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17 - Translation studies - part 2

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  We have seen in the previous unit that Torop distinguishes various kinds of translations. Let us examine them one at a time.

  Textual translation: this is the core of translation studies, also because it is the kind of translation activity about which we have the widest literature. It is, moreover, what more traditionally is referred to as "translation".
  By "textual translation", we mean a process by which a text is transformed into another text. This term does not make a distinction between interlingual and intralingual translation. The textual paraphrase of a text, for example, is a kind of textual translation, even if the two texts - prototext and paraphrase - are composed with the same code.
  The "prototext" is what is sometimes referred to as "original", or "source text". The word is formed by the prefix proto-, deriving from the Greek word prôtos, meaning "first", a meaning that can be used both to mean "first in time" and "first in space".
  Using the same word-formation principle, what sometimes is called "translated text" or "target text" - that is to say the result of textual translation - can be called "metatext". The prefix meta-, from the Greek word metá, meaning "after" (and also "with" and "for"), can refer to a shift, a continuum, a transfer, or also to posteriority, additionality. We must stress the difference between two meanings of the word "metatext", both of them relevant to translation studies: first, "result of a textual translation process", the second one is "metatextual translation process" (see further details in the next paragraph).
  Being the most visible, textual translation is the kind of translation with a wider literature. When we talk about the other types of translation, we still have the model of textual translation in mind: that is the reason why the general methodology of translation science, even when meant in a "total" sense, should be based on textual translation.
  Textual translation studies are often based on literary texts. This fact should not fool translators or future translators, especially those working with nonliterary texts: one should not think that an analysis of a literary text is meaningful only for a literary text or, worse yet, only for that single literary text. This would be in contrast to one of the two main principles of total translation: the center of translation studies is the translation process, whose core is common to all types of translation and, therefore, to all kinds of interlingual, textual translations.

  By "metatextual translation", we mean a process transferring a text not into another text, but into a culture: in other words, the metatext is the overall image a text creates of itself in a given culture. The overall image of a text in a culture is determined by the text itself and by what in that culture is said about that text. A hint at a text, made publicly by someone, in a written or oral form; a quotation; a critical essay; an item in an encyclopedia referring to that text or author; an afterword to a text or the critical apparatus to an edition, and so on: all that contributes to create the overall image of a text in a culture.
  If metatextual translation is intralingual, then the metatext consists of the aforementioned elements only; if it is interlingual, then among the metatextual elements there also can be the translated text that, as we have just seen, can be called "metatext" even by itself. Actually, it is a part of the whole metatext of an interlingual translation.
  Sometimes, as Torop stresses, textual and metatextual translations are simultaneous, contextual operations: they go together:

When the translator or the publisher himself prepares the preface, commentary, illustrations, glossaries, and so on to a translated text, it is possible a translation being textual and metatextual at the same time 1.

In some cases, the interlingual translation is written by a translator, the preface by another author and the critical apparatus by a third person. The metatext is then a collective endeavor, not always coordinated and coherent.

  Intertextual translation. In our world, no text rises in autonomy, outside a context. This is increasingly true when we face the faster and capillary circulation of information that, on one hand, tends to globalize culture but, on the other hand, makes easier the interchange between cultures and promotes development beyond differences.
  The great Russian semiotician JUrij Lotman (1922-1993) in 1984 published an essay on this topic called "The semiosphere". The cultural universe is compared to a body, on the model of Vernadsky's concept of biosphere 2. This body may have more psychological than biological features, but it has the characteristics of a system:

[...] the modern world semiosphere that, having grown wider and wider through centuries, has now a universal character, includes signals from satellites and poets' verses and animal cries. [...] The dynamic development of semiosphere elements (of substructures) tends toward specification and increases, therefore, the inner variety of the whole 3.

We feel reassured, in a time when there are people who are afraid that the internet will standardize local cultures, tastes and traditions:

[...] the process of reciprocal information and inclusion in a general cultural world not only nears different cultures, but emphasizes their differences too. By entering in a general cultural world, a culture begins in fact to cultivate more intensely its originality. [...] An isolated culture is always "for itself", "natural", and "ruled by customary laws". As soon as it becomes a part of a wider system, it gets to know an outer point of view about itself, and discovers its own specificity 4.

We can see the similarity between this argument and what we said in unit 5 referring to linguistic self-consciousness. One's own way of verbal expression appears to be "natural" as soon as we do not observe it from outside, we do not begin to make questions about its mechanisms, and we do not acquire a core of metalinguistic self-consciousness.
  These considerations of semiotic and psychological character suggest a systemic approach to the problem of intercultural influences. The literary critic Harold Bloom, theorizing on cultural influences in literature, synthesizes systemic approach and Freudian psychoanalysis. He finds in the cultural system a mechanism in which the author of a text is in the position of a son trying desperately to emerge with an identity of his own despite the cultural domination of his "fathers", his literary precursors.
  We can easily notice that said vision is strongly influenced by the Freudian concept of Oedipal complex: the emerging identity of an author is considered a metaphor of the definition of a son's identity, taking for granted the existence of a conscious or unconscious conflict with his father. In the case of cultural influences, every precursor is a potential father, more or less "encumbering" according to his importance in a given culture. In Bloom's opinion, the text becomes

a psychic battlefield upon which authentic forces struggle for the only victory worth winning, the divinating triumph over oblivion 5.

  Every author, in Bloom's vision, is annoyed realizing that what he writes is not completely original, that he writes also as a reaction to his precursors - in the same way as a son is annoyed to behave in reaction to his father's personality, instead of following his own desires and aspirations. For this reason the author tends to deny this kind of influence or, as one says in psychoanalysis, to repress the debt. Repression, like any other psychic mechanism intended to create a false perception of reality in order to make it acceptable, causes - as a side effect - the impossibility to interpret the precursors' works in a conscious way. Bloom's work is centered on this kind of interpretation, which is neither lucid nor aware, and becomes a misinterpretation: every work is thus the misinterpretation of a parent work, and every reading is actually a misreading of what was written by the precursor.

Bibliographical references

BLOOM H. Poetry and Repression: Revisionism from Blake to Stevens. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1976

LOTMAN JU. Lekcii po struktural´noj poètike. In JU. M. Lotman i tartusko-moskovskaja somioticheskaja shkola. Moskvà, Gnozis, 1994, p. 10-263. ISBN 5-7333-0486-3.

LOTMAN JU. O semiosfere [Sulla semiosfera], in Töid märgisüsteemide alalt/Trudy po znakovym sistemam/Sign Systems Studies, volume 17, Tartu, 1984. ISSN 1406-4243.

TOROP P. La traduzione totale. Ed. by B. Osimo. Modena, Guaraldi-Logos, 2000. ISBN 88-8049-195-4. Or. ed. Total´nyj perevod. Tartu, Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus [Tartu University Press], 1995. ISBN 9985-56-122-8.

VERNADSKIJ V. I. Biosfera [The Biosphere], Moskvà, 1967.

1 Torop 2000, p. 31.
2 Vernadskij 1967.
3 Lotman 1985, p. 69.
4 Lotman 1985, p. 76.
5 Bloom 1976, p. 2.