhorst is revitalizing the Prussian army, Schleiermacher aims to shape German into a language of world culture and, through its linguistic and semantic capacities, educate the bourgeoisie. …

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