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Introduction: “every allegedly great age” Modernism and the Practice of Literary Translation

  • Steven G. Yao

Abstract

In 1923, the philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin published his translation into German of Baudelaire’s Tableaux parisiens. As an introduction to this volume, he included a probing and deeply felt essay, entided “Die Aufgabe des Ubersetzers,” or “The Task of the Translator,” in which he attempts to define the proper approach toward the rendering of a literary work from one language into another. In the course of his discussion, he makes the rather startling and, in the end, metaphysical claim that,

Translation… ultimately serves the purpose of expressing the central reciprocal relationship between languages. It cannot possibly reveal or establish this hidden relationship itself; but it can represent it by realizing it in an embryonic or intensive form. This representation of hidden significance through an embryonic attempt at making it visible is of so singular a nature that it is rarely met with in the sphere of nonlinguistic life.

Keywords

Literary Production Source Language Modernist Period Literary Culture Confucian Tradition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1968), p. 72.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For more details of this debate, see Paul de Man, “ ‘Conclusions’: Walter Benjamin’s The Task of the Translator’ ” in The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 73–105Google Scholar
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    Ezra Pound, Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (New York: New Directions, 1968), p. 232.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    For an enlightening explication of this tradition, which finds its greatest flowering during the Romantic period, including such seminal figures as Herder, Goethe, Schlegel, Novalis, von Humboldt, and Schleiermacher, see Antoine Berman, The Experience of the Foreign: Culture and Translation in Romantic Germany, trans. S. Heyvaert (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984).Google Scholar
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    See Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Early Italian Poets, ed. Sally Purcell (London: Anvil Press, 1981).Google Scholar
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    As cited in George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 256.Google Scholar
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    For an illuminating history of Anglo-American translation that traces the establishment of transparent rendering, or “fluency,” as the dominant ideology for translation, see Lawrence Venuti’s The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (London: Routledge, 1995), especially Chapter 2, pp. 43–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    In an interview with Donald Hall, Paris Review, 1961. As cited in The Marianne Moore Reader (New York: Viking, 1961), p. 263.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
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    From the Preface to Eliot’s translation, Anabasis (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1938), p. 10.Google Scholar
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    W. B. Yeats, Explorations (London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1962), p. 3.Google Scholar
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    As cited in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959, revised edition 1983), p. 178.Google Scholar
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    For a controversial recent attempt to define an ethics of translation, see Lawrence Venuti, The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference (London and New York: Routledge, 1998).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Lori Chamberlain, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation,” in Lawrence Venuti, ed., Rethinking Translation: Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology (London and New York: Roudedge, 1992).Google Scholar
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    For additional discussion of this metaphor and its relation to heteronormative conceptions of gender and sexuality, see Barbara Johnson, “Taking Fidelity Philosophically,” in Joseph F. Graham, ed., Difference in Translation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
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    Sherry Simon, Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission (London and New York: Routledge, 1996).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), especially Chapter 3, “Nation,” pp. 99–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translation, Languages, Cultures (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
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    For a series of essays on translation in an explicidy Derridean mode, see Joseph F. Graham, ed. Difference in Translation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  41. 47.
    T. E. Hulme, “A Lecture on Modern Poetry,” in Further Speculations, ed. Samuel Hynes (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955), p. 69.Google Scholar

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© Steven G. Yao 2002

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  • Steven G. Yao

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