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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
EDITOR: Shields, Kathleen and Clarke, Michael TITLE: Translating Emotion SUBTITLE: Studies in Transformation and Renewal Between Languages SERIES: Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning PUBLISHER: Peter Lang YEAR: 2011
Cinzia Citarrella, Department of Linguistics, University of Palermo, Italy
This volume, edited by Kathleen Shields and Michael Clarke, is a collection of papers focused on different kinds of relationship between translation and emotion.
In the introduction the editors outline the structure of the book and the topics of the contributions. The papers are about translation strategies and modalities with respect to the semantic fields related to emotion; that is, the creation through translation of new texts whose purpose is primarily to excite, in the receivers, the same emotions experienced by the readers, and also to show the ways translators convey their emotions in their texts.
The first essay, by Florian Krobb, focuses on the emotions contained in Goethe’s Roman Elegies and their translation. The author explores the concept of ‘Weltliteratur’, a term coined by Goethe, and the notion of world literature as a universal dimension of literary production. The aim of Weltliteratur allows cultural European union through the acceptance of peoples’ particularities and the affirmation of shared values of humankind. Many translations into English of Goethe’s ''Roman Elegies'' subvert the concept of Weltliteratur in that English translators prioritized metrical form and thus destroyed all the ambivalences contained in the original text in order to make the text more clear. The author’s aim was the preservation of beauty and the sentiments of the ancients and the writing of new love poetry in a classical style where “physical love is one avenue towards achieving contentment and completion” (p.14). In order to convey emotions Goethe makes extensive use of metaphors; frequently these expressions were deleted or modified by translators to remove ambiguities or to adapt texts to their own culture. Early English translators intervened on morally objectionable elements, thus obtaining a non-faithful translation as final result. Modern translators have many difficulties in translating some metaphorical expressions; many options have been suggested but all of them reveal the limitations of the Weltliteratur into the world by means of translation.
Michael Clarke, in his essay ''Translation and Transformation: a Case Study from Medieval Irish and English'', highlights the importance of the translator’s creativity with particular reference to expressions of emotion in some early Irish and English texts in which classic episodes are transformed under the structures of the Irish saga. Ireland and Britain were very far from the center of the Roman Empire; so also their culture and languages were very different from classical ones. The old scholars invented the relationship between their races and the Mediterranean peoples and also proposed some linguistic parallels between English and Mediterranean languages such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. According to this, translators of ancient and classical texts used sophisticated strategies of translation like ‘analogical imitation’ (Doane, 1978, 49): some books of the Old Testament are rendered in vernacular verse in the style and language of vernacular pagan songs. These texts were not intended as faithful translations but they absorb the source religious material into vernacular poetic translation. To name but a few in the book of Exodus, for example, the journey of the Israelites becomes the journey of a human soul, or, in the Genesis, Satan’s rebellion is the tensions in the Germanic warrior society. Both religious and Greco-Roman texts were also transformed, more than translated, into the aesthetic and poetic standards of the target language according to the divergences between languages and cultural systems. Despite so many differences, Irish and Greek language and culture had a common origin in the Indo-European world: so many elements are not so different because they shared a common prehistoric culture.
The third paper, by John Kinsella, ''East Meets West: some Portuguese Translations of Eastern Poetry'', explores the ‘unfamiliarity’ between western and oriental languages and cultures. As early as the XVI century Jesuits had understood that learning oriental languages and translating holy books were fundamental for the missionaries in order to transform local belief systems: they had to incorporate the ideas of faith into the structure of local languages. This does not mean, however, to destroy the original texts, but to attempt to catch their substance.
Interest in eastern cultures and languages remained also in the XIX century, despite the European imperialistic policy. In this century Emanuel Felix, a Portuguese from Azorean, made a translation of Chinese and Japanese poems in order to reproduce a dialogue with cultures unknown to many readers. Particularly difficult to understand and translate were the language of emotions as it presents a high degree of metaphoricity: human emotions are linked to natural elements such as happiness with the magpie in China. These metaphoric expressions are very difficult to understand and explain because of the cultural differences and chronological distance. Despite these difficulties Kinsella argues that it is possible to cross cultural and temporal boundaries even if the aim of a translation is to distinguish the strangeness of the source and retrieve the sense of cultural otherness.
In the fourth paper, ''Channelling Emotions, Eliciting Responses: Translation as Performance,'' Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin focuses on how translators attempt to transmit emotions, the solutions and the degree of creativity they adopt in their translations considering the high subjectivity and effects of emotions. Being distant both in space and time from the originator, the translator has to empathize with the original writer in order to capture his or her emotions and to transfer these to the readers. In order to show translators’ different behaviour and strategies, the author goes through various kinds of translation of different texts: interlingual, intralingual or intersemiotic translations of gesture, spoken or written texts. Many cultural differences make impossible a literal translation of words or gestures as in different countries the same act may have different values. Even when there is no great cultural difference, translators have to individuate adequate strategies to explain the originator’s feelings and emotions in a different language. Ó Cuilleanáin shows all these features through the analyses of a passage from Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk, the folk music of Klezmer tradition, the discourses of Martin Luther King, the interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and the translation of Psalm 157.
Kathleen Shields’ paper, ''Auditory Images as Sites of Emotion: Translating Gerard Manley Hopkins into French,'' looks at the importance of a translator’s subjectivity in his or her decisions in order to translate figurative language, particularly in Hopkins’ work, as well as to transfer auditory images as carriers of meaning. An auditory image is an iconic mental representation connected to an auditory perception: it is the impression of sound on audience. In translation, auditory images are very often ignored as they are thought to be connected to feelings more than ideas, but feelings are important to transfer meaning. Puns may be ignored in scientific texts and substituted by denotative terms, but this strategy cannot be used in poetry: auditory images reveal irrational and emotional values that are underlying in poetry. Shields analyses some extracts from the French translation of Hopkins’ poem ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’ by Bruno Gaurier, who tries, as far as possible, to transfer into the French text the phonetic patterns of the original. For instance Gaurier translates the expression “I’m soft sift” with the French “Sable je sasse” keeping the alliteration of ‘s’ and adding a new layer of meaning: the intransitive use of the French verb sasser, normally used transitively, “captures the sense of the individual pushing through time without acting on anything” (p. 96) and replicates Hopkins’ image of the hourglass.
In the paper “A Dash of the Foreign: The Mixed Emotions of Difference” Michael Cronin looks at the history of translation in Ireland and the relationship between Irish and English texts relative to translation. For the Irish and in particular for the translator Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, translation was potentially a bearer of impurities and it was considered necessary to add a filter to domesticate the threat of otherness: the familiarity between the Irish and English languages was a great source of impurity. Linguistic proximity and indebtedness is also related to cultural and political features: Kiberd suggests it is also “agonistic in the vying for cultural and political pre-eminence in New Ireland” (p. 109). Translation was fundamental for the emergence of a distinctive literature in Irish-English (or Hiberno-English) in Modern Ireland and also for the reconfiguration of the relationship between Irish and English in Late Modern Ireland. Late-modern writers make use of inventiveness and multilingualism so that the loyalty to one language or another is bypassed. For instance Paddy Bushe, who writes both in English and in Irish, in his translation of Gabriel Rosenstock’s poems, chooses to leave the Irish-language references as foreignizing elements in the text rather than domesticating them in English (pp. 112-113). Irish-English is considered “the child of translation” (p. 121): translingualism is related to the modern tendency towards ‘de-differentiation’ in a perspective of globalization.
The last paper, “Love and Other Subtitles: Comedic and Abusive Subtitling in ‘Annie Hall’ and ‘Wayne’s World,’’ by Michelle Woods is focused on translation as a way to convey emotion and particularly love. Both films reveal the importance of intralingual translation because of gender and cultural differences. Subtitles are an important tool to “signal foreignness and intellectual hefts” (p. 127); they reveal characters’ thoughts (especially in ''Annie Hall'') and translate the Cantonese that a character speaks in ''Wayne’s World''. Despite Nornes’ notion of ‘abusive subtitling’, Woods points out that subtitles may be also fundamental to highlight differences in order to create comic effects. For instance in ''Annie Hall'', Woody Allen uses subtitles in order to show the differences between what the characters say and think and to reveal their feelings. The audience becomes a “secret entendeurs” (p. 135) and is made aware of the foreign: while people watch a seduction scene with stereotyped roles, subtitles reveal a subversive situation against preconceptions. Subtitles reveal also a different aspect of love: the dialogue between the two lovers represents love as an understanding between two different individuals, while subtitles show love as “the locus of misunderstanding” (p. 136). So subtitles become a trope of love and reveal also how all of us speak a foreign language when we fall in love.
The volume contains several discussions focused on translation and emotions: the papers contained in the volume highlight different aspects of the relation between translation and emotions and in particular the importance of the role of translators. The relation between the two features is not simple at all because of the high degree of subjectivity of emotions and the challenge of faithful translation. Different cultures, and even different individuals, conceptualize emotions in very different ways: even if emotions are universal, their conceptualization and linguistic expressions are divergent. According to the subjectivity of ideas related to emotions, the language of emotion is metaphorical everywhere and in every time; figurative language, though used to clarify transforming abstract concepts into concrete concepts so that they are more understandable, creates ambiguities. In translation figurative language is often ignored as a rhetorical feature but it is fundamental to transfer meanings.
Because of this, translating emotions is not an easy challenge and frequently an objective and faithful translation is impossible, but what is necessary is a great degree of the translator’s creativity: translation is not as a mechanical activity but a creative work. In this volume the importance of the translator’s creativity is highlighted by Michael Clarke, referring specifically to expressions of emotion in some early Irish and English texts. Sometimes a target text is not a faithful translation but it is fundamental to convey meanings and cultural elements. If languages and cultural systems are highly divergent, as in for example western and non-western cultures, metaphorical expressions are even more difficult to understand and translate. In each situation translators have to individuate adequate strategies to convey the message of the source text and the system of beliefs, but they have also to empathize with the original writer in order to explain his or her feelings and emotions.
The editors have chosen papers that may be a starting point both for translators and theorists of translation referring to translating emotions. It is greatly to their credit that they offer good examples to show the difficulties and the importance of the transfer of meaning related to emotions from source to target text. Reflection is provided with interesting ideas and experiences.
These studies also offer new input for future studies on the translation of metaphorical language, not only that related to emotion, and for studies on strategies that translators may use in their works. The topics developed in ''Translating Emotion'' are also quite interesting from the perspective of teaching translation strategies.
To conclude, this edited volume is a fine reader for those who are interested in translating figurative language. The conclusions of the various analyses reveal that it is possible to mediate between fidelity and creativity in translation by keeping the real meaning of the original text and without violating the author’s intents.
Doane, A.N. (ed.), (1978) Genesis A, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Cinzia Citarrella, Ph.D. in Linguistics, is currently a lecturer of
Translation Studies at the University of Palermo, Facoltà di Lettere e
Filosofia, and is a certified Italian as a Second Language teacher. Her
main academic interests are Translation Studies, Cognitive Linguistics and
Metaphor, and Language Teaching.