Introduction to contemporary translation studies


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Presentation at BISAG SANDHAN TV channel on 21 Dec. 2011

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Introduction to contemporary translation studies

  2. 2. THE INTENTION OF TODAY’S PRESENTATION <ul><li>The intention of today’s presentation is to distinguish between </li></ul><ul><li>a) the study of translation and the practice of translating </li></ul><ul><li>b) the traditional or conventional thinking about translation and the contemporary translation studies. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why Study Translation? <ul><li>Because most of the important literary or critical texts can be read only through translation. </li></ul><ul><li>Because without translations we cannot even read important works in other Indian languages. </li></ul><ul><li>Because many of the texts in your syllabus are translations…e.g. Tagore’s Gitanjali or Gandhi’s writings </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why Study Translation? <ul><li>Because India is a multilingual country and translation is important part of our cultural life </li></ul><ul><li>Because translations have played extremely important roles in social and cultural history </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why Study Translation? <ul><li>Just as the objective of literary studies is to enhance or increase the knowledge of various aspects of literature (like what is relationship between literature and society or history for instance), the purpose of translation studies is to enhance or increase the knowledge of various aspects of translation (like, what is relationship between translation and society or history?) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Translation Studies vs. Translating <ul><li>Just as studying literature does not ensure that the student does not become a novelist or a poet, studying translation does not ensure that the student will become a translator or a better translator. Sooner we get rid of this misconception the better. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Translation Studies vs Translating <ul><li>The activity of translation is extremely ancient. The first traces of translation known to us are the bilingual inscriptions during the Egyptian Old Kingdom as far back as 3000 BC. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Traditional Thinking About Translation <ul><li>The beliefs about translation are as old as the activity itself. The earliest known the most enduring theoretical thinking comes from the Romans like Cicero (55 AD). The Romans believed that word to word translation was incorrect and resulted in clumsiness and quaintness which would hinder communication. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Traditional Thinking About Translation <ul><li>You might have heard various ideas about translation like </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Poetry is what is lost in translation’ </li></ul><ul><li>( Robert Frost) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Translation is like woman, if she is beautiful she is not faithful or if she is faithful, she is not beautiful’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Translation always involves loss and it is always approximate.’ </li></ul>
  10. 10. Traditional Thinking About Translation <ul><li>‘ Never translate word-for-word or never translate literally .’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Translation should be faithful to the spirit rather than to the letter of the original’ </li></ul><ul><li>This conventional thinking about translation is older than the Roman thinkers like Cicero or Horace. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Traditional Thinking About Translation <ul><li>The traditional thinking about translation is invariably ‘ dualistic ’, ‘ normative ’, and hierarchic i.e. it invariably compares the translation with the original, and it invariably sees translation as inferior and secondary to the original. </li></ul><ul><li>It considers the translation from the point-of-view of the source text and language. </li></ul><ul><li>It is primarily focused on the practice of translating. </li></ul>
  12. 12. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>The discipline of Translation Studies is very recent. In 1978, Andre Lefevere proposed that the name ‘Translation Studies’ be adopted for the discipline that concerns itself with ‘the problems raised by the production and description of translations.’ </li></ul>
  13. 13. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>Until then, most of the thinking about translation was focussed on the practice of translating, like what is the best way to translate? What is a good translation? Is translation possible? </li></ul>
  14. 14. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>The theoretical preoccupation with larger questions like- what is relationship between translation and society? What role does translation play in literary history? How does the dominant ideological outlook of the society and the translator affect translation activity? How does translation affect ideological currents in the society – are fairly recent. </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  15. 15. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>Contemporary Translation Studies often focuses on the function and role of translation in the target language and culture and the role of the target language and culture in the process of translation. </li></ul><ul><li>It is often descriptive in its approach. </li></ul>
  16. 16. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>Some of the significant contemporary approaches to translation are ‘Descriptive Translation Studies’ associated with Gideon Toury, ‘Rewriting’ or ‘Manipulation’ School associated with Andre Lefevere and Theo Hermans, and the ‘ Polysystem’ approach associated with Itamar Evan-Zohar. </li></ul>
  17. 17. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>Many contemporary approaches like the ‘Postcolonial’ approach to translation and the ‘Cultural Studies’ approach to translation see translation as an ideological activity involving politics of representation which can only be understood in its social, cultural and historical context. . </li></ul>
  18. 18. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>The rejection of the idea that translation is secondary or inferior to original and the assumption that translation can be understood only in its cultural and historical context are central to contemporary translation studies . </li></ul>
  19. 19. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>Contemporary Translation Studies also provide an interesting critical perspective on translation. E.g. Mahasweta Sengupta points out how in Gitanjali , Rabindranath Tagore took immense liberties with his own Bengali originals to suit the English sensibility. He modified, omitted, and rewrote his poems to cater to his Victorian audience. </li></ul>
  20. 20. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>It examines fascinating cultural phenomenon like ‘ pseudo-translation’ or ‘reverse translation’. </li></ul><ul><li>For instance, it can examine cases like a song from Tagore’s Gitanjali which was translated from Bengali to English by Tagore, then Pablo Neruda translated it into Spanish, which was later translated into English and then from English it was retranslated into Bengali!! </li></ul>
  21. 21. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES: A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE <ul><li>Lori Chamberlain draws attention to the gender bias behind the belief that translation is like a woman, unfaithful when pretty and not beautiful when faithful. She says that fidelity is defined as an implicit contract between translation (as woman) and original (as husband, father or author). </li></ul>
  22. 22. CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION STUDIES <ul><li>However, the infamous ‘double standard' operates here as it might have in traditional marriages: the `unfaithful' wife/translation is publicly tried for crimes the husband/original is by law incapable of committing. This contract, in short, makes it impossible for the original to be guilty of infidelity. </li></ul>
  23. 23. CONCLUSION <ul><li>Thus it can be seen that the contemporary translation studies, which is fairly recent arrival, has gone beyond the clichéd discussion about ‘loss’ and ‘problems’ of translation. It asks exciting new questions about translation and sees translation as a powerful cultural practice instead of secondary activity. </li></ul>