Preface: Objects of Translation(s)

Preface: Objects of Translation(s)

C.C. Wharram
Eastern Illinois University, USA

I show that I have understood a writer only when I can act in his spirit, when, without constricting his individuality, I can translate him and change him in diverse ways. —Novalis (28)

1.         In diverse ways, the scholars collected in this volume make compelling cases for expanding the repertoire of texts worthy of study in English classrooms to include translations. In this preface, I briefly introduce each of these six interventions, while examining how and why translation changes—or might prompt us to change—the way we approach the teaching of texts of British Romanticism in particular, and literature in general, within a planetary context. The scholars collected here reflect this global framework, not simply in that they work and teach in five different countries spanning four continents, but also in that they address planetary textual objects, objects that force us to confront the fact that these texts are "built to travel, to meet new interlocutors, and to develop over time." [1]  Translations, I will argue, call on us to think anew the way we face the planet and its literary history.

What do Translations Want?

2.        To quote Lawrence Venuti, "translation changes everything." [2]  But what, exactly, is our object of scrutiny when we pronounce to have chosen translation as our unit of analysis? Translation, after all, refers both to an individual instance—a particular translated work—and to a process of coming-into-being, a "form" or "mode" (depending on which English translation of Walter Benjamin one has at hand) of textual production. [3]  When examining translation, should we stress the collective, general set of expectations and limitations that govern the ways translations are produced? Such a strategy, informed by the methodologies of the social sciences, would perhaps foreground analysis of the sorts of people who might have translated in a specific social context and the kinds of texts that prompted translation in that context, and might attempt to reconstruct the contexts of the production and reception of these translations. Alternatively, should we highlight the individual approach that a specific translator has taken towards a specific text? This approach would emphasize the translator's agency in performing a particular (and unique) "interpretive act." Venuti has long advocated the latter approach, from his espousal of "foreignizing translations" in The Translator's Invisibility (1995) to his more recent recommendations for the close reading of translation in the classroom. Venuti emphasizes the rhetorical choices a translator makes in actualizing the original's Fortleben ("afterlife" or "living-on"), to use Walter Benjamin's famous formulation. Although Venuti acknowledges that acts of translation are always performed within systemic and social constraints, he stresses that these boundaries can only be found through analysis of the "interpretive act" of an agent-translator. [4] 

3.        The first approach—let's call it the "social science" one—would be less interested in the details and particularities of individual translated texts and would be more likely to subscribe to something akin to Franco Moretti's "distant reading." By examining texts from a distance such that shapes, relations, and structures invisible at close range become perceptible, Moretti suggests that close reading fails compared to the rich theoretical knowledge generated in ambitious projects that synthesize the vast quantum of data made available through distance. He defines this distance "as a specific condition of knowledge." [5]  While Venuti and David Damrosch, as we shall see, take Moretti to task for his distanced view, we should not discount the method tout court. After all, a graph of eighteenth-century translations revealing that in the 1790s women began to translate in hitherto unforeseen numbers is not without interest (see Fig. 1). Similarly, a time map denoting the origins of translated texts over the same time period would show that the tiny circle hovering over German-speaking territories suddenly begins to expand its diameter exponentially during that same decade, when English translators gravitated towards German as never before. One might then, at a distance, speculate that this graph and this map—or more correctly, the social and literary phenomena that they represent—produced something of an affinity between women writers and German texts, whether or not individual women translators were personally engaged in this influx of German books. [6]  And, furthermore, this affinity may have contributed to a growing sense in aspiring women writers of the nineteenth century that German (the language, the culture, and the literature) offered entry into literary circles otherwise difficult for women to access. One need only recall that two of the century's great writers, Margaret Fuller and George Eliot—as well as such lesser-known figures as Sarah Austin and the Winkworth sisters [7] —used their facility in the German language to pry open doors to publication in the middle decades of the century.

Figure 1: Titles Translated by Women in the Eighteenth Century, by Decade

4.        And yet, as Lesa Scholl's contribution to this volume demonstrates, close attention to the details of translated texts offers something valuable and complementary to the abstractions produced by distant readings of these shapes, relations, and structures. [8]  By reading a number of George Eliot's early essays through a Bakhtinian lens of "dialogic triangulation," Scholl shows the immense value of familiarizing students with the work of translators as it developed over the course of the nineteenth century, arguing convincingly that "Eliot's preoccupation with translation infuses all her literary activities—from her editing, reviewing and journalism to her fiction-writing." Primarily engaged with Victorian cultural history and how its "growing recognition of a polycultural world" helped to shape our contemporary understanding of globalization, Scholl's essay also offers a model methodology for pedagogies that address the means by which "Britain incorporate[d] foreignness" during the Romantic period. The "cultural encounter" embedded in translations by Charlotte Smith, Helen Maria Williams and Felicia Hemans, for example, invites classroom discussions on the ways that translators sometimes "blurred the lines of authorship" and sometimes "hid behind the veil of the original author" (and sometimes did both at once) in presaging what would come to be known as "cultural translation." [9]  There seems to be something of a paradox at work in translation that keeps us at a distance, hiding behind a veil, and yet invites us to a closer scrutiny of its blurred lines. The time is now ripe for the question, "What do translations want?"

Why Not Translation(s)?

5.        In recent years, we have witnessed the rapid migration of the field of translation studies from occupying its position as “a backwater of the university”—to cite Lawrence Venuti's oft-quoted complaint of 1998 (Scandals 8)—to becoming a central object of scholarly inquiry in literary and cultural studies and beyond. It has indeed been a heady decade for translation(s). But while numerous conferences, symposia, seminars, and institutes have been and are being organized around the topic, and collected editions address the role of translators in reconfiguring how we negotiate the scrutiny of literary, historical, and cultural texts, course readings in English literature have, generally speaking, not yet come to reflect the same transformative impulse. In preparing this introduction for our volume, I surveyed recent syllabi for courses on British Romanticism available online to see whether or not translations were included in their reading lists. My little surfing expedition demonstrated to me in a quantitative way that translations remain conspicuously neglected in the teaching of not only British Romanticism, but also the British eighteenth-century and Victorian periods. Indeed, I discovered that it was exceedingly difficult to find even one syllabus available online that includes a substantial number of translated texts. [10] 

6.        There are, admittedly, compelling reasons for the absence of translated texts—these are, after all, courses in British literature. Let us put aside, for the moment, other possible reasons, such as the territorial disputes that might arise from incorporating texts over which other institutional actors may claim ownership. Let us put our faith, for the moment, in the possibility or, one hopes, the inevitability of a bipartisan appreciation for texts in both original and translation, and agree with Catherine Porter's recent call for "interdepartmental collaboration" and "interdepartmental openness": "It should be possible for any literature department—English, modern languages, comparative literature, Romance studies, Asian studies, and so on—to offer any of these courses [on translation], and it should be possible for students majoring in any of these departments to count such courses toward their major" (37). Amen. While Porter's concern centers on courses primarily taught using translations or about translation, we should also consider the role of translation in courses not exclusively on or in translation. What are the unintended ramifications of examining literature in a specific, historic context with no input from translations? Why do we decide in advance that "British" necessarily entails the elimination of all voices not originating in Britain and in English? Why not translation(s)? [11] 

7.        That is, I want to raise a serious question about the historical accuracy of the picture we present to our students if and when we erase entirely the presence of translations and translators from the literary Great Britain of 1750, 1800, or 1850. And the same point would hold true for any literature course that examines any historical period in any geographical, political, or linguistic space. There is an analogy available to Romanticists that may illuminate the present situation. [12]  We appear to be experiencing something of a critical lag at work, much as Romanticists witnessed in the late 1990s, when it was still possible to see Romantic literature courses that ignored women's writing in its entirety, despite the recovery work that had already been done by scholars such as Marilyn Butler, Nancy Armstrong, Janet Todd, Anne Mellor, Claudia Johnson, Stuart Curran, Elizabeth Fay, Julie Carlson, Mary Favret, and many others. This recognition, that women writers made crucial contributions to the public sphere of the period, brought with it an expansion of generic considerations in Romantic scholarship. Poetry, the "masculine occupation" of The Big Six, suddenly (or, once again) found itself in the company of plays, novels, essays, and letters. [13]  All this scholarly work required new pedagogical anthologies, a need met by the aforementioned Mellor (with Richard Matlak), Duncan Wu, Susan Wolfson and Peter Manning, and Jeffrey Cox and Michael Gamer, among others. Today, it is almost unimaginable that a course—any course—on British Romanticism could return to an iteration of The Big Six, unless of course those six were altered to include Mary Shelley, Felicia Hemans, and Joanna Baillie. [14] 

8.        The same impulse that led toward recovering the voices and genres of the multitude of women writing during the period might spur present-day Romanticists to incorporate translated texts. In selecting and organizing the works included in British Literature 1780-1830, Mellor and Matlak envisioned "a pedagogical representation of this literature as both participating in and constructing the public sphere" (5). They rightly questioned why women writers were maxed out by previous and competing anthologies of the period at ten percent of the total. [15]  The question one might unfairly ask in 2013 of the 1996 versions of Mellor and Matlak is, “Do translators and translations, since they are almost completely absent from their anthology, not participate in and construct the public sphere? If we, like Mellor and Matlak, would like to "encourage a pedagogical attempt to understand this literary period as it developed in the public eye" (5), then shouldn't we include translations, texts that constituted a surprisingly large percentage of the publications during the period? [16]  Yet Mellor and Matlak did include one translation in their anthology, a selection from Johann Joachim Winckelmann's 1764 The History of Ancient Art (129-30). Taken from the 1880 translation by G. Henry Lodge, the text comes to readers of the anthology from beyond the historical boundaries of 1780 and 1830, from both before (1764) and after (1880). That is, the Winckelmann translation reveals and conceals the blind spot inhabited by translation in our present-day conceptions of literary history. In an uncanny way, perhaps, translations withdraw from literary history.

9.        In any case, we hope that the current volume will propel Romantic pedagogies toward the recognition that foreign texts, as mediated by domestic translators, played a significant role in the public sphere of the period. And this hope is far from original. David Simpson has made eloquent and repeated pleas for the role of translation in Romantic studies. Already in 2004 at the NASSR Conference in Boulder, Colorado, Simpson made the case for "an extended model of translation as a core Romantic paradigm" (152), a call repeated in a lecture he gave in December 2009 to celebrate the launch of the Edinburgh Studies in Transatlantic Literatures series. [17]  Noting that to read works by Robert Burns and John Clare, originally published with supplemental glossaries, is "to engage in some experience of translation," Simpson argues that we might recognize that "the distinctions of class and region (often working together) can seem almost as hard to negotiate as those coincident with national borders" (146). Simpson explores the possibility of a renewed consideration of the "historical-geographical epic [. . .], a narrative composed in English about remote events whose implication is explained to us not just in the poetic narrative itself but in an often vast array of footnotes" (148). Citing examples from Moore, Southey, Landor, and Hemans, he locates a disjunctive play between "the power of feeling" inscribed in the poetic narrative and a density of "historical information" embedded in supplementary footnotes and appendices. Translation, accordingly, becomes a promising model producing an awareness of the need for "very slow reading" in which "what one feels for and with the characters [in the poetic narrative] is thus located in the thick field of historical and anthropological material about the translatability of feeling itself" (151, 150). Simpson, like the translation theorists we will encounter below, understands acts of translation not as transparent media into other worlds, "not as the fantasy of dialogism but as the impasse of blocked communication." Translation might prove itself central to Romanticism precisely "for the sake of its profitable impossibility and for its capacity to remind us of just that" (151). Jeffrey Robinson, too, has reminded us how pervasive translations were during the period. Offering in The Cambridge Companion to Shelley ("The Translator") a brief survey of "the landscape of Romantic translations in poetry," he touches on the work of Helen Maria Williams, Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, Mary Tighe, and Leigh Hunt as a preface to his contribution on the translations of P.B. Shelley. Similarly, contributor Gillian Dow has foregrounded the significance of translation for women writers between 1700 and 1900 in two recent edited collections—Translators, Interpreters, Mediators and Readers, Writers, Salonnières—highlighting the fact that many women writers in Great Britain engaged in translation work: Eliza Haywood, Elizabeth Griffith, Charlotte Lennox, Charlotte Smith, Clara Reeve, Sophia Lee, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maria Edgeworth, to name but a few (Translators 11-12).

10.        At this point, I would like to mention two texts that teachers of Romanticism might wish to consider using in their courses. The first, Broadview's edition of The Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, translated by Charles Stewart (1810) and edited by Daniel O'Quinn (2009), is one of the very few works available in a scholarly edition of a translation outside the major European languages. As O'Quinn notes, "the translation makes an eloquent argument [. . .] regarding the importance of fostering intercultural dialogue," while demonstrating just how difficult it is for both early nineteenth-century and twenty-first-century readers to evaluate its "moments of intercultural sociability" (16-17). O'Quinn's introduction deals directly with the way in which "the history of orientalist scholarship haunts our own practice even at those moments when it is possible to imagine a pre-existing critique of such complexity" (48). The second text, Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Romantic & Postromantic Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey Robinson, anthologizes a wealth of Romantic poetry (and some prose) in English, French, and German alongside lesser-known poets (certainly within the Anglophone academy) from outside the "major" European languages. The anthology is somewhat experimental and speculative in form. As the editors themselves acknowledge,

[W]e have attempted to construct [. . .] an international compendium, something rarely tried but greatly needed. Here we imagine the nineteenth century [. . .] as a time of multiple beginnings and our project as a chance to bring together, to juxtapose, poetry from diverse, sometimes conflicting and oppositional romanticisms and postromanticisms [. . .], to defamiliarize, through its contiguities (as well as through our commentaries), the work of many unquestionably familiar poets. (4)
By broadening the context within which students read British writings of the Romantic era, the anthology encourages an appreciation that literary developments in Great Britain were both marked by and productive of planetary resonances.

11.        Thankfully, there is one area in which the study of British Romanticism finds itself already rich in resources dedicated to the significant role that translators performed in shaping Romantic thought and writing: the relations between Judaica and British literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This state of affairs is due almost single-handedly to the tireless work of Sheila Spector. In a series of monographs and collected editions, Spector has offered Romanticists a window onto the integral role that Hebrew translators played in responding to "the dislocation of the old certitudes [in Western thought] and attempt[ing] to derive a new ethos" during the Romantic era (Judaica 1). Beginning with a pair of monographs on William Blake in 2001, Spector showed the depth of Blake's indebtedness to the Kabbalistic tradition and the profuse analogies between Blake's mythopoetics and Jewish mysticism. [18]  In a series of three collected editions, British Romanticism and the Jews (2002), The Jews and British Romanticism (2005), and Romanticism/Judaica (2011), Spector established the convergence of Jewish and Romantic thought and writing as central to the period, with the assistance of contributors such as Lloyd Davies, Judith Page, Stuart Peterfreund, Michael Scrivener, Mark Schoenfield, Ester Schor, Frederick Burwick, Diane Long Hoeveler, Jeffrey Robinson, and Karen Weisman, to name only a few. Drawing on this wealth of critical work, Daniel DeWispelare's contribution to this volume, "Teaching Romanticism and Translation through British Hebraism," makes a case for addressing in the classroom the contested arena of Hebrew texts in English, centered on the Hebrew Bible. Read within this historical framework, Coleridge's "Song of Deborah," DeWispelare argues, is a particularly suitable text for demonstrating why Coleridge made certain strategic choices as a translator of Hebrew and how these choices produced specific literary effects. [19] 

12.        Spector's Byron and the Jews (2010) engages with Roman Jakobson's tripartite taxonomy of translation, primarily focusing on interlingual translations in the divergent ways that Hebrew and Yiddish translators leveraged Byron's poems as vehicles for fashioning political, social, and cultural ideas about the Jews themselves. She also, however, traces an instance of intralingual translation in a sustained discussion of Jewish impact on the "Byronic self." The literary critic Issac D'Israeli provided Byron with the Jewish conception for "genius," which Byron was to "translate" into the alienated driving force behind the Byronic hero. [20]  Jakobson's third type finds voice in Byron's collaboration with the Jewish composer Issac Nathan in Hebrew Melodies. This collaboration offers a unique vantage point on the complexities and nuances that translation, writ large, presents to Romantic pedagogies. The collaboration functions as an intersemiotic translation, with composer and lyricist engaged in a back-and-forth negotiation between their various media (or "semiotic systems") and the various forms of linguistic representation (the Hebrew Bible, the KJV, and Byron's own renderings) at play. [21] 

Psalm 137: A Case for Romantic Translation

13.        Byron's lyric "We Sate Down and Wept by the Waters of Babel" in Hebrew Melodies is a particularly suitable locus for describing the pedagogical opportunities afforded by close attention to translation. Students may already be familiar with the words and sentiments of the lyric telling of the exile of the Jews in Babylon. [22]  Byron's version of Psalm 137 resonates audibly with an English tradition of Biblical translation, most conspicuously in Byron's rendering of the archaic "sate" as the past tense of "sit"—in fact overleaping entirely the King James Version in favor of the "sate" of the 1560 translation of Psalms 137 in the Geneva Bible. Yet, as Toby Benis notes, "Byron's poem assumes a Hebrew perspective, using the first person to identify his speakers as the Jews in Babylon," thus suspending the dispute between Christians and Jews regarding the authority for Biblical translations "by unapologetically blurring distinctions between Christian and Jewish perspectives" (35-36). Beyond these important insights, Byron's rendering of Psalm 137 makes two specific modifications that force translation to the heart of the matter.

14.        Following the strategy that DeWispelare outlines in his contribution on Coleridge's translation of "The Song of Deborah," an instructor might present multiple versions of the Biblical text in conjunction with Byron's lyric. Students will recognize first of all that "Babel" replaces the name "Babylon," as it is usually rendered in English translations, a choice that students might attribute to Byron's need for a two-syllable word suitable for the lyric's rhythm, but should eventually lead to a recognition that "Babel" aligns itself with the transliteration of the word used in the Hebrew Bible for Babylon, "Bävel." In an English context, however, "Babel" usually connotes the story of the Tower of Babel, the etiological account of the multiplicity of languages among humans and the subsequent necessity for translation. [23]  The second modification, less readily perceived, appears in the third and concluding stanza. After their Babylonian conquerors "demanded a song" of the defeated Jews, the riverside mourners refuse "to string our high harp for the foe":

On the willow that harp is suspended,
Oh Salem! its sound should be free;
And the hour when thy glories were ended
But left me that token of thee:
And ne'er shall its soft tones be blended
With the voice of the spoiler by me!
Neither the original Hebrew nor its English translations mention sounds emitting from the "suspended" harp of the Jews. They simply hang up their harp (or harps) in an act of defiance. Byron, however, transforms this act into the retroactive invention of a new instrument, its "suspended" state and "soft tones" resonating with the plethora of Aeolian harps in Romantic-era poetry. James Macpherson pulled off a similarly anachronistic act in having a number of his characters hang up their harps to identical Aeolian effect on the pages of the purportedly medieval poet Ossian. [24] 

15.        As M.H. Abrams observed in 1957, the Aeolian harp appears as a "persistent analogue" during the Romantic era. [25]  While for Abrams, this "analogue" referred specifically to the "mind"—to a Romantic "imagination" or "sensibility"—we might first consider the primary function of the harp as an object that converts one kind of information (air movement) into another (sound). In rethinking Romanticism with translation as a "core paradigm" as proposed by David Simpson, I suggest that we consider the work of the Aeolian harp as first and foremost that of a translator, albeit an "automatic" one, that allows access—or gives voice—to an otherwise inaudible "something" out there ("nature," "spirit," "world"). That is, the Aeolian harp indeed offers an analogy for Romantic conceptions of the mind, in that it privileges the primacy of translation. I have included my translation of Germaine de Staël's "On the Spirit of Translation(s)" as an appendix to this volume, in part because Staël, at a key moment in her treatise, explicitly likens the work of a good translation to the transmissions of an Aeolian harp, a figure Walter Benjamin would revive more than a century later. [26] 

16.        In the context of "We Sate Down and Wept by the Waters of Babel," Byron makes a case for "free translation" by transforming the Jews' resigned act of hanging up their harps to a resistant strategy of producing Aeolian music: "its sound should be free." Like the long-time exile Staël, the soon-to-be exiled Byron challenges the primacy of "fidelity" in the relationship between translated and original texts, making a case for "free translation" as an act of political resistance by the Jews in exile. [27]  We should, with Benis, recognize how much these harp strings resonate with the piano strings that reverberated to "Hebrew music" in drawing rooms all over the island of Great Britain: "The problem, for some Georgians, was how the home piano performance that included Hebrew Melodies [. . .] placed all the amateurs who played and sang them, even if only for the duration of the performance, in the subject position of the ancient Jewish speaker and musicians" (36). We should also recall the conservative and resolutely anti-Jewish critics that frowned on the conjunction of Byron's lyrics and Nathan's melodies: "Jew and Christian could not possibly agree worse" (ctd. in Benis 37). With such historical and social contexts at their disposal, students will begin to sense just how politically subversive a "free translation" might appear.

A Few Words About Translation Studies

17.         A primary object of the present volume is to argue that our pedagogies need to play catch-up to recent insights brought to us by the above scholars, as well as others in translation studies. Many of the writers collected here use terms familiar in translation studies, yet potentially opaque to scholars outside the field. Two of these, source language and target language, have become standard, "source language" (SL) referring to the language or dialect in which the original work manifested itself, and "target language" (TL) referring to the discursive regime in which the translator fashions a new version of the original. Gregory Rabassa, the well-known translator of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortazar, shunned the term "target language" for good reason, preferring the terms "first" and "second language": "I eschew 'target language' because when I was in the infantry a target was something to shoot at and, ideally, kill, which does, indeed, often happen in the matter of translation" (5). Notwithstanding Rabassa's sensible, if playful rejection of the term "target language" in the late 1980s, we appear stuck with it in 2013.

18.         One of the largest hurdles that an understanding of and appreciation for translation faced was the prevailing sensibility—let's call it a mental block—that considered translations to be concealing an object, the original, from direct access. The best that a translation could strive for was to be as faithful as possible to the original, but, alas, traddutore traditore. Any attempt was bound to fail. Or so went the story we all know—one that many translators themselves embraced, and some continue to embrace. Much criticism in the past few decades in translation studies has worked to remove this mental block from mainstream academic thinking. Antoine Berman, Suzanne Jill Levine, Douglas Robinson, and Lawrence Venuti all offered means of rethinking the mental block that had caused translation, translators, and translated texts to be parceled into a category of derivative or secondary literariness. These critics and others began to see the "failure" of translation, its inability to represent the original textual object in anything other than a distorted form, as a point of departure for an entirely new critical enterprise.

19.         Although rarely considered a translation theorist, the work of the French philosopher Michel Serres in the 1980s and 90s consistently returned to translation. For Serres, translation became the principal means for exploring and discovering new associations and relations between fields of knowledge. Knowledge, as a result, is intimately connected for Serres with the willingness to engage in translation and listen to its "noise." Drawing on the insights of information theory, Serres railed against the common misconception that noise is a useless waste product of any translation, or any instance of communication between two points in a given system. Noise is an absolute necessity for communication to take place, because, by definition, if there were no noise between sender and receiver, they would be absolutely identical. That is, no noise equals no difference between points, equals no communication, equals no translation. Noise is an essential and in fact productive agent in the passage between sender and receiver, and, moreover, between discrete scientific and/or social practices. It follows, then, that the potential transformation inherent in these "passages" or "confluences" between heterogeneous discursive fields in fact offers the possibility of creative, inventive, turbulent, and distributive thinking. In the concept of "noise," Serres provided an avenue for articulating the means by which translation offered a passage, however distorted, between linguistic systems—a model that he would later extend to account for the knowledge production and the creative energy unleashed when discursive regimes interact, such as that between scientific discourses and aesthetic forms.

20.        Examining closely these "noisy" distortions—the twisting, turning and deforming process that produces one textual object out of another—might tell us something profound about the way we approach all textual objects. Antoine Berman (L'Épreuve de l'étranger, 1984) offered up a return to the seemingly forgotten insights of German Romantics such as Novalis, the Schlegels, Schleiermacher, Goethe, and Hölderlin, who had valorized methods of translating that called attention to the linguistic and cultural differences that inhered in foreign-language texts. These writers saw translation's "experience of the foreign" as a crucial vehicle of Bildung, a means of vitalizing and "foreignizing" German culture—an insight that could, by extension, be applied to translation work in all cultures. Suzanne Jill Levine (The Subversive Scribe, 1990) suggested that elevating the "subversive" aspects of translation could free the form from its traditional dismissal as a "betrayal." We confront a new object "lying dormant" within the original by recognizing in translation a sub-version, "a 'version beneath,' a potential version that the original imparts through the magical act of translation" (iii). Douglas Robinson (The Translator's Turn, 1991) proposed that it might just be time for "the translator's turn" in his playfully worded advocacy for a turn towards the study of the tropological eccentricities of translation work. Lawrence Venuti, drawing on Berman, espoused a "foreignizing" type of translation that would push the frontiers of the expressible in the target language (TL).

21.        Since Venuti's category of the "foreignizing" translation appears often in the contributions to this volume, it might be worth expanding on his concept briefly. According to Venuti, translators had found themselves in the course of the twentieth century forced to curtail creativity, innovation, and experimentation in the service of standardizing their language to dominant modes of expression in the target language. In Venuti's words, "translators worldwide came to work under a discursive regime that values a narrowly defined fluency secured by relying on the most familiar form of the translating language, usually the current standard dialect" (2). Venuti calls this type of translation domestication. "Foreignizing" translations offer an alternative to the linguistic paralysis perpetuated by translators who conform their parole to the standards of the target langue. In subsequent work, Venuti has recognized that Schleiermacher and Berman maintained an "instrumental model of translation." That is, despite their advocacy for foreignizing effects, Schleiermacher and Berman pursued a concept of translation that regarded the original as a vessel containing an invariant foreignness, a foreignness embedded in the original's "lexicon and syntax, style and genre, theme and discourse" that the translator was bound to "reproduce or manifest by adhering closely to those textual features" (Everything 3).

22.        What Serres, Berman, Levine, Robinson, and Venuti have in common is that they all begin with and foster the understanding that a translation produces something new, a newly created object. Translators use a variety of tools (intellectual rigor, close reading, interpersonal dialogue, creative expression, somatic response, and so on) in a sustained, interpretive act. In stressing the newness of this object, these critics have pushed the frontiers of the set of cultural and textual objects that count in literary studies. But they also presaged, in an admittedly oblique way, the movement toward "surface reading" that Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus have recently advanced in their co-edited collection of essays in Representations. Best and Marcus differentiate "surface reading" from "symptomatic reading," an engagement with texts that "took meaning to be hidden, repressed, deep, and in need of detection and disclosure by an interpreter" (1). Seeking to find an alternative to the "heroic" type of critical reading embodied by a figure like Frederick Jameson, who explicitly argued that "interpretation should always seek a repressed, mystified, latent meaning behind a manifest one," Best and Marcus advocate "modes of reading that attend to the surface of texts" (1-2), that dwell on the "manifest rather than [the] hidden" (6). In making their case for "what is evident, perceptible, apprehensible in texts," they stake a claim for describing the surface: "what insists on being looked at rather than what we must train ourselves to see through" (9). Such modes—looking at rather than through—dovetail nicely with trends in contemporary translation studies that argue for the significance of translations in their own right, not as vehicles for hidden originals that lurk somewhere in their textual underbellies, but as objects already manifest in their discursive presence.

23.         And yet, if we recall Levine's valorization of the translator above, we can also perceive something of the heroic discourse that Best and Marcus—along with the sustained readings of Jameson offered by Margaret Cohen and, especially, Mary Crane in their volume of Representations—align with "symptomatic reading." When Levine suggests that the translator produces a "sub-version" of the original, "a potential version that the original imparts through the magical act of translation" (iii), she gestures toward a certain structural potential within the original, a form of "impart-ability" that the translator, retroactively and subversively, brings into the light of day. There can be little doubt as to the Jamesonian—and, further back, Freudian—"symptomatic" resonances of such a conception of translation, steeped in the psychoanalytic terminology of latent or "dormant" content freed up or translated in a new "manifest" (sub)version. [28]  But in the translation itself, this "hidden" content is no longer concealed, since the original now speaks in a language that the original itself didn't know (or didn't know it knew). There is something of a paradox working in translation, since the purportedly "concealed" object, the original, is everywhere and always "evident, perceptible, apprehensible." To read a translated text is to engage, we might say, in symptomatic and surface reading at the same time.

Translation and Weltliteratur

24.         Translation scholars have classified the various types of transformation that occur when linguistic material moves from a source language into a target language. We have already, with Spector's help above, broached Jakobson's three-part structure, though it is beyond the scope of this essay to present an overview of the numerous competing typologies in translation studies. I would, however, like to describe one translation taxonomy that originated during the Romantic era: Goethe's tripartite elucidation of translation from the West-East(ern) Divan (1819). Goethe presents the three methods as stepping stones in the intellectual development of culture—or what he calls, "the nation"—with the caveat that each stage is necessary, and all three can exist simultaneously at any given point in history. The first type, best presented as "a plain prose translation," aims at a familiarity with "the foreign country on our own terms": "the plain prose translation surprises us with foreign splendors in the midst of our national domestic sensibility." The object in this type of translation is transparent communication. Poetic and rhetorical elements in the source text become subservient to the goal of comprehensibility: this kind of translation "completely neutralizes the formal characteristics of any sort of poetic art and reduces even the most exuberant waves of poetic enthusiasm to still water." In more contemporary translation theory, such translations resemble Peter Newmark's communicative translations, ones in which the "originality of expression [in the SL] is not an important aspect" (Palumbo 167).

25.         Goethe calls the second type (or stage) "parodistic" translation, in that "the translator endeavors to transport himself into the foreign situation but actually only appropriates the foreign idea and represents it as his own." The impulse, here, is one of domestication, for which Goethe finds tendencies in French Classicism particularly adapted (and adaptive): "In the same way that the French adapt foreign words to their pronunciation, they adapt feeling, thoughts, even objects; for every foreign fruit there must be a substitute grown in their own soil." As opposed to a strategy that attempts to splice a foreign into a native organism with the object of creating a hybrid form capable of thriving in the new environment (that is, the TL), parodistic translators follow their ethnocentric impulses and search solely for a native substitute, to resume Goethe's horticultural analogy. [29]  For British Romanticists, incidentally, Goethe offers the example of William Jones' 1790 translation of Sacontalá as emblematic of this type. [30]  Indeed, his "Preface" to Sacontalá precisely articulates the motives and methods of Western appropriation of an exoticized "East" that Gayatri Spivak has often indicted in her numerous writings on translation. At the conclusion of the preface, for example, Jones assures his readers that a "venerable" acquaintance from the colony could recite "the whole play of Sacontalá by heart; as he proved when I last conversed with him, to my entire conviction" (xi). Spivak, in her own preface to a translation of Mahasweti Devi's Imaginary Maps, rails against just such an "Indian endorsement" that might be desired by her American readership, since it assumes a non-differentiated conception of "one India" (xxvii). Jones' "Preface" —accessible online—offers students an early example of orientalist scholarship in miniature, revealing in just a few pages many characteristically orientalist approaches: from the perspective on Asian culture as ancient ("old," "venerable") and static ("stiff") while paradoxically exotic and sensual, to the inclusion of "Indian endorsement" for buttressing the credibility of the translated text.”

26.         Goethe's third type of translation might best be understood as a form of Hegelian Aufhebung (sublation, or "sublime synthesis"): "the goal of the translation is to achieve perfect identity with the original, so that the one does not exist instead of the other but in the other's place." Although this formulation flies in the face of more recent meditations on the noisiness, and therefore the productive work of the translator, Goethe's typology did place translation into a new arena: a planetary network. Goethe's articulation in the Divan of "a global view of the mutual relations" between SL and TL embedded in translation laid the groundwork for the concept he developed, and the term he coined, in 1827: Weltliteratur, "world literature." As Antoine Berman has convincingly shown:

Goethe must be credited for having considered the whole of the play of translating and being translated in the space of contemporaneity; for having measured its psychological, literary, national, and cultural manifestations. Now, translation is taken up in the vast cycle of being translated. [. . .] With the arrival of world literature, the relation [to the foreign] becomes proportionally more complex as the different cultures henceforth seek to contemplate themselves in the mirror of others and to look in it for something they cannot perceive for themselves. (64)

27.        David Damrosch, too, takes Goethe's coinage of Weltliteratur (and the "multiple frames" in which it is embedded) as presaging "all the major complexities, tensions, and opportunities that we still encounter today as we try to grasp our rapidly expanding world and its exfoliating literatures" in his introduction to What is World Literature? (2). In attempting to grasp this unwieldy beast, Damrosch suggests defining "world literature" as a subset of "literature": "all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their original language (Virgil was long read in Latin in Europe)" (4). But mostly—almost exclusively—in translation since at least the eighteenth century, as I'm sure Damrosch would agree. Damrosch escapes the conundrum of how to approach such a vast field as "world literature" by proposing that it is "not an infinite, ungraspable canon of works but rather a mode of circulation and of reading," which accounts for "why this book highlights the issues of circulation and translation" (5-6). In this sense, Damrosch aligns himself avant la lettre with "surface reading": "To understand the workings of world literature, we need more a phenomenology than an ontology of the work of art: a literary work manifests differently abroad than it does at home" (Damrosch's emphasis, 4).

28.        Valerie Henitiuk's essay for this volume, "From Pre-Modern Japan to the 21st-Century World: Comparative Translation in the Classroom," lays out a comparative strategy for glimpsing the complexities of just such a "world literature." In juxtaposing a number of English translations of the eleventh-century Japanese writer Sei Shônagon, Henitiuk illustrates the "creative inexhaustibility" of an original text in its multiple translations. By using the template Henitiuk provides for Romantic-era texts, instructors can offer their students a window into the Benjaminian Fortleben of the work in another time and another place, recognizing that Sei Shônagon can "live on" in subsequent historical contexts, whether in late-nineteenth-century prose, or as a blog, or an instance of texting ("Spring is like OMG dawn!"). Dow, in her contribution, recommends a similar approach in her discussion of multiple translations of Dangerous Connections/Liaisons by comparing the original English translation (now available online) with more recent versions. Translations, as these contributors are keenly aware, have an uncanny sense of history, a sense that at once indexes the past, while enabling the original's Fortleben.

29.         But surely we all recognize the massive transformation called for. We need to shift our present-day focus away from our microscopic "nation/period" literature courses towards an expansive field that asks us to consider nothing less than the entire history of writing over the entire planet. Daunting. Just how do we fit in? It could, it seems to me, be hypothesized that, in dispensing with "close reading" as the be-all and end-all of literary investigation, we may clear a space for translations by upgrading literary history through a sociological turn. That is, if we have neglected translation because our acquaintance with the translated text has been unforgivably mediated by the experience of the translator, then the turn away from close reading and toward sociological methodologies might be something that translations and translators can embrace. Yet, in the end, these methodologies would downplay the intimate relations that translators have with their source texts and the "interpretive acts" performed through translations, and as such, would render hollow the vast corpus of work in translation studies that has made loud and repeated pleas that we should actually read translations.

Translation and Planetary Objects

30.        Allow me to reiterate the conundrum: how do we approach the experience of an object as vast as Weltliteratur, "global literature" or "planetary literary history," or even a subset such as British Romantic literature, terrifyingly augmented by including all those translations—an object that has "grown too large"? This challenge resonates with another problem we are all-too-familiar with: Global Warming, or Planetary Climate Change. That drought just experienced, that unexpected snowstorm that suddenly arose, or that extreme weather event just witnessed, none of these demonstrates an "acquaintance" or "experience" with Global Warming. You just can't "close read" an individual instance of extreme weather, and stake a subsequent claim for the existence of the object known as "Global Warming" because it is, as Timothy Morton has recently pointed out, "massively distributed in time and space" such that "it's only possible for humans to see pieces or aspects of [it] at any one time" (207, 208). Morton has proposed the term "hyperobjects" as a descriptor for these enormous things in which humans find themselves "enmeshed," calling at the same time for "an upgraded theory of the sublime" (208). I would like to draw a speculative parallel between these two hyperobjects, Global Warming and Planetary Literary History: Morton's conception of Global Warming parallels the way Frances Ferguson has recently described Planetary Literary History: "the very perception of planetary literature as a whole that dwarfs individual capacities marks it as sublime" (657).

31.         In this introduction, we have already witnessed two approaches to the object of "world literature" that attempt to tackle its vast scale. Moretti, in following at least in part the approach of sociologists such as Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Pierre Bourdieu, commends a distanced vantage point on literary history that entails the (massive) collection of reports by others. [31]  Damrosch, for his part, limits his conception of "world literature" by curtailing the "infinite ungraspable canon of works" (which I read as "really, really big" rather than "infinite"), focusing instead on the mode of circulation, translation, and reception within a defined locale during a specific timeframe. [32]  In no way do I wish to downplay the validity or efficacy of these methodologies. Certainly, British Romanticists can see the benefits of recognizing how the distribution systems for translation(s) during the period produced effects worthy of observation. Aishah Al-Shatti's contribution to this volume, for instance, provides an exemplary method for demonstrating to students how Goethe's sentimental novel The Sorrows of Young Werther "manifested differently"—to use Damrosch's words—in Great Britain than in Germany, as the characters of Werther discovered new voices in the poetry of Romantic writers such as Charlotte Smith, Anna Seward, and Amelia Pickering.

32.         And yet, I would like to point out the allure of Benjamin's concept of translatability from his famous "Task of the Translator" in this context. Translatability, with its inclusion of the suffix –ability, reverberates with other –ibilities and –abilities that Samuel Weber has recently described as central to Walter Benjamin's "very distinctive way of conceptualizing" (7). In Benjamin'sabilities, Weber documents Benjamin's propensity to gravitate towards quasi-neologisms such as Kritizierbarkeit "critizability," Reproduziertbarkeit "reproducibility," and Mitteilbarkeit "communicability." Weber notes that Übersetzbarkeit or "translatability," like these other terms, illuminates a "structural possibility" rather than its "actual realization," much the same as Derrida's well-known differentiation between "iterability" and "iteration" in his response to John Searle in Limited Inc: "iterability, which is not iteration, can be recognized in a mark that in fact seems to have occurred only once" (Derrida 47; cited in Weber 5-6, 39, 58). [33] 

33.         Translatability marks just such a "structural possibility," not (necessarily) an actualization. Benjamin was explicit: "Translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it is essential that they be translated; it means rather that a specific significance inherent in the original manifests [expresses] itself in its translatability" (71). [34]  Particular works, then, call out for future translation; therein lies their peculiarity. Weber has described this structural possibility as follows:

For if the call for translation is in some sense rooted in the structure of the works themselves, then these can no longer be considered self-sufficient, independent, autonomous, or self-contained. The paradox resides in the fact that the work can only be itself insofar as it is transported elsewhere, altered, transformed—in short, translated (61).
Translations themselves, for Benjamin, do not share this potential: in fact, they are determined precisely by their un-translatability, in that they inevitably index their particular historical moment of transformation into another language. A translation, then, will eventually, by (Benjamin's) definition, become obsolete because it is, like a fossil or a photograph, embedded in the social and historical circumstances of its creation: "even the greatest translation is determined [bestimmt] to die in the growth of its own language, to perish as the language evolves" (73, my alteration).

34.        Inevitably translations themselves will mark their own obsolescence, since they index, as Benjamin noted, in a peculiar sense, their own failure to "live on" in a world of historical transformation, just as a fossil indexes the moment at which the genetic mutation of an organism appears to come to a halt at a particular moment in history. And it is in this sense that objects of translation may interest the literary historian. By opting out of the ebb and flow of language growth, in Benjamin's sense, the translation becomes an especially suitable index for a particular moment in history, precisely because it withdraws from history. My point here—hastily sketched out, since this introduction has itself "grown too large"—is not to claim that our study of literary history should concern only objects of translation, but that objects of translation (and translatability) offer an uncanny approach to opening up literary history. The translator, in dwelling on the past (since the original always comes from the past), can push at the constraints of habitual linguistic expression in the TL, pointing toward a future (of) language. This potential of translation articulates, of course, Venuti's aspirations for the work of "foreignizing translations"—"The foreignizing translator seeks to expand the range of translation practices, [. . .] to create new conditions of readability" (19)—aspirations which, of course, hearken back to Benjamin: "On behalf of his task, the translator breaks through the rotten limits of his own language" (80, my translation). Such a concept of translation is far removed from any methodological approach that imagines itself to be a transparent medium onto or a full accounting of its objects of scrutiny. It's a foundational premise of translation theory: translation, by definition, is a form—perhaps it is better to say "method"—fully cognizant of its own failure.

35.        Translation always transforms. And to return to the beginning: "translation changes everything." In Samuel Weber's words, "Instead of diaphanous transmission and transparency, translation brushes up against a past and in so doing opens itself to the future" (94). We hope, too, that our volume can be of service in brushing up against the literary past and opening our discipline to a future, planetary object of literary history.

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[1] The quotation is taken from "Teaching and Translation" (374) by Chris Higgins and Nicholas Burbules, a cogent meditation on the intimate connection between these two seemingly divergent activities. Higgins and Burbules note the "strong isomorphism" between scenes of pedagogy and acts of translation (378). The productive interplay of moments of "fidelity" and moments of "fresh invention" informs both teaching and translation: "In teaching and translating, we are performing and reforming tradition. We are not reproducing authentic or inauthentic copies but participating in the ongoing development of a line of thought, re-opening a vein of meaning, responding to a call that demands a response" (369, 376). Higgins and co-director Elizabeth Lowe piloted the first summer institute focused on translation to be funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities in July 2013, "The Centrality of Translation to the Humanities: New Interdisciplinary Scholarship," at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in which I was fortunate to take part. I would like to express my gratitude to directors Lowe and Higgins and the twenty-four other participants from across the United States. I completed this project while enmeshed in a community of intellectual creativity, thoughtful observation, and stimulating scholarship. BACK

[2] Venuti reflects on the implication of the title for his latest collection of essays, Translation Changes Everything, as follows: "translation carries the potential to bring about multiple transformations. Translation changes the form, meaning, and effect of the source text, even when the translator maintains a semantic correspondence that creates a reliable basis for summaries and commentaries. [. . .] [T]o suppress the translator's interpretation, and to neglect the cultural situation to which it responds must ultimately rest, then, on a fear of change" (10). BACK

[3] Samuel Weber offers an incisive reading of the shift from "mode" to "form" between Harry Zohn's 1968 translation for Shocken and the 1996 Harvard edition (59-61). BACK

[4] "The translator's intention [. . .] is always already collective, determined most decisively by linguistic usage, literary canons, translation traditions, and the institution where a translation is produced" (Venuti, "Retranslations" 28). BACK

[5] Moretti first used this formulation in "Conjectures" (54), returning to it, slightly revised—"distance is however not an obstacle, but a specific form of knowledge"—in Graphs, Maps, and Trees (1). BACK

[6] They were, of course, to which Anne Plumptre's numerous translations of August Wilhelm Kotzebue testifies. BACK

[7] For a discussion of the translation work of Austin (37-41, 47-58) and Catherine and Susanna Winkworth (36-37, 51-54), see Susanne Stark's Behind Inverted Commas. BACK

[8] Damrosch notes in What is World Literature? Moretti's own acknowledgement of the fact that "systemic approaches need to be counterbalanced with close attention to particular languages, specific texts: we need to see both the forest and the trees" (26). Scholl's contribution provides just such a counterweight. I will dwell on Damrosch and Moretti in more detail below (pars. 27 and 31). BACK

[9] The term "cultural translation" was developed in the final chapter of Homi Bhabha's The Location of Culture. For a brief overview of its precedents in Jakobson and Serres, its various (inter)disciplinary incarnations, and its controversial status within translation studies as a whole, see the final chapter of Anthony Pym's Exploring Translation Theories (143-164). BACK

[10] While it may be possible that academics willing to publicize their syllabi electronically are more likely to ignore translations in their course reading schedules, this explanation appears highly unlikely. My survey looked at only courses explicitly addressing British literature in a specific timeframe (e.g., British Romantic Literature, British Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century), and not thematic courses, such as The Eighteenth-Century Sentimental Novel. BACK

[11] In passing, I would like to point out that Frances Ferguson, in "Planetary Literary History: The Place of the Text," articulates precisely why it is that translations have had a hard time piercing the borders we have drawn around "what counts" as our literary objects of scrutiny. When Ferguson writes of "the peculiar nature of literary history as we have known it—literary history, that is, as the testimony from experience" (661), we can begin to recognize why our methodologies have largely excised translation from our literary histories. Translations have been read as precluding direct experience of the textual object that matters: the original. If, as Ferguson claims, "it is certainly a fact about our habitual ways of treating literary objects that we don't take anyone else's word for it when she pronounces a poem 'great' or 'haunting'" (661), then how much more do our "habitual ways of treating literary objects" curtail the experience of reading a translation? How can I confirm that my acquaintance with a translation is offering me anything more than a pale semblance of the "actual" or "direct" experience of reading the original for myself? How can I, or why should I, trust the translator? BACK

[12] For this parallel I am indebted to Greg Kucich, who pointed out to me that there appeared to be a globalization or internationalization of Romanticism akin to the pattern established by the expansion of the Romantic canon in response to feminist scholarship. BACK

[13] The quotation is found in Mellor's Romanticism & Gender (6), during her longer discussion of the ramifications for genre when "we give equal weight to the thought and writing of women of the period" (1). BACK

[14] Sadly, the unimaginable exists, and it does not take long to find syllabi for British Romanticism courses taught today, in 2013, restricting themselves to The Big Six, or—in a minor concession to developments in Romantic studies—The Big Six + Frankenstein or The Big Six + an Austen novel. I hear your deep, collective sigh. BACK

[15] "They all limit the selections of writings by women to less than ten percent of the volume, they devote at least two-thirds of their anthologies to the six canonical poets, and they represent William Wordsworth in large part by his youthful writings" (Mellor and Matlak 2). BACK

[16] For example, during the two decades between 1790 and 1810, a full fifteen percent of new novels published in Great Britain were translations (Raven 58; Garside 41), with translations constituting many of the most popular novels of the period up to 1830, as evidenced by the number of editions published, including novels by Campe, Ducray-Duminil, Goethe, Kotzebue, Marmontel, Raspe, and Saint-Pierre (Raven 40). BACK

[17] I am grateful to Maria Filippakopoulou at the University of Edinburgh for this last reference. BACK

[18] "Glorious Incomprehensible": The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Language and "Wonders Divine": The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Myth. BACK

[19] DeWispelare's article might usefully be paired with Karen Weisman's exploration of the elegiac form in "Mourning, Translation, Pastoral: Hyman Hurwitz and Literary Authority" in the Romanticism/Judaica collection (41-58). BACK

[20] "Byron and D'Israeli translated the illuy, the Jewish concept of genius, from D'Israeli's English to Byron's, and then back again to D'Israeli's, through their indirect correspondence" (Spector, Byron 4; see also 24-35 and 52-53). BACK

[21] For more detailed elucidations on these issues, I refer the reader to Spector's discussion in Byron and the Jews (35-53) and the excellent essay in Romanticism/Judaica by Toby Benis (31-44), which situates Hebrew Melodies within and against paradigms offered by Katie Trumpener and Celeste Langan regarding the emergent genre of the "national air" in the early nineteenth century. BACK

[22] The reggae group The Melodians set Psalm 137 to music in 1970. Boney M's cover of "The Rivers of Babylon" (1976) is widely known. BACK

[23] In another lyric of Hebrew Melodies, "Oh! Weep for those that wept by Babel's stream," Byron likewise chooses "Babel" over "Babylon." George Steiner's After Babel, one of the most sustained accounts of the significant history of translation in the twentieth century, details the legacy of this etiology, noting that "no civilization but has its version of Babel, its mythologizing of the primal scattering of languages" (57). Steiner traces a history of mysticism, Kabbalistic prophecy, and gnostic speculation centered on the pre-Babelian primal language, or Ur-Sprache—in which it was deemed that "words and objects dovetailed perfectly" (58)—showing demonstrable traces of Kabbalistic thought in the work of Walter Benjamin, Franz Kafka, and Luis Borges, as well as in the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Noam Chomsky: see Steiner's chapter "Language and Gnosis" (49-109). For an excellent discussion of intersections between the story of the Tower of Babel—"the Biblical paradigm of linguistic division that continues to structure contemporary cultural, literary and philosophical discourse on translation" (291)—and instrumental understandings of Global English as they relate to machine translation in the post-World War II era, see Rita Raley's "Machine Translation and Global English." BACK

[24] In Berrathon, for example, Macpherson writes, "My harp hangs on a blasted branch. The sound of its strings is mournful. Does the wind touch thee, O harp, or is it some passing ghost?" BACK

[25] "The wind-harp has become a persistent Romantic analogue of mind, the figurative mediator between outer motion and inner emotion. It is possible to speculate that, without this plaything of the 18th Century, the Romantic poets would have lacked a conceptual model for the way the mind and imagination responds to the wind, so that some of their most characteristic passages might have been, in a literal sense, inconceivable" (114). BACK

[26] "In [Hölderlin's translations of Sophocles] the harmony of the languages is so profound that sense is touched by language only the way an Aeolian harp is touched by the wind" (Benjamin 81). Staël's treatise is available in two other recent translations: by Doris Kadish in Translating Slavery (1994, reprinted 2009) (170-174) and by Joseph Luzzi in Romanic Review (2006). It should in no way be construed that I offer the appended translation as a corrective to these excellent ones, but rather in the spirit with which contributors of this volume (especially Dow and Henitiuk) recommend the pedagogical advantages of comparing various translations. My translation foregrounds Staël's repetitive use of the word "genre," which I leave untranslated in the text as a reminder of Staël's insistence on the way that translation generates a proliferation of "genre," in much the spirit that Mellor intended in her groundbreaking work to open up the study of writings of the Romantic era to genres closely linked to the writing of women. BACK

[27] For a longer discussion of the connection between the Aeolian harp and translation (especially of sentiment), see my "Aeolian Translation: The Aesthetics of Mediation and the Jouissance of Genre." BACK

[28] In Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, "dream-thoughts" inhabit the Unconscious, longing to break through the psyche's language barrier: "We say, then, an unconscious thought strives for translation into the preconscious in order to break through into consciousness" (596). The translation, in other words, occurs between latent and manifest dream-content. BACK

[29] Antoine Berman, to whom I shall return below, cites this particular species of ethnocentric translation recognized by Goethe as symptomatic of colonial discourse, in that "the relation to the foreign is one of refusal, or of misunderstanding, or of disfiguring or 'parodistic' annexation (the case of the Romans and of French culture until the nineteenth century)" (64). BACK

[30] "I then turned it word for word into English, and afterwards, without adding or suppressing any material sentence, disengaged from the stiffness of a foreign idiom, and prepared the faithful translation of the Indian drama, which I now present to the publick as a most pleasing and authentick picture of old Hindû manners, and one of the greatest curiosities that the literature of Asia has yet brought to light" (vi). BACK

[31] There are methodological differences between Moretti and others who use sociological approaches, such as Casanova. As Ferguson notes, Moretti's is "a schema that represents an accumulation of a number of exegetical claims," whereas Casanova is concerned with "the combination of circulation and regularity in the distribution of social capital," in which "exegesis is an afterthought or an incidental matter" (670). That is, they share in the massive collection of statements about literature, but they differ in the kinds of statements that interest them. BACK

[32] Damrosch, in criticizing Moretti's distant, almost non-localized vantage point, emphasizes that "even a global perspective remains a perspective from somewhere, and global patterns of the circulation of world literature take shape in their local manifestations. With this in mind, in the following chapters I will be concentrating particularly (though not exclusively) on world literature as it has been construed over the past century in [. . .] the United States" (27-8). BACK

[33] Searle's critique of Derrida rested on his understanding that, for Derrida, writing, as opposed to speech, necessitated the absence of the receiver: "Written communication can exist in the presence of the receiver, as for example, when I compose a shopping list for myself" (cited in Derrida 47). BACK

[34] Derrida, in the course of his delightfully elusive elucidation of "iterability," notes in passing that his (French) writing will not be easy to translate: "The translator has my sympathy, but the difficulty of translation constitutes part of the demonstrandum" (47). BACK


Published @ RC

July 2014