Cutting, Pasting, Fabricating: Late 18th-Century Travelogues and their German Translators between Legitimacy and Imaginary Nations

By Tautz, Birgit | German Quarterly, April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Cutting, Pasting, Fabricating: Late 18th-Century Travelogues and their German Translators between Legitimacy and Imaginary Nations


Tautz, Birgit, German Quarterly


MARCH 1787, VILNA. Georg Forster (1854-1794) drafts his translator's preface to the German edition of Cook's Third Voyage.1 A participant in Cook's second voyage (1772-1775), Forster had made a name for himself as a writer and translator by publishing a travelogue about that journey in 1777. Published in English and German, A Voyage round the World (Reise urn die Welt) was well received; Forster's account, "eine philosophische Reisebeschreibung," was widely regarded as a competitor to Cook's official version.2 It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Berlin publisher Haude & Spener asked Forster to translate the Third Voyage as well. After much procrastination, Forster finally delved into the project. In the preface, he divulges a practice of translating travelogues that greatly enhances our understanding of an emergent national literature in 18th-century Germany. In that, Forster's preface stands not alone; rather, it participates in a wide-ranging, late 18th-century convention of translating travelogues that is thoroughly documented in translators' prefaces: cutting portions of the original, and fabricating facts about travel, in accordance with a particular ideology or philosophy on the part of the writer, translator, and/or editor.

As translators engage in these practices, they create images of themselves. An aspect of these images is the role translators wish to assume in shaping a community of German readers. Conversely, as they envision the effective circulation of their books among the reading public, they claim the legitimacy of their manipulated translation. These complex dynamics become visible, as I read Forster's preface alongside translators' prefaces in selected volumes of Magazin van merkwürdigen neuen Reisebeschreibungen, aus fremden Sprachen übersetzt und mit erläuternden Anmerkungen begleitet (1790-1839), as well as in the hugely popular Des Herrn Sonnerais Reise nach Ostindien, und China, in den Jahren 1774 bis 1781 nebst dessen Beobachtungen uberPegu, Madagascar, das Cap, die Inseln France und Bourbon, die Maldiven, Ceylon, Malaca, die Phiiippinen und Molucken (1783).3

No comprehensive study of pre-Romantic German translation practices in the 18th century-as opposed to theories-has been undertaken to date.4 For instance, how did contemporaries understand the relationship between translation and original text in the 18th century? Were translators respected for their craft or considered mere instruments? What principles informed translations of English, French, and Spanish travelogues and their renderings of distant cultures in a period when, as Friedrich Kittler reminds us, everybody contributed to writing or weaving a larger fabric of the world, a universe that was imagined to represent nothing but an expression of divine power, or the exalted Word? Any text, Kittler contends, contains an act of translation; modeled on the exegesis of biblical texts, texts were marked by multiple compilations, integrations, eliminations, and corrections, mostly in blatant ignorance of sources-in short, they constituted acts of rhetorical paraphrase (6-12).5 What, if any, criteria existed for mediating cultures? And, last but not least, what, if any, role did translators' prefaces play in raising or even clarifying these issues? This article aims to sketch out one possible line for investigating these questions further.

To begin with, shifts in 18th-century epistemology profoundly affected the understanding of translation. A historical look at German and European translation practice suggests that, at least in the first half of the 18th century, the relationship between translation and authorship was indeed regulated in different terms than we would expect today. Not only did a culture where every text referred-in one way or another-to the divine word invest far less prestige and recognition in an individual author, but the hierarchy between translation and original was not clear, if at all established, since boundaries were necessarily and conceptually blurred. …

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

Cutting, Pasting, Fabricating: Late 18th-Century Travelogues and their German Translators between Legitimacy and Imaginary Nations
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.