4 Ocak 2008 Cuma

week 11

Eternal Struggle for the Control of Meaning

Despite the recent approaches developed within the realm of Translation Studies, the traditional way of regarding translator as a humble servant between the ST and the TT still has certain dominance in a given society. Any kind of interference made by the translator –regardless of its purpose– is considered as an evil crime committed during the translation process. However, in certain phases of a given translation project, the text itself demands interference from its very reader, that is to say the translator, to get hold of the meaning inherent in it. Seen from this perspective, one can see how the power relationships peculiar to the study and practice of translation also takes place within the literary text itself. These dialectics of power, in fact, can be the essential key points of the plot of a given literary text.

In her article entitled “Writing, Interpreting, and the Power Struggle for the Control of Meaning: Scenes from Kafka, Borges and Kosztolányi”, Rosemary Arrojo dwells upon the power struggle in the literary texts. In her study, Arrojo also emphasizes how authors like Kafka and Borges build their fictional works on that particular notion: the power struggle. According to the scholar, “Nietzsche explores the connection between creation and power more fully, far beyond the limits of fiction writing, particularly through his concept of the ‘will to power’, generally described as ‘the creative and procreative impulse of life’” (2002: 63). Whereas in the works of Kafka and Borges the fictional characters, such as an architect or a detective strive for the control of the meaning, in Kosztolányi’s work the fictional character is a translator. In Kosztolányi’s work, “The Kleptomaniac Translator”, the main character of the short story creates a better work than the ST. Nevertheless, the translator’s approach was not accepted by the editors and it was found rather manipulative.

The bottom line here is, by analysing a fictional work as such Rosemary Arrojo brings into focus the contemporary understanding of translation in a given country. The fact that there is a huge gap lies between the academic world and the practical field of translation is a universal one, and most of the time the translator’s theoretical knowledge, decisions taken in line with this knowledge is not taken into consideration to a certain extent. In this respect, Arrojo’s article can be regarded as a certain work in which the ethics of translation is questioned from the vantage point of the translator.

On the whole, Rosemary Arrojo’s study is a fruitful one which sheds light on the notion of the power struggle within a given literary text. The scholar’s selection of the influential authors of the twentieth century makes sense to a certain degree as well. However, by doing so, Arrojo seems to be neglecting Brazilian (female) authors to some degree. For instance, the application of the labyrinth image through Arrojo analyzes Kafka’s short story “The Burrow”, on Clarice Lispector’s short story entitled “Looking for Some Dignity” (cf. 2003: 129-137, esp. 129-133), in which the heroine Mrs. Xavier tries to reach her destination through the labyrinths of Maracana Stadium, would surely help Arrojo to bring a new approach to the writings of Clarice Lispector in the English language. Furthermore, such an analysis to the work of Lispector would emancipate the Brazilian author from the hegemony of the French scholar Hélène Cixous whom Arrojo criticizes heavily in her article “Interpretation as Possessive Love: Hélène Cixous, Clarice Lispector and the Ambivalence of Fidelity” (1999: 141-161).


Arrojo, Rosemary, “Interpretation as Possessive Love: Hélène Cixous, Clarice Lispector and the Ambivalence of Fidelity”, in Bassnett, Susan and Trivedi, Harish (eds.), Post-Colonial Translation, London-New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 141-161

Arrojo, Rosemary, “Writing, Interpreting and the Control of Meaning”, in Gentzler, Edwin and Tymoczko, Maria (eds.), Translation and Power, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 2002, pp. 63-79

Lispector, Clarice, “Looking for Some Dignity”, Translation: Leland Guyer, in de Zapata, Celia Correas (ed.) Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real, The Modern Library, New York, 2003, pp. 129-137

week 10

The Shades of Babel in Walter Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator”

A brief glance at the very word language from a contemporary perspective indicates a certain state of disarray. On the one hand, there is the certain hegemony of the English language all around the world, and on the other, there are languages which strive to preserve their own identities under the dominance of one particular language. Yet, when the notion of that “one particular language” is traced through mythology –or to put it in more clear terms, through the myth of Babel– one can find the signs of the so-called curse imposed upon mankind: “Some awful error was committed, an accidental release of linguistic chaos, in the mode of Pandora’s box. Or, more commonly, man’s language condition, the incommunicados that so absurdly divide him are a punishment. A lunatic tower was launched at the stars; Titans savaged one another and of their broken bones came the splinters of isolated speech; eavesdropping, like Tantalus, on the gossip of the gods, mortal man was struck moronic and lost all remembrance of his native, universal parlance” (Steiner 1977: 57). The universal parlance mentioned in George Steiner’s retelling of the Babel myth connotes the notion of pure language which the prominent thinker of the twentieth century Walter Benjamin dwells upon in his essay entitled “The Task of the Translator”.

Even though the title of Benjamin’s piece reads as “The Task of the Translator”, the essay itself is chiefly focused on the notion of pure language, translatability of an artistic work, the literal translation of syntax, re-translations; Benjamin refers to the “task” of the translator barely throughout his study (cf. 2000: 15-23). Therefore, Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator”, achieves the status of a philosophical writing on language rather than one on translation. Still, when Benjamin’s essay is taken into consideration from the vantage point of contemporary translation theories, one can see how some of the crucial argument points of (post)colonial approaches to the study and practice of translation, such as keeping the foreigness of the ST, holding back from communication, coming to terms with the foreigness of the languages, and so forth have their very roots in Benjamin’s essay which is heavily influenced by Holderlin’s translations from Sophocles and Goethe’s notes on Western-Eastern Divan (cf. Steiner 1977: 63).

Indeed, Benjamin is in search for the pure language, that is to say, mankind’s universal parlance. In this journey, Benjamin regards translation as the ultimate way of reaching the pure language. According to Douglas Robinson, in Benjamin’s essay, “the source language has taken pure language prisoner, put her under a spell, and only the translation with the help of the intentions in both the source and the target languages, can free her” (1996: 201). Benjamin’s approach to translation takes a different turn when it is re-evaluated from the “taking the original captive” metaphor since from that standpoint it becomes feasible to comprehend the hidden “task” of the translator embodied in Benjamin’s work. In this metaphor, “the translator, rather than letting himself be ‘bound’ or chained by the original author through literal or ‘slavish’ or ‘servile’ translation, seizes the control of the text and its meaning, and thus of the original author and source culture, and enslaves them” (Robinson 1997: 55-56). Nevertheless in Benjamin’s essay, this metaphor works the other way around and becomes an image metaphor (Boase-Beier 2006: 97) in which pure language is sought. In the light of these remarks, Benjamin’s opinions on re-translations, continuous changes in the languages, and the like can be considered as an endless search for pure language. For Benjamin, translation is a higher form of life in which a new process takes place with the purpose bringing something new to the realm of languages.

All in all, Walter Benjamin’s philosophical essay on language becomes one of the key texts from the point of view of contemporary translation theories. However, when the entire work is taken into consideration in terms of the Babel myth, one wonders why Walter Benjamin does not mention it at all in his essay. When “The Task of the Translator” is re-thought in the light of the Babel myth, this remarkable essay would surely lead one to another philosophical dimension. Furthermore, such a reading would allow the chance for a student of translation to analyze one of the key works of translation, namely George Steiner’s After Babel in which Steiner sheds light on the study and practice of translation from the perspective of philosophical thought.


Benjamin, Walter, “The Task of the Translator” [1923], in Venuti, Lawrence (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London-New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 15-23

Boase-Beier, Jean, Stylistic Approaches to Translation, St. Jerome, UK, 2006

Robinson, Douglas, Translation and Taboo, Northern Illinois University Press, 1996

Robinson, Douglas, Translation and Empire, Manchester: St. Jerome, UK, 1997

Steiner, George, After Babel, Oxford University Press, [1975], 1977

10 Aralık 2007 Pazartesi

week 9

An Author Clariced to Know: the case of Hélène Cixous and Clarice Lispector

Hélène Cixous, chiefly regarded as a “pioneer of the reflection on sexual difference, author of powerful critical essays, and prolific writer of poetic fiction” (Fort 1997: 425), is one of the most significant names of the academic world. Cixous’s dramatic, literary and scholarly works –particularly the ones between 1990 and 2000– have either taken the colonized countries, such as Cambodia and India (e.g. The Terrible But Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia and Manna, for the Mandelstams for the Mandelas), or the Japanese and Chinese theatre traditions (i.e. Drums on the Dike) as a focal point. Seen from this perspective, Hélène Cixous can be considered as one of the most prominent scholars of the West who has brought the issues, traditions, and socio-cultural elements of the “unknown” to the notice of the (Western) world. Yet, Cixous was concerned with the “foreign” long before the 1990s. For instance, in the 1970s, the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector had been a source of inspiration for Cixous in terms of developing her own way of writing and thinking (Arrojo 1999: 144). Various scholarly projects undertaken by Hélène Cixous have been quite influential during the “canonization” of Clarice Lispector in the Western world.

When this brief glance at Hélène Cixous and her “relationship” with Clarice Lispector is taken into consideration within postcolonial context, the abovementioned broad introduction becomes merely the tip of an iceberg: Hélène Cixous, being the agent of the dominant culture and Clarice Lispector, being the “treasure” of the distant lands become the personas of a dramatic performance in which the notions of fidelity, love and emotions are seriously questioned. Taking this argument as a point of commencement, Rosemary Arrojo, discusses Hélène Cixous’s “textual affair” with Clarice Lispector from the perspective of postcolonial theories in her article entitled, “Interpretation as Possessive Love: Hélène Cixous, Clarice Lispector and the Ambivalence of Fidelity”.

By taking Jacques Lacan’s notion of “the subject presumed to know” –the person in whom one deems knowledge to exist, acquires the love of that individual– as a basis for her discussion, Arrojo offers a comprehensive analysis of Cixous’s approach to Lispector. According to Arrojo, in the (post)colonial situation, “the subaltern culture desires the knowledge which supposedly belongs to the dominant, the latter never doubts the legitimacy of its status as the owner and guardian of such knowledge. [C]onsequently, from such a perspective, the tragedy of the subaltern is precisely the blindness with which it devotes itself to this transferential love that only serves the interests of the dominant and feeds the illusion of ‘the subject presumed to know’, as it also legitimates the latter’s power to decide what is proper and what is not, what is desirable and what is not” (ibid.: 143).

As far as postcolonial translation theories are concerned, Hélène Cixous’s interpretation of Clarice Lispector –in a sense– suggests itself as a unique example. In the (post)colonial situation, “while choosing texts for rewriting, the dominant power appropriates only those texts that conform to the preexisting [sic] discursive parameters of its linguistic networks” (Sengupta 1995: 159). In the case of Cixous and Lispector, instead of a direct linguistic transfer, translation takes an obvious form of re-writing in the hands of authority and used in order to impose a certain attitude to a literary figure pertaining to a “foreign” culture (Arrojo 1999: 155, 159). Still, the case of Cixous and Lispector differs in one way from the general understanding of (post)colonial situation with respect to translation: whereas Lispector was “compatible” with Cixous’s way of thinking, therefore was conformed and even used as an aesthetic value by the French scholar’s in terms of developing her productivity, translation –precisely speaking, the translations of Lispector’s works– were strictly rejected by Hélène Cixous with the purpose of having the knowledge that she finds in Lispector merely for herself: The French scholar establishes a so-called “dialectical” relationship with the Brazilian writer in which Lispector’s value as a renowned literary figure becomes dependent to the point that her works conform to Cixous’s way of thinking (cf. ibid.:150).

The emphasis on the very adjective dialectical becomes quite interesting when one thinks of Cixous’s and Lispector’s situations. The dialectical relationship which Cixous assumes to have established with Lispector, actually lacks the essence –a logical dialogue between two individuals– of such a rational connection. As Rosemary Arrojo puts it, “in this truly asymmetrical dialogue, while Cixous practically does all the ‘talking’, Lispector is inevitably forced not only to be saying ‘the same thing everywhere’, as Cixous explicitly declares in an essay on Água Viva, but also to agree unconditionally with her powerful reader” (ibid.:153). Furthermore, Cixous under the guise of adopting a feminist strategy in terms of transforming Clarice Lispector’s name into a noun, adjective and a verb, explicitly appropriates Lispector to her own texts (cf. ibid.: 155). In this sense, Cixous’s interpretation of Lispector takes the form of “colonization”; Cixous’s approach to Lispector regarding the transformation of her name stems from the situation of Lispector. Lispector, being the representative of a peripheral culture can become the subject of this appropriation but as far as the distinguished literary figures of the twentieth century writing, say, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, are concerned Cixous’s approach differs (ibid.: 156).

The case of Hélène Cixous and Clarice Lispector suggests itself as a representative example of the arguments proposed by André Lefevere in his Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992). Within the framework proposes by Lefevere, Cixous achieves the position of a “professional” who is responsible for the aesthetics of a given society. However, Cixous, instead of writing for a given society, is writing texts for women, marginalized, and oppressed societies and in this sense differs from the position which one might bestow upon her within the theoretical framework of Lefevere. During the course of Hélène Cixous’s re-writing of Clarice Lispector, the French scholar herself becomes “‘the subject presumed to know’, particularly for those [her proponents] who are blindly devoted to her texts and who have transformed her into the author (and the authority) that she is today within the broad area of cultural studies” (Arrojo 1999: 155). Seen from this perspective, one can is see how the case of Hélène Cixous and Clarice Lispector can be discussed in detail within a broader (post)colonial systemic framework in the light of the arguments developed by Rosemary Arrojo.


Arrojo, Rosemary, “Interpretation as Possessive Love: Hélène Cixous, Clarice Lispector and the Ambivalence of Fidelity”, in Bassnett, Susan and Trivedi, Harish (eds.), Post-Colonial Translation, London-New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 141-161

Fort, Bernadette, “Theater, History, Ethics: An Interview with Hélène Cixous on The Perjured City, or the Awakening of the Furies”, in New Literary History vol. 28.3, The University of Virginia Press, USA, 1997, pp. 425-456

Lefevere, André, Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame, London and New York: Routledge, 1992

Sengupta, Mahasweta, “Translation as Manipulation: The Power of Images and Images of Power”, in Dingwaney, Anuradha and Maier, Carol, (eds.) Between Languages and Cultures: Translation and Cross-Cultural Texts. Pittsburgh and London: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995, pp. 159-173

week 8

The Notion of Translatio Imperi et Studii in Postcolonial Approaches to the Study and Practice of Translation

Language –as far as the relationship between a colonized country and its colonizer is taken into consideration– can be one of the most effective tools of the dominant community during the course of imposing power and authority upon the former inhabitants, later subservient people of the remote lands. Such a process inevitably brings the translation act undertaken by various ascendant forces of the world history during their colonization of the “distant”, “exotic” and “foreign” territories to the notice of a researcher who is concerned with the socio-cultural and linguistic dynamics of (post)colonialism. Even though main focus of the most of the postcolonial approaches developed within the academic world is the situation of the “East” against the “West”, the origins of dominating the “Other” date back to the times of Cicero and Horace. The process of re-shaping the “Other” through the eyes of the dominant power, in fact, is a process which was carried out within the Western civilization by the Western people.

In his remarkable book entitled Translation and Empire (1997) in which he traces the roots of the postcolonial translation theories and offers the analyses of some of the most weighty writings (i.e. Tejaswini Niranjana’s Siting Translation, Eric Cheyfitz’s The Poetics of Imperialism, and Vicente L. Rafael’s Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Cınversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule) related to translation within the postcolonial context, Douglas Robinson emphasizes the significance of the notion of translatio studii et imperii in postcolonial (translation) theories. Prior to his discussion of translatio studii et imperii, or in Robinson’s words, “the ancient theory that both knowledge and imperial control of the world tend to move in a westerly direction” (1997: 124), the scholar argues for the significance of dragomans in the Ancient Egyptian civilization and Herodotus of the Ancient Greek culture in the history of translation history and moreover, considers them as the people involved seriously with translation before the times of Cicero and Horace. Such an argument, indeed verifies the description which Robinson gives for translatio studii et imperii (cf. ibid: 46-49).

According to Robinson, the times of Cicero and Horace, were actually the periods of the world history in which the first postcolonial project was undertaken (ibid: 52). After the conquest of the Attic Islands, Roman writers, scholars, and philosophers, were in the position of building up a literary tradition of their own and the heritage laid ahead of them was the literary and scholarly works of the Ancient Greek Culture; the theoretical works of Aristotle, the tragedies of Æschylus, Sophocles and Euripides along with the comedies of Aristophanes have all served one way or another for the Roman scholars during the course of developing a literary and an aesthetic tradition of their own. The ultimate goal of this very first postcolonial project undertaken by the Romans, in the words of Robinson was “to appropriate Greek culture, literature, philosophy, law and so on for Rome, and to do so in such a way as to establish the originality of the Romans – to sever the ties of indebtedness to the ‘greats’ of once-imperial Greece” (ibid.). As a consequence of this postcolonial project, Romans have developed their tradition but the success of this project was debatable. The tragedies, for instance, which were one of the most powerful literary achievements of the Ancient Greek Culture have fallen from grace and were replaced by the comedies in the Roman tradition.

The tradition of acculturation, appropriation or even naturalization the “foreign” stemming from the notion of translatio studii et imperii continued throughout the ages and became one of the most effective ways of “empire” during the course of re-constituting the “Other”. In a manner evoking the Roman tradition, Christian church had to “deal” with the pre-Christian beliefs of the Greeks and Romans, therefore the literary works of the authors, such as Homer, Plato, Ovid or Virgil were re-written in a fourfold process, that is to say, on the literal level, on the moral level, on the allegorical level and on the analogical level through the usage of the figurative hermeneutics (cf. ibid: 53), and as a matter of fact, became one of the ultimate ways of spreading Christianity in history.

In addition to the notion of translatio studii et imperii, another important point worth mentioning is “taking the original captive” metaphor. The idea behind this metaphor is “that the translator, rather than letting himself be ‘bound’ or chained by the original author through literal or ‘slavish’ or ‘servile’ translation, seizes the control of the text and its meaning, and thus of the original author and source culture, and enslaves them” (ibid: 55-56). “Taking the original captive” metaphor, which was coined by St. Jerome, became an image of translator-as-conqueror through the history, and in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries turned into an underpinning leitmotiv of the German Romantics understanding of translation which has a certain impact on the evolution of the contemporary translation theories.

As this brief glance at the notion of translatio studii et imperii and the metaphor of “taking the original captive” indicates, translation has close ties with the empire, hence the ascendant forces of the history. As far as the postcolonial approaches developed within the academic world are concerned, one can see how these two facts inherent in the translation act connotes the fact of violence in a given translation project. When the issue of violence is taken into consideration within a more contemporary context, one may infer how the situation briefly explained above is more or less the same. In a given translation, for example, from the language of the “Third World” –the cultures and languages regarded as the “Other” by the West– to the hegemonic languages of the Western world (i.e. English, French or German), the original texts become the subject of manipulation to a certain extent. Agents of the ascendant cultures, with their intended receptors in mind either by the employment of metaphors or metonymies can violate the aesthetic values of the source text/s and might re-shape the “Other” cultures according to their opinions (cf. Dingwaney 1995: 4-5 with Tymoczko 1999: 50). Under such circumstances, in which the dialectics of power constitute the bulk of a given translation process, the significance of cultural translation becomes crucial than ever.


Dingwaney, Anuradha, “Introduction: Translating ‘Third World’ Cultures”, in Dingwaney, Anuradha and Maier, Carol, (eds.) Between Languages and Cultures: Translation and Cross-Cultural Texts. Pittsburgh and London: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995, pp. 3-14

Robinson, Douglas, Translation and Empire, Manchester: St. Jerome, UK, 1997

Tymoczko, Maria, Translation in a Postcolonial Context, Manchester: St. Jerome, UK, 1999

30 Kasım 2007 Cuma

a late response

Eugene A. Nida and Meaning-full Translations

The prevailing tendency among the theories of translation developed in the 1960s was linguistic-based and the socio-cultural aspect of translation was dismissed to a certain extent. Yet, amongst these scholars who were in favour of a linguistic-based approach to the study and practice of translation, Eugene A. Nida, mostly celebrated with his Holy Bible translations, was actually one of the forerunners of the cultural turn-to-come to study the translation practices. Nida, by melting the cultural elements and the linguistic aspects inherent in his approach in the same pot, acquires a specific place in the midst of the other translation scholars who maintained a linguistic-based approach to translation.

This dual notion of Nida’s approach, in fact, surfaces in the terms that the scholar coins. Nida’s remarkable article entitled, “Principles of Correspondence”, written in 1964, offers the gist of the scholar’s approach to a certain degree. While “formal equivalence” seeks to render the message of the ST by means of word for word, concept to concept translation, “dynamic equivalence” aspires to reflect the entire naturalness of the ST in the TT (cf. Nida: 2000 134). A detailed reading of this article, moreover, would offer the chance to understand how the scholar’s approach to translation in the 2000s is more or less relies on the theories he developed in the 1960s. An interview made by Eugene A. Nida himself in 2002, and published online in the website of “Christianity Today”, for example, suggests itself as a representative example of such an argument. In addition to re-reading Nida’s arguments with respect to translation from a contemporary perspective, the interview also comprises the stages that the scholar employs in a given translation process.

Throughout the interview, Nida puts momentous emphasis on the meaning of the TT rather than the words of the text. According to Nida, the “word-worship” helps people to have self-confidence, but on the other hand, impedes them from understanding the text. In some obscure cases, Nida advocates the usage of footnotes to get rid of the vagueness and carry the meaning for the TT reader. In the translation process –by giving tangible examples from the practical field– Nida indicates how he favours the group work and shapes the translation product in accordance with the receptions of the TT readers.

When Nida’s ideas of translation –both in this particular interview and in his theoretical writings– are taken into consideration in line with the “Vatican Norms for Translation of Biblical Texts” set out in the spring of 1997, one can see how Nida’s opinions differ from these rules to a certain degree. Whereas the Vatican Norms stress out the significance of fidelity to the words of the (sacred) text, for Nida it is the context and the meaning needs to be rendered. Seen from this perspective, Nida’s ideas of translation acquire a different position in terms of translating the sacred texts.

On the whole, Nida’s arguments regarding translation and the translation process are quite remarkable. Still, the fact that the scholar derives his ideas from the perspective of religion, that is to say, from the perspective of how to spread Christianity throughout the world, limits Nida’s ideas to some extent. When one thinks of literary translation, for instance, the search for a dynamic equivalence might distort the socio-cultural components of the TT to some degree. Literary translation process, in which there is a ST composed of socio-cultural elements of a given culture can as well as be regarded as a bridge between cultures. However, when the translator seeks to find a dynamic equivalence, s/he is in the position of taking the TT norms as the ultimate criteria and makes the socio-cultural elements of the ST compatible with the ones of the TT. Yet Nida, by adding the cultural elements of his linguistic-based approach, and by connoting some of basic ideas (i.e. the action) of the Skopostheorie of Hans J. Vermeer, acquires a specific place within the other scholars who developed a linguistic-based approach to the study and practice of translation.


Eugene Nida, “The Principles of Correspondence” in Lawrence Venuti (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London-New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 126-140

Meaning-full Translations, Christianity Today
(accessed 25 November 2007).

The 1997 Vatican Norms for Translation of Biblical Texts
<http://www.bible-researcher.com/vatican-norms.html>. (accessed 25 November 2007).

19 Kasım 2007 Pazartesi

week 7

To which extent is Lawrence Venuti’s Foreignizing Approach to Translation is Estranging?

To a certain degree, the so-called fluency in any kind of translated work is the criteria which makes it acceptable to the eyes of the readers, critics, reviewers, professionals, publishing house owners, and so forth in a given target society. Still, it is surprising to see how a fluent translation, in other words, a translucent translation appropriated –or even naturalized– according to the taste of domestic values, is perceived as a repercussion of the foreign author’s own poetics and intentions, and moreover, allows the reader of a target culture to enjoy the taste of the original work. However, fluency in a translated text not only impedes the translator from reflecting his/her style, aesthetics and world view on the translated work, but also peels away the peculiarities of the source text hence the socio-cultural elements which can enrich the target culture to some degree. The prevailing opinion regarding the fluency in a translated work has been one of the most fundamental aspects of the American translation scholar Lawrence Venuti’s approach to translation: “The more fluent the translation, the more invisible the translator, and, presumably, the more visible the writer or meaning of the foreign text” (1994: 16). Venuti’s statement also reflects how the scholar himself puts emphasis on the significance of the foreign text; thereby he, in the words of Susan Bassnett, “calls for translator-centred translation, insisting that the translator should inscribe him/herself visibly into the text.” (1998: 25).

Venuti’s call for a translator-centred translation is indicative of scholar’s advocacy of the choices of the translator in a given translation project. In this sense, one may think of Venuti’s approach similar to the translation scholars (i.e. Katharina Reiss) who regard translation as a decision making process. What distinguishes Venuti’s approach from the ones of the other translation theorists is Venuti’s (re)evaluation of the notions of domestication and foreignization which have their very roots in the theories of the German scholar Friedrich Schleirmacher in the sense of “reader-to-author” and “author-to-reader” approaches (cf. Robinson: 2002 228). Venuti advocates foregnizing, resisting, and estranging translation against domestication in order to raise “an opposition to the global hegemony of English”, and regards good translation as minoritizing one which “releases the remainder by cultivating a heterogeneous discourse, opening up the standard dialect and literary canons to what is foreign themselves, to the substandard and marginal” (1998: 10-11). From this point of view, one can see the dual features inherent in Venuti’s approach to the study and practice of translation: favouring the source text for the sake of the target text, or to put it more clearly; Venuti, while being source-oriented in theory, in practice, actually develops a target-oriented approach.

In order to support his arguments regarding the notion of minorizing translation along with resisting translation, Venuti gives a coherent example, namely, his own translation of the nineteenth-century Italian writer Tarchetti’s novel Fosca. Venuti’s foreignizing strategy includes using archaic words and mixing Britishisms with the contemporary American language. In addition to that, by employing paratextual materials (i.e. an introduction), Venuti aimed at showing right from the start what his intention was to the reader/s. In this respect, Venuti’s approach –precisely speaking, the way he develops his arguments with respect to the study and practice of translation– evokes the early translation theoreticians, such as Etienne Dolet and John Dryden who used their own experiences during the course of building their ideas (cf. Robinson:2002 95-97, 171-175).

Even though Venuti’s main points of arguments stem from the notions of fluency and foreignization versus domestication, the extension and the impacts of his ideas on the research done on the study and practice of translation was enormous. Yet, how Venuti regards “fluency” merits further attention. Venuti, as Douglas Robinson argues, “doesn’t seem to be interested in exploring where the ethos of fluency come from, what social needs might have motivated its formation and given it ideological pride of place” (1997: 99). Within this context, one may think how Venuti takes fluency for granted, and in a way, merely uses this fact –indeed it is a fact– as a point of commencement in order to develop his arguments. Similarly Venuti, while putting forward his criteria regarding the (marginal) literary works to be translated, looks as if he is neglecting the works pertaining to contemporary literature which to a certain degree might comprise peripheral features when compared to the ones that Venuti regards as marginal.

When Venuti’s theoretical writing is read with his foreignizing approach in mind, one can infer how the notion of fluency which the scholar draws heavily upon becomes one of the most problematic aspects of his approach. Venuti’s theoretical writings are written in a fluent manner; so fluent that one might even become suspicious how the scholar himself advocates a foreignizing translation strategy. When looked from the vantage point of view of how the thoughts in human brain are reflected (by means of being subject to many changes) to the act of writing, one can regard how the act of writing itself becomes a sort of translation. And in this sense, Venuti’s theoretical writings become the translations within the academic system. Indeed, when Venuti’s writing style is taken into account, one can see how it reads fluently and lacks of the estranging, alienating, foreignizing, and resisting style which the scholar himself puts momentous emphasis on. From this perspective, one can infer how Venuti adheres to the academic discourse and refrains from developing a peculiar style (one thinks of Toury here) which can go hand in hand with his theoretical assumptions.

On the whole, Lawrence Venuti’s illuminative approach to the study and practice of translation is indeed a fruitful one –and if can be put into practice– can enhance the target culture to a certain degree. Furthermore, when one thinks of the idea/s of Venuti regarding the importance of marginal literary works –although his definition of marginal and peripheral should either be extended or clarified– can be a useful tool in terms of introducing literary components in a target culture. Moreover, the empirical data which will these translation products will provide, might be the subject of descriptive studies that can be undertaken within the realm of Translation Studies.


Bassnett, Susan, “When is a Translation not a Translation?” in, Bassnett Susan and Lefevere, André (eds.), Constructing Cultures, Multilungual Matters, Clevedon, 1998, 25-40

Robinson, Douglas (ed.) Western Translation Theory: from Herodotus to Nietzsche, St. Jerome, UK, 2002

Robinson, Douglas, What is Translation? Centrifugal Theories, Critical Interventions, The Kent State University Press, USA, 1997

Venuti, Lawrence, “The Translator’s Invisibility: The Evidence of Reviews”, In Other Words: Journal of the Translator’s Association, No: 4, 1994, pp. 16-22

Venuti, Lawrence, The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, London-New York: Routledge, 1998

12 Kasım 2007 Pazartesi

week 6


In 1980, Israeli translation scholar Gideon Toury wrote a book entitled In Search of a Theory of Translation, which apparently launched new debates within the realm of the newly emerging discipline of Translation Studies. The beginning of the eighties, the publication year of Toury’s book, coincides with a period when Translation Studies started to be regarded as an autonomous discipline as well. The beginning of the 1980s was also a time when not only the necessities of founding a particular discipline, but also the presence/s of disciplines were seriously being questioned thanks to the rise of the so-called theories and arguments of post-modernism. The ultimate need for a scientific ground and a scientific approach to build a given discipline was tantamount to found a relevant theory of the study and practice of translation. Toury’s main concern was to establish a theory of translation which could fulfil this need of a newly emerging discipline. In this respect, the title of Toury’s book makes sense and justifies most of the controversies (i.e. tertium comparationis) of his study to a certain degree. Furthermore, Toury was indeed in search of a theory of translation and regarded his study as an initial step taken towards the establishment of this goal. Nevertheless, as far as the circumstances of his time regarding the existence of a particular discipline are taken into consideration, Toury’s endeavour becomes questionable to some extent. Yet, by his approach Toury manages to ignite the debates which would strip the act of translation from the everlasting questions of “equivalence”, “fidelity”, “good vs. bad translation”, “faithfulness”, hence paved the way for interdisciplinary studies of translation and by this prominent quality, in a way Toury overcomes the questionable aspect of his attempt. In this sense, Toury’s initial step can also be regarded as a significant move which indicates the scholar’s awareness of the circumstances of the period in which he has undertaken his study.

In due time, Toury –with the purpose of making his arguments clear, and respond to the criticisms raised against his theory– published his articles which he has written after the publication of In Search of a Theory of Translation in a book entitled Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond in 1995. The notion of norms (Toury 1995: 53-64), special focus on the idea of pseudo translations (ibid: 40-52), the criteria of “adequacy” and “acceptability” (ibid: 56-57) not to mention the postulate of assumed translations (ibid: 31-39), are some of the basic concepts of the scholar’s approach which can become the most efficient tools in the hands of a researcher interested in studying translations in a descriptive way. Among these concepts, particularly the notion of norms merits further attention due to the way it differs from the previous approaches (i.e. source-oriented, linguistic based, and the like) to the study and practice of translation. Unlike the prior translation scholars, Toury regards translations “as facts of the culture which hosts them” (ibid: 24) and indicates that a given translation is a socio-cultural fact which has to be studied by taking into consideration the constraints of the target culture. Toury regards these (social) constraints as norms, or in other words objects to be studied in his descriptive approach.

It is at this point, where the role of translator comes into play in Toury’s descriptive approach. Toury distinguishes three types of norms during the translation process: Preliminary norms, initial norms, operational norms being further subdivided into matricial norms and textual-linguistic norms (ibid: 58-60). Even though all these characteristics of the concept of norms may support the idea of Toury’s giving priority to the translator in terms of the choices s/he can make during the course of a given translation, there are some fundamental aspects which Toury does not take into account, or may seem to not take into account.

Naturally, one of the important phases of a given translation process with respect to the choices made by the translator to be observed is the black box, the mind of the translator in which the hermeneutical circle, that is to say, the act of interpreting, the act of approaching, and the act of establishing a dialectial relationship with a text suggests itself as the core of a given translation process. A brief glance at Toury’s norms, on the other hand, indicates that this crucial aspect is neglected to a certain extent and warded off by merely mentioning it with phrases like “the basic choices to be selected” and so forth (cf. ibid). However, these basic choices also bring into focus the role of translator’s style in the translation process (cf. Boase-Beier: 2006 5-6). By simply pointing out these choices in his theoretical framework and not dwelling upon them in detail, Toury dismisses the style of translator that can mould –either in a positive or a negative way– a translation to some degree. One may argue though, for Toury the hermeneutical process along with the translator’s style within a given translation process is a fact to be studied in the light of the detailed analysis of (translation) norms; nonetheless, the way Toury develops his claims leaves no room for an analysis of the actual process that takes place in the mind of the translator.

Moreover, a quick look at the picture proposed by Toury from a broader perspective in terms of socio-cultural dynamics of a given “(target!)” society, signifies the lack of the ideological concerns to be taken into consideration during the course of building a theoretical framework deriving from the ideas pertaining to sociology. Just like any member of a society, the translator is also an individual of a social community. S/he can adhere himself to the norms of a particular ideology which in the long run might affect his or her translation and to a certain extent and as well as might make the target text produced to function as an ideological tool in terms of imposing particular set of thoughts to the other members of the society. By being negligent of the ideological concerns of a society, Toury reduces the constraints on the shoulders of translators, thus in a sense disregards the varying strata of the societies.

To sum up, Gideon Toury, being one of the harbingers of the “cultural turn” in Translation Studies, has made a significant contribution to the evolution of the discipline in many respects. Be that as it may, Toury’s approach to the study and practice of translation neglects the human factor during the translation process to some degree as stated above. Yet, by the theoretical framework the scholar proposes, can become an effective tool in the hands of a researcher which might undertake a descriptive study of translation practices. Still, as far as the theoretical aspect of Toury’s approach is concerned, the problematic parts in terms of the notion of hermeneutics along with the ideological concerns can be improved by the interdisciplinary studies.


Boase-Beier, Jean, Stylistic Approaches to Translation, St. Jerome, UK, 2006

Hermans, Theo, Translations in Systems, St. Jerome, UK, 1999

Toury, Gideon, Descriptive Translation Studies – And Beyond. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1995