Translation as Aesthetic Resistance: Paratranslating Walter Benjamin

By Baltrusch, Burghard | Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, July 2010 | Go to article overview

Translation as Aesthetic Resistance: Paratranslating Walter Benjamin


Baltrusch, Burghard, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy


Categories such as nation, society or culture could today be considered as 'translation zones.' (1) It seems to already be commonly accepted that translations, in addition to basic linguistic transference, also rewrite their respective contexts. Whereas during the 18th and 19th centuries translation was still a national issue, since the end of the 20th century it has evolved into an increasingly cultural, transnational and trans-social dynamic. All experience is in itself a translation, as it is, for instance, the construction of a sense of oneself from the idea of a cultural community--that is, an imagined community (which is, in itself, already a construction or translation).

However, we must not confuse culture with politics. There is an ongoing trend of the concept of culture to pervade virtually everything, be it the economy, the power of institutions or the actual psychological structure of the subject. For over two decades, Gayatri Spivak has been drawing attention to the fact that culturalization--as promoted by postmodernism, postcolonialism and cultural studies--has led to the depoliticization of academic theory. (2) However, this culturalization should not be considered as a social fact, but as a symptom of a methodology imposed by a privileged Western system, which is primarily concerned with controlling the canonical definitions of cultural identities, science, art, etc. To counter this discourse, Spivak has proposed the practice of 'strategic essentialism' (SE) that, without having to resort to exaggeration, seeks to save a certain element of the subject and/or collective resilience as far as dominant discourses are concerned.

Resistance, unlike processes of adaptation or assimilation, refers to the historical conflict of power and the translation of the real; but also to premeditated denial as a desire to change reality and attempt the critical recovery (both mythological and archaeological) of a past from different historical presents. Moreover, the context of resistance and translation evokes the difficulty and, at the same time, the need to step outside the restrictiveness of the paradigms and historical presents. And, last but not least, it refers to the already ongoing abolition of the myth of the original which is increasingly turning into a historical ruin of sorts, which the translator, qua historical agent, crosses unsteadily and in constant danger of self-deception. (3)

When speaking of the relation between resistance and aesthetics from a European perspective, we must call to mind Peter Weiss's Die Asthetik des Widerstands. (4) This unclassifiable literary hybridization, part novel, autobiography and history of the labour movements in Germany between 1918 and 1945, and part treatise on aesthetics, revived the quarrels between Marxist aesthetics (Lukacs) and an open conceptualization of the work of art (Brecht and Benjamin), favouring the latter. However, the main interest of this text for the present day lies in its aspiration to 'transform aesthetics as a tool of knowledge of cultural processes into an instrument of intervention'. (5) There is certainly a great need for 'instruments of intervention' in today's world: who would not agree that we are currently witnessing a colonialist Western civilization, which is imposing and multiplying mechanized habits around the world? Such globalization, which is characterized as negative and devalues everything that might be considered a culture of content, ideas and utopias, cynically instrumentalizes all prospective concepts like progress, development or education.

It is within this context of 'global culture'--not only that relating to the economic, but also that which invades and subordinates virtually all the micro-cultural internal processes of our daily lives--that translation dynamics (of identities, bodies, tastes, etc.) reveal their great potential for resistance; but how can such a broad meaning of the term 'translation' be circumscribed? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Translation as Aesthetic Resistance: Paratranslating Walter Benjamin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.