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What Is Translation? : Centrifugal Theories, Critical


Interventions Translation Studies ; 4
Robinson, Douglas.
Kent State University Press
087338573X
9780873385732
9780585227689
English
Translating and interpreting.
1997
P306.R64 1997eb
418/.02
Translating and interpreting.

cover

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Page i

What is Translation?

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TRANSLATION STUDIES
ALBRECHT NEUBERT, GREGORY M. SHREVE, AND KLAUS GOMMLICH, SERIES EDITORS. GERT
JGER, EDITOR EMERITUS
1 Translation as Text
Albrecht Neubert and Gregory M. Shreve
2 Translating Slavery: Gender and Race in French Women's Writing, 17831823
Edited by Doris Y. Kadish and Franoise Massardier-Kenney
3 Pathways to Translation: Pedagogy and Process
Donald C. Kiraly
4 What Is Translation? Centrifugal Theories, Critical Interventions
Douglas Robinson
Translation Studies is the successor of the German language series bersetzungswissenschaftliche Beitrge,
published since 1978 in Leipzig, Germany.

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What Is Translation?
Centrifugal Theories, Critical Interventions
Douglas Robinson
The Kent State University Press
Kent, Ohio, and London, England

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1997 by The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio 44242 All rights reserved Library of Congress Catalog
Card Number 97-11216 ISBN 0-87338-573-X Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Robinson, Douglas.
What is translation? : centrifugal theories, critical interventions / Douglas
Robinson.
p. cm. (Translation studies ; 4)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-87338-573-X (cloth : alk. paper)
1. Translating and interpreting. I. Title. II. Series.
P306.R64 1997
97-11216
418.02dc21
CIP
British Library Cataloging-in-Publication data are available.

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Page v
CONTENTS
Editors' Foreword
Albrecht Neubert and Gregory M. Shreve

vii

Foreword
Edwin Gentzler

ix

Preface

xix

Part 1: Remapping Rhetoric and Grammar

1. The Renaissance: Frederick M. Rener, Interpretatio

2. The Middle Ages: Rita Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and


Translation in the Middle Ages

11

3. The Colonial Impulse: Eric Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism 18


Part 2: Inside Systems

23

4. Many Systems: Andr Lefevere,Translation, Rewriting, and the


Manipulation of Literary Fame

25

5. Personalizing Process: Anthony Pym,Epistemological Problems


in Translation and Its Teaching

43

6. Pain and Playfulness: Suzanne Jill Levine,The Subversive Scribe 56


7. The Translator-Function: Myriam Daz-Diocaretz, Translating
Poetic Discourse

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Page vi
Part 3: Embracing the Foreign

79

8. Foreignizing Experience: Antoine Berman,The Experience of the


Foreign
81
9. Foreignizing Fluency: Lawrence Venuti,The Translator's
Invisibility

97

10. Foreignism and the Phantom Limb

113

11. (Dis)Abusing Translation: Philip E. Lewis,"The Measure of


Translation Effects"

132

Conclusion: Neural Networks, Synchronicity, and Freedom

179

Notes

193

References

203

Index

211

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EDITORS' FOREWORD
Albrecht Neubert & Gregory M. Shreve
Douglas Robinson's What Is Translation? Centrifugal Theories, Critical Interventions is the fourth volume of
the Translation Studies monograph series. The basic editorial strategy of the series is to present a broad
spectrum of thinking on translation and to challenge our conceptions of what translation is and how we should
think about it. We have included What Is Translation? in our series to quite deliberately push the envelope of
translation studies as far as we can. We want the series to open up our readers' minds to the different forms of
scholarship that can emerge in translation studies.
Douglas Robinson is a dynamic figure in a rapidly emerging "American" school of humanist/literary translation
theory. He is a provocative writer, with a style that combines erudite historical and literary scholarship with
highly personal, often anecdotal, argumentation. As Edwin Gentzler points out in his excellent introduction,
Robinson is a unique and valuable voice in modern translation theory, difficult to categorize, impossible to
ignore.
The purpose of our series is to present as many voices as possible, including those with whom we might
disagree on important issues. We, for instance, continue to challenge Robinson's apparently deep-seated
conviction that outside of the pantheon he cites in his preface and throughout the volume (Venuti, Levine, and
Lefevere, among others), very little of value has been done to "open up" translation theory beyond the confines
of its linguistic origins. There is still a tendency to center his conceptions of "translation theory" on
developments within a rather restricted circle of activity in literary translation and writing about literary
translation. Everything outside of this circle is not actually dismissed, but mostly ignored, as prescriptive and
slavishly linguistic. This constriction of the range of translation theory is a flaw in his work, even

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though, in this volume by opening up to the polysystems theorists and the skopos school, Robinson is inviting in
more of the wide world of modern translation theory to inform his own perspectives. Nevertheless, the purpose
of this foreword is not to grapple with Douglas Robinson over issues with which we disagree. The purpose is,
instead, to present to you, the reader, an opportunity to hear a unique voice in translation studies, a voice that
boldly explores the cultural significance and personal meaning of the act of translation itself.

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FOREWORD
Edwin Gentzler
For a practicing translator and/or translation student, the veritable explosion of new theories regarding
translation must appear bewildering. There are new university programs being established in the United Statesat
the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, to name just onein addition to fine existing programs at Columbia,
Iowa, Kent State, Arkansas, Pennsylvania State, and the State University of New York, Binghamton.
Internationally, the field has exploded with programs in Leuven (Belgium), Tel Aviv (Israel), Warwick (United
Kingdom) Turku (Finland), Salamanca (Spain), Gtingen, Leipzig (Germany), and Vienna (Austria) leading the
way. Increasingly important research is being conducted in "postcolonial" countries, including Minas Gerais
(Brazil), Montral (Qubec), Santiago (Chile), and Beijing (China), that merits serious consideration by all
scholars. New journals are springing up, such as Target (Belgium and Tel Aviv) and The Translator (United
Kingdom); major publishers and university presses are starting new book series, including Routledge (United
Kingdom and United States), Rodopi (Holland), Gttingen (Germany), and The Kent State University Press.
Important international conferences are being established, such as the joint Maastricht (Holland)-Ldz (Poland)
colloquium on "Translation and Meaning," now held every five years, or the "Scandinavian Symposium on
Translation Theory," now having met four times, with their massive proceedings. With all this material on
translation being generated, it may seem at the moment impossible for any one person to keep up.
In What Is Translation? Centrifugal Theories, Critical Interventions, Douglas Robinson provides both a useful
survey of recent developments and insight into some of the problems facing the field of contemporary
humanistic/literary translation studies. With intelligent, critical readings, he covers the most influential books to
appear in the field in the last decade.

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In part one, titled ''Remapping Rhetoric and Grammar,'' Robinson discusses Frederick Rener's Interpretatio
(1989), Eric Cheyfitz's Poetics of Imperialism (1990), and Rita Copeland's Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and
Translation in the Middle Ages (1992), the selection of which may seem slightly surprising in a book on
contemporary translation, considering their concern with rhetoric, grammar, and hermeneutics. In this historical
section, however, Robinson traces common assumptions, held by theorists from Rome through the nineteenth
century, about how language functioned. Although most contemporary scholars discredit the importance of such
ideas, Robinson argues that they remain in the "collective intellectual operating system," albeit unconsciously,
and therefore need inclusion in the new translation studies models.
In part two, "Inside Systems," Robinson confronts perhaps the most substantial theoretical development in the
field, that of polysystem theory, a model for studying the position of translated texts within cultural systems
posited by Israeli scholars Itamar Even-Zohar and Gideon Toury. The theory has been embraced by a whole
generation of Dutch and Belgian scholars in addition to postcolonial studies students looking at the role of
translation in "emerging" cultures. The texts Robinson covers in this section include Andr Lefevere's
Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992), Anthony Pym's Epistemological
Problems in Translation and Its Teaching (1992), Suzanne Jill Levine's Subversive Scribe (1991), and Myriam
Daz-Diocaretz's Translating Poetic Discourse (1985). Despite advances, however, systems theory has certain
flaws, such as its advocates making certain claims of their "objectivity" when analyzing translated texts, which
Robinson is quick to point out. In part three, "Embracing the Foreign," Robinson focuses more in depth on one
form of the new translation studies, one that embraces what might be called "strategies of resistance," that is,
strategies frequently employed by marginalized groups in any given culture. Texts chosen for inclusion in this
section are Antoine Berman's L'preuve de l'tranger (1984) [translated as The Experience of the Foreign
(1992)], Lawrence Venuti's Translator's Invisibility (1994), and Philip Lewis's article "The Measure of
Translation Effects" (1985). Robinson intervenes at this point, providing both a critical reading and constructing
his own metaphorical narrative, one that provides an opening for highly original insights. In his conclusion,
"Neural Networks, Synchronicity, and Freedom," Robinson surprises his reader with a turn to developments in
machine translation, making a startling suggestion connecting postcolonial theories of translation to reasons why
Robinson feels that a quality machine translator will never be built.
The texts Robinson selects for discussion are indeed "new" in every sense of the word. A paradigm is shifting;
two thousand years of transla-

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tion studies based upon the faithful versus the free axis is being unseated, and the field will never go back. The
contemporary explosion in literary theory, with all the postmodernisms, poststructuralism, postcolonialisms, has
also led to a boom in translation theories. Translation, perhaps because it has always been concerned with the
recovery and representation of meaning (or the impossibility thereof), has much to contribute to ongoing
discussions of literary and cultural studies. Despite the newness and theoretical difficulty of much of the
material he covers, Robinson presents his arguments in a user-friendly, thoroughly accessible style. As a result,
cultural studies students, practicing translators, professional literary scholars, and translation theorists will find
this book highly informative and provocative.
Robinson's thinking about translation has always been extraordinarily original. In 1991 his book The
Translator's Turn hit the field like a shot from a loose cannon. Its hermeneutic approach reminded some scholars
of George Steiner's After Babel (1975), from under whose shadow "the new translation studies" had been trying
to escape for years. Robinson's subjective prose style, range of ideas, tremendous erudition, and proposed
pragmatics did not seem to fit in any particular school of thoughtnot a traditional Anglo-American literary
translator approach, nor a modern linguistic approach, nor any of the trendy literary critical approaches, and
certainly not a Low Countries' "Manipulation School" approach. Adjectives attempting to describe the book
ranged from ''idiosyncratic" to "mystical,'' but no one knew how to categorize, control, or make use of the ideas
in the book.
In What Is Translation? Douglas Robinson continues to defy traditional conceptual thinking about translation. I
think he likes it that way. He takes aim at some of the most prominent theorists, indeed, some of the people I
most admire, including the North American scholar Lawrence Venuti and the late Belgian theorist Andr
Lefevere. Robinson reads such theorists symptomatically for the "schools" they represent, pointing out his
disagreements with some of their underlying assumptions. For example, when Robinson reads Lefevere's work,
he raises questions regarding the emphasis upon codification of poetic norms and the theorization of literary
systems. Whenever Lefevere writes, "Once a poetics has been codified" or "codification takes place at a certain
time," Robinson asks questions such as what happens to translation practice in the process of codification? Does
it get lost in some middle ground between system and nonsystem? Does not practice always already precede
theory? And if so, does "presystem" belong to "system"? Even those theorists Robinson most admires, such as
the Australian theorist Anthony Pym or the Chilean feminist theorist Myriam Daz-Diocaretz, do not escape his
critical aim.

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Robinson has an uncanny ability to get right to the root of certain problems and lay them out on the table. One
of the critiques Robinson raises concerns a contradiction in the very way translation studies came into being. On
the one hand, recent scholars argue that the field has been marginalized by literary and linguistic studies in
general, and that it should be considered a legitimate academic discipline with all the methodological rigor of
any other academic field. One is reminded of the difficulty of the emergence of many new academic fields in the
humanities. Until quasi-scientific methods of study are established, it is very difficult to convince deans,
provosts, and chancellors to support new disciplines, especially with the new departments they often require.
The proponents of successful new translation studies programs in Europe and in the United States have been
forced to argue the systematic rigor and research possibilities of the discipline. On the other hand, the new
translation studies is also defined by rethinking translation in a counterhegemonic fashion. Thus the new
scholars almost by definition oppose traditional methodologies for studying translated texts. Scholars entering
the field seem actively involved in attacking those very institutionsthe publishing firms, the literature programs,
and the linguistics departments that support translationfrom which they derive their livelihood. Robinson is
clearly aware of the catch-22 that envelops his project as well; wishing to be included in the progressive wing of
the field, he aims his heaviest artillery at the very figures who have been instrumental in putting translation
studies on the map.
Clearly Robinson's work does not fit easily into any pre-established category. But if we were to attempt to place
his work along an axis, with "systematic" (read structuralist) at one end and "personal" (read poststructuralist)
on the other, Robinson's work would fall somewhere in between, yet more closely allied to what he terms the
personal. Not surprisingly, those whom he most criticizes (Lefevere, Venuti) he locates in the systems theory
camp, and those he seems to most admire (Daz-Diocaretz, Pym) fall into the personal camp. Indeed, Robinson
often adopts an anecdotal, subjective rhetorical style in his writing, the self-consciousness of which suggests
poststructuralist sympathies.
Robinson's most significant contribution to the field is his courageous ability to ask the tough questions about
everyone's work. For example, when discussing Antoine Berman's L'preuve de l'tranger: Culture et
traduction dans l'A1lemagne romantique [translated The Experience of the Foreign: Culture and Translation in
Romantic Germany (1992) ], a text that has influenced a whole generation of North American scholars
(including Philip Lewis and Lawrence Venuti), Robinson is not afraid to ask about the connection of strategies
advocating "foreignizing" methodologies to rising feel-

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ings of nationalism. For many who admire Berman's work, such questions may seem unfair, and the charges of
"elitism" and "nationalism" may seem unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, the connections among radical translation
practices, modernism, and nationalist movements, although troubling for some of the more ''progressive"
scholars, need serious consideration. Without agreeing with all of Robinson's conclusions regarding the political
implications of those who advocate foreignizing strategies, I welcome the debate that will no doubt ensue.
Many of the questions Robinson raises will have implications for the future development of the field of
translation studies as well as repercussions beyond. For example, how anyone can ever access "the other" is an
epistemological question that troubles scholars in many fields, including the new literary translation studies.
Despite disclaimers, Eric Cheyfitz's book The Poetics of Imperialism (1992), for example, tries to understand the
other (this time, the perspective of certain Native Americans). Cheyfitz attacks traditional methods of
translation, viewing translation as another kind of colonizing tool in the imperialist project of the European
colonizers. Cheyfitz's work has had enormous influence on new historians working in translation and on
postcolonial translation theorists. The contradiction that troubles Robinson is that while attacking traditional
methods of translation, Cheyfitz actually depends upon those very methods, for Cheyfitz does not speak any
Native American language. Indeed, he offers re-versions of the "colonized" versions without access to the
source text. While trying to give voice to that which has been silenced or repressed, Cheyfitz uses an interpretive
hermeneutic very similar to the traditional translation hermeneutic he criticizes. Robinson asks, How does one
understand the position of the other without speaking the other's language? What kind of"authority" does
Cheyfitz, or any other Western postcolonial scholar, invoke in such instances? How should bilingual translators,
who have spent much of their careers living in ''other" language and cultural systems, react to some of the
prescriptions of the new historians?
Trying to categorize Robinson's position in this veritable explosion of theories is difficult, given the range of his
erudition. Yet the questions mentioned above implicitly reveal one location from which his position derives: that
of the practicing translator. Although Robinson is clearly well read in theory, and often makes suggestions and
contributions of his own, What Is Translation? is primarily written from the perspective of the practicing
translatorone well versed in both literary and technical translation. Some of the most delightful passages begin
with Robinson's checking of theoretical claims against "the time I was translating a chainsaw operation manual
into Finnish" or "when I was working on drafts of Finnish poems." He also talks about his moodsfor example,
his "arrogant

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moods," when he would rather be flashy while translatingthat are yet to appear as factors in any translation
theory I have seen, but which no doubt all practicing translators have experienced.
According to the most established scholars in the field, research in "the new translation studies" purportedly is
proceeding along three lines of investigation: ( 1 ) theory, (2) history (often called descriptive studies), and (3)
practice. Ideally, scholars in all three branches should exchange ideas and mutually help one another as the field
as a whole develops. When translation studies was born as a discipline, which most agree was over twenty years
ago at a 1976 colloquium at Leuven, Belgium, scholars suggested that before anyone begin making claims about
theory, more "empirical data" documenting what practicing translators actually do in specific situations needed
to be collected. Although descriptive studies has made progress, only the tip of the iceberg has yet been
revealed. At the same time, theories have proliferated, often with little connection to or regard for empirical
research. The most disturbing lack of mutual interaction has been between scholars in the theory and practice
branches. Practicing translators have tended to reject developments in theory as highly prescriptive, that is,
academics telling translators how they should translate. Scholars in the theory branch have been equally
indifferent to contributions of practicing translators, finding most essays highly subjective, that is, translators
making claims to justify the particular and often idiosyncratic strategies employed by the translators themselves.
One of the significant contributions of What Is Translation? is that Robinson opens a dialogue between the
practicing translators and the theoreticians. Part 3, "Embracing the Foreign," could be described as an extended
response to claims posited by three leading translation theorists: Antoine Berman, Lawrence Venuti, and Philip
Lewis. For example, in his prodigious Translator's Invisibility (1994), Venuti traces the history of literary
translation during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Anglo-American cultures, arguing convincingly that
the dominant trend has been for translators to use methods that conform to the dominant poetics of the receiving
culture. Against this, however, he juxtaposes another translation history he calls "foreignizing translation," one in
which translators refuse to conform to the dominant poetics by developing affiliations with strategies employed
within marginalized literary movements. Borrowing the term ''abusive fidelity'' from Philip Lewis's article "Vers
la traduction abusive" (1980) [translated "The Measure of Translation Effects" (1985)], Venuti argues
convincingly for the importance of this other history for signaling difference, for revising the canon, and for
importing new literary devices and techniques. In short, in terms of the politics of translation, Venuti is
convincing in suggesting that traditional translation

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in Anglo-American cultures has tended toward the conservative, conforming to both the dominant poetics and
political norms, and that foreignizing translation has tended toward the progressive, opening spaces for new
ideas, concepts of alterity, and literary innovation.
Although Robinson seems to admire Venuti's work, especially for the liberating effect on constraints imposed
upon translators (such as its quasi-slavish demand of fidelity to the source-language text), he questions the
progressive nature of the latter part of Venuti's theory. Showing that Venuti's theory is not that "new," indeed,
pointing out that foreignizing strategies date back as far as the development of Roman culture, Robinson takes a
hard look at assumptions underlying some of the new translation studies theories, including the assumption that
traditional, transparent translation is conservative and weak, and that the new, "abusive fidelity" translation is
innovative and strong. Robinson articulates his reactions to Venuti's theory in the form of a series of questions:
Who is abused in such a translation situation? The source-language author, the source-language text, or the
source-language culture? Perhaps, poses Robinson, it is actually the target-language reader, text, and culture
being abused. Indeed, Robinson often reverses Venuti's terms, suggesting that conservative translators who
uncritically adopt norms underlying "traditional'' translation may be equally, if not more, ''abusive" than
translators who use strategies endorsed by the new translation studies theorists. Again, Robinson's questioning
destabilizes many translation studies scholars' definitions of literary and cultural norms. If certain structures of
physical and emotional abuse (think in terms of a feminist critique of the family or workplace) are refigured in
theory to be normative or ordinary, then the abusive behaviors become precisely those of
subservience/faithfulness that do not deviate from the (hidden) abusive norm. Opening up room to think about
what often takes place out of sight, both socially and linguistically, Robinson lays bare a system of theory that
uncannily reinforces a kind of patriarchal system whose victims have remained silenced. In Robinson's words,
this section of the book explores the "ordinariness of abuse, the usualness of abuse," and its repercussions.
Whether right or wrong, Robinson's work pushes both the theorists' and the practitioners' thinking on translation.
During the course of his meditation on abuse and translation, Robinson asks probing questions about violence in
language and the social and psychological effects such strategies have on the reader (victim?) and translator
(perpetrator?). Most important, his thinking is not mere abstract philosophical musing; as mentioned above, he
always checks his findings against his experience as a practicing translator. While engaging Berman, Lewis, and
Venuti in dialogue in part 3, for example, Robinson continually back-translates his

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more abstract ideas and compares them with his own translation of Huojuva talo ("Tottering House"), a stage
adaptation by Maaria Koskiluoma based on Maria Jotuni's 1936 novel. The play, about a man who batters his
wife and children, was successfully staged at the Southern Theatre in Minneapolis in March and April of 1994,
and both the translation and the production received fine reviews. Ironically, Robinson employed several
strategies in his translation that are endorsed by those very scholars he is critiquing in this section. For example,
Robinson adopts such "foreignizing" strategies as maintaining foreign word order and translating idioms in a
word-for-word fashion rather than searching for the English equivalent. Although Robinson was nervous about
whether his translation would be acceptable, the actors loved it. The stilted and disturbing foreignized version
actually worked. From the first reading, everyonedirectors, actors, and writersknew they had a play on their
hands.
Robinson does not refer to his translation of "Tottering House, "however, in order to congratulate his abilities or
to illustrate someone else's theory. Instead, in what I find the most complex and strongest section of his book,
Robinson refers to this translation in order to perform a kind of double writing, both questioning the theories
upon which the new translation studies is based and drawing analogies to a culture of abuse present in both
Finnish culture at the turn of the century and North American culture today. As Robinson spins his argument, he
pulls threads from translation theory, from translation practice, and from a form of close reading that perhaps
only a translator could realize. Here he creates a kind of allegory in which the translator becomes one (or
several) of the abusive characters in the play. At first sight, it may appear that Robinson is setting up a rhetorical
device in order to abuse Venuti and Lewis, but the matter is not that simple. Robinson also implicates himself
(and all translators) in his construction. As the web grows larger and Robinson makes connections to the sourcetext culture, the source-text author, the target-text reader, and, interestingly, the source-text reader (seldom
factored into translation theory), we find ourselves in the middle of a compelling narrative sequence, not itself
an argument, but one with important theoretical implications. As Robinson's fiction plays itself out, multiple
twists and surprises arise that will challenge all readers' thinking, regardless of their familiarity with the field.
Whether Robinson's What Is Translation? will be understood as theory, criticism, or creative writing, I am
unsure, but that is clearly also part of his project. In the space between theory and practice, between criticism
and creative writing, Robinson has found room to raise questions and challenge our thinking. Some may argue
that this book is a mere metaphorical construct divorced from concrete concerns in the field. I find

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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PREFACE
This book was born out of excitement, a sense that some new and enormously productive things were happening
in translation studies in the late eighties and (especially) early nineties, things that were radically centrifugal to
the study of translation as it has long been conceived. To be centrifugal is of course to flee the center, to spin off
wildly from a nice, tidy orbit in tangential directionsand that is what I felt these new theoretical interventions
were doing. The postcolonial studies of translation published by Vicente Rafael, Eric Cheyfitz, and Tejaswini
Niranjana from 1988 to 1992; the feminist studies published by Carol Maier, Myriam Daz-Diocaretz, Lori
Chamberlain, Susanne Lotbinire-Harwood, Barbara Godard, Nicole Brossard, Suzanne Jill Levine, Sherry
Simon, and others from the early eighties on; Lawrence Venuti's insistence on tying ancient literalisms or
romantic foreignisms not to a cultural elite but to left-leaning dissident practices, beginning with his pathbreaking essay "The Translator's Invisibility" in 1986; the quirky and always brilliant ruminations of Anthony
Pym; the list goes on and on. In 198788, when I was writing The Translator's Turn (Robinson 1991c), I felt as if
I were the only one who was disenchanted and even disgruntled with what had been done in the field to date,
who felt boxed in by unspoken assumptions about the proper limits to theoretical discourse on translation and
wanted to bust out. Ironically, even as I worked on that book, feeling cut off, a groundswell of the new work was
already beginning to appearand I missed it, and didn't go back and read it until my own book was published in
late 1990. By the next year, 1991, the groundswell had turned into a flood. This book is about that flood.
Celebratory as I imagine the book to be, however, it is also, indeed primarily, critical. The new work on
translation was pioneering, which was cause for enthusiasm; but like all pioneering work it was also fraught

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with complex methodological and ideological problems. Eric Cheyfitz's book The Poetics of Imperialism (1991)
burst through so many closed doors that my head spun as I read it, but it also remained trapped in disturbing
ways in its own negative critiques. If Cheyfitz is right about the colonizing impact on Native Americans not only
of translation but of translation theory as well, how can his book hope to be anything but more of the same?
Lawrence Venuti's work opened radical new perspectives on the foreignism urged on all translators by the
German romantics; but didn't he too remain trapped in the same cultural elitism that he deconstructs in them?
And what alternatives to elitism are there in a foreignizing project? Is there some way of getting past the
domesticating/foreignizing dualism as Venuti and his romantic and postromantic precursors envision it, while
still retaining the full force of his assault on the assimilationist cult of fluency?
And so on. Each of the new books seemed full of new possibilitiesand bound up with new (and some old)
problems. Each seemed more like an interim report back from an ongoing project than like a summa
translatologica; more like a transitional statement that was struggling valiantly with the new as it remained
partly caught inextricably in the old. And as I read these books I wanted above all to jump into the trenches with
each author, to help push the theoretical envelope just a bit fartherto critique them, certainly, to analyze their
weaknesses, to deconstruct them, but entirely in the service of advancing the project at hand.
Hence the largely essayistic nature of this book. Rather than launching a systematic general theory of translation
of my own (which in any case I had done in The Translator's Turn) and taking these new books to task for
falling short of some imagined universal ideal, I determined to delve deeply into each project, each theoretical
intervention, one at a timelaunching, in fact, my own critical interventions into theirs. This I wanted to do as
much in the spirit of each project itself as I possibly could, without imposing my own notion of the "right" way
to theorize translation, but at the same time without simply celebrating or summarizing this work. One of the
most useful books to appear in the field in recent years has been Edwin Gentzler's Contemporary Translation
Theories (1993), which takes a far broader view than I do here, examining whole schools of thought about
translation in the historical context of the past three or four decades; invaluable as that book is, however, I
envisioned a different sort of project. I wanted to move past where these theories have been and what they are
now to where and what they might be in the near future. It therefore seemed essential to stay in process with the
books I was reading, to inhabit methodologically the same difficult transitional space with

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them, to slog ahead in that uncomfortable position between the mud and the roots and the boulders of the past
that would hold them back and the imagined freedom of movement that they project into the future, and try to
take a few encumbered steps myself in their tracks. This meant reading the books critically and disruptively,
trying wherever possible to smash unwieldy syntheses, poke mercilessly at problematic idealizations, turn the
writers' critiques back against them, and generally wreak havoc in what are by and large unsettled and unsettling
texts to begin with. This approach may occasionally make my readings seem like a slash-and-burn crusade; I
hope, however, that my more negative critiques and deconstructions will be taken in the spirit in which I wrote
them, as a participation in the individual projects, not as attempts to dismiss or destroy them.
The essayistic nature of the book also means that you can start reading just about anywhere and proceed from
there at will, following your interests. The book might be read as a series of introductions to individual authors
and texts, or to groups of texts and issues; and there is no reason why those introductions need to be read in
precisely the order I've given them here. If I were picking this book up in the bookstore or library, for example, I
would probably turn first to the two last essays, on phantom limbs and abuse; putting them last reflects my
assumption that the book more or less culminates in these two essays, a positive and a negative take on the
present and future of translation. I would then go back and finish the foreignism section, then read the chapters
on Pym, Cheyfitz, and Daz-Diocaretz. And I freely encourage you to chart your own path through the book as
well.
The book's loose essayistic structure does not mean that it is unstructured, however. The three parts into which I
have divided the chapters reflect my sense of the larger groups of issues that individual books deal withspecially,
perhaps, the first and third parts, which are more tightly and coherently organized than the second. In fact, only
the third part deals with anything that might be considered a coherent "school" or "camp" in the field of
translation studies; the authors discussed in parts one and two will most likely be surprised at whom they've been
grouped with, since the organizational principles I've used there reflect topics (rhetoric and grammar in part one)
and methodologies (systemic and anecdotal in part two) that are not commonly used to group translation
theories. To me they seem not only crucial but much more telling than the usual groupings: Cheyfitz, for
example, usually thought of as a postcolonial theorist (which he undoubtedly is), is much closer in his
conception of the topics and issues at hand to Rener and Copeland than he is to, say, Rafael or Niranjana, other
postcolonial theorists of translation.

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Part one, "Remapping Rhetoric and Grammar," showcases three very different takes on the importance of that
ancient division for the study of translation. It is astonishing to me now that it should have come as such a
surprise that the tensions between rhetorical and grammatical approaches to language were historically formative
for the study of translation, and they remain extremely useful today as well. But until the appearance of
Frederick Rener's Interpretatio in 1989, Eric Cheyfitz's The Poetics of Imperialism in 1990, and Rita Copeland's
Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages in 1992, it had never occurred to me. This recovery
of rhetoric and grammar in a field long dominated by segmentation theories (whether to translate sense-forsense or word-for-word) is so critical that its importance cannot be overstated. Even while disagreeing with and
largely disapproving of Rener's approach, for example, as I read him I kept feeling the salutary force of his
emphasis on grammar and rhetorichence his inclusion here.
Part two, then, delves into an important methodological tension I continue to feel in these centrifugal theories
between systemic and anecdotal approaches, between scientific and personal approachesbetween on the one hand
large-scale abstractions, which have the virtue of covering more ground both historically and geographically, of
explaining local details by reference to systemic descriptions; and on the other of full-bodied local explorations,
which have the virtue of filling in the experiential details that the more global approaches ignore. Both
approaches are concerned with what happens in translationspecifically, in the work I'm interested in, what
happens socially in translationbut they conceive the nature of social "happening" in very different ways. I will be
taking Andr Lefevere's book Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992a) as an
example of the view from above, the attempt to rise to a high enough level of abstraction that specific
translational details (of which his book is appealingly full) make an immediate global sense. And I will be taking
three books, Anthony Pym's Epistemological Problems in Translation and Its Teaching (1992), Suzanne Jill
Levine's The Subversive Scribe (1991) and Myriam Daz-Diocaretz's Translating Poetic Discourse (1985) as
examples of the view from within: the individual theorist's attempt to explore his or her own actual experiences
of translating (and of reading translation theory) fully enough to generate an expanding ripple of turbulence in
the surrounding systems, so that his or her discussions of other people's systemic theories of translation are
always tested back against what it feels like to translate, to be a translator.
Part three is my second sustained attempt to come to terms with foreignismmy first being the long third chapter
of Translation and Taboo. My inability to let go of this particular approach to translation is probably

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due to Larry Venuti, since his tenacious advocacy of foreignizing or "visible" or nonfluent translation quickly
became (and has remained) for me a kind of burr under my saddle, at once fascinating and irritatingsomething
that has both attracted and dismayed me, so that I haven't been able to leave it alone. Larry is one of the most
intelligent and sophisticated new centrifugal thinkers about translation, well read in critical theory, a meticulous
researcher of a given historical or cultural scene, and willing to take great argumentative risks to make a bold
and transformative pointand yet he begs so many interesting questions that I find it difficult to keep up with all
that he isn't saying. And I'm still not satisfied: every time I read through the pieces I've written about his work
and the work of people he admires (Schleiermacher, Benjamin, Berman, Lewis) I see more that needs to be
explored, worked out, developed.
The two discussions in the book that do not directly address specific theoretical works published on translation
from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties are chapter 10 on phantom limbs and the conclusion on neural nets.
The main impetus behind chapter 10 was in fact a book that had nothing to do with translation, Oliver Sacks's
1985 The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, a wonderful tour de force of neurological grotesqueries that
immediately struck me as an infinitely productive set of heuristics for new thinking about translation. I offer it
here as a tentative solution, or pathway toward a solution, to the narrow dualizing of the foreignizers: foreign or
domestic, visible or invisible, strongly abusive or weakly assimilative. The conclusion was similarly born out of
my reading in a book unrelated to translation, William Allman's Apprentices of Wonder (1989), about neural
network technology, which got me to thinking in new ways about machine translation and its implications not
only for the study of translation, but for the future of the human race as well.
A word about inclusions and exclusions. I have attempted to include for discussion works published between
1985 and 1995 that are representative of what I take to be new and centrifugal approaches to translationbut that
is a complexly and problematically tendentious category that by necessity excludes works published in the same
period that seem to this writer (a) more "centripetal," more typical of traditional approaches to translation, or (b)
less representative of the exciting new approaches than the ones I have chosen. There is an inevitable
subjectivity about all such choices, which I deplore as much as any reader who protests the exclusion of theorists
X, Y, or Z; but I do not see any principled escape from it. I am told by linguistic scholars of translation that the
new work in that branch of the field is excitingly innovative and moves decisively past the old paradigms; from
my admittedly biased point of view, however, this new linguistic work seems very much in the same theoretical
mold as, say,

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Catford and early Nida, and thus more typical of traditional approaches. Similarly, I have chosen to highlight the
feminist work of Suzanne Jill Levine and Myriam Daz-Diocaretz, thus neglecting or excludingand tacitly
seeming to dismiss as uninterestinginteresting work by, say, Carol Maier, Lori Chamberlain, Susanne
Lotbinire-Harwood, Nicole Brossard, or Barbara Godard. In these cases and others like them, I apologize for
any implied or inferred slights, and hope that someone else will give the theorists I've excluded the attention
they deserve.
Other exclusions have more to do with my own failings than with my understanding of what's "old" and what's
"new" in the field. I have read Hans Vermeer and Justa Holz-Mnttri in German, slowly and laboriously, given
the lamentable state of my German; since Justa was my colleague in the translation studies department at the
University of Tampere in Finland, and I met Hans several times through her, I have also had long discussions of
the skopos and Handlung approaches to translation with their prime movers, and consider those approaches
unquestionably part and parcel of the ''centrifugal theories" and "critical interventions" I explore here.
Unfortunately, my German isn't up to the kind of close critical reading that I have sought to give the other texts
I've studied here. I once translated into English twenty or so pages of Justa's book Translatorisches Handeln
(1984) and her comment on my translation was that my misunderstandings were so serious as to make the
translation not worth editing. I have, consequently, been chary of tackling either that book or Reib and Vermeer's
Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie (1984) here. The ''translation as cannibalism" approach of
the de Campos group in Brazil also interests me enormously, from what I have read about it; but since I have no
Portuguese, I will have to wait for an English translation.
Finally, after much thought I decided not to include a discussion of Tejaswini Niranjana's 1992 book, Siting
Translation, because I have written on her at length elsewhere 1 and did not want to repeat myself here.
My debts in the book are many. Most of the people whose work I write about have responded to it, by letter, by
fax, by phone, or face to face at conferences; thanks especially to Frederick Rener, Rita Copeland, Eric Cheyfitz,
Anthony Pym, Jill Levine, and Larry Venuti, whose comments on my comments have in many cases led to
substantial reformulations of my responses. Thanks also to the editors who originally solicited or accepted for
publication some of the essays that appear here (substantially revised for continuity): Stuart Gillespie and Bob
Cunningham at Translation and Literature (chapters 1 and 3), George Lang at The Canadian Review of
Comparative Literature (chapters 2 and 8), Susan Green at Genre (chapter 6), Marilyn Gaddis Rose in
Translation Spectrum II (chapter 10),

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and Jane Zorrilla at The ATA Chronicle (conclusion). A host of other friends, colleagues, and translation scholars
have responded to my work in enormously helpful ways as well, including at least Bill Kaul, Sherrie Gradin,
Robin Bodkin, Carol Maier, Mike Doyle, Bill Park, Danny Weissbort, Fred Will, Tejaswini Niranjana, Geoff
Harpham, Paul Hopper, Helen Lane, Peter Krawutschke, Jonathan Lethem, and Eileen Sullivan. Working with
Mona Baker on her Encyclopedia of Translation Studies and The Translator not only has had a steadying effect
on my rather volatile personality, but also she has put me in touch with numerous wonderfully intelligent and
creative people in the field, most notably Anthony Pym. Peter Bush adopted me at an ALTA meeting one year
and decided not only to publish a piece of mine in the Translators Association journal, In Other Words, but to
bring me to the U.K. for a conference at Warwick, where I met many people who until then had been mere
names to me. Thanks also, as ever, to my wife Helj and my daughters, Laura, Sara, and Anna, translators all.

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Page 1

PART ONE
REMAPPING RHETORIC AND GRAMMAR

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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One
The Renaissance
Frederick M. Rener,
Interpretatio
The New and the Old
From the mid-eighties to the present, the study of translation has been renovated, rejuvenated. New paradigmbusting books appear every month, it seems, faster than most of us can read them. In a field that seemed given
over to the compulsive repetition of the old (translate sense-for-sense, not word-for-word), in a field in which
for centuries exciting new insights were as rare as hen's teeth, suddenly everyone has something exciting and
innovative to offer, some hard-won discovery that explodes this or that old chestnut, punctures this or that old
pomposity, overturns this or that old clich. Equivalence is a social fiction controlled by fleeting target-cultural
norms. Translation is steeped in power relations, between men and women, between colonizers and the
colonized, between academics and professionals. What next?
At the same time, however, the old does go on. And such has been the repressive force of "the old," the
conventional, the normative, the hegemonic, that even those centuries-old approaches have not yet been
exhausted or even fully developedthat there are interesting discoveries yet to be made even within a
universalized system of norms for translation that, as Frederick Rener claims, held sway for eighteen centuries,
like the rhetoric/grammar approach. The three books discussed in this first section all explore that approach, in
progressively more radical ways: Rener in its own terms, steadfastly refusing to import more modern (and thus
anachronistic) theories into the study of rhetoric and grammar; Rita Copeland in structuralist terms, tracing
conflicts in the approach that its practitioners themselves did not always see; and Eric Cheyfitz in
poststructuralist and postcolonial terms, ripping open the soft underbelly of the approach to show its complicity
(indeed, its origins) in imperialism.

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Not surprisingly, Rener, Copeland, and Cheyfitz also cover roughly the same historical ground, the period
during which Rener argues this approach was universally known and practiced, from classical Rome (Cicero to
Quintilian) to the late nineteenth centurywith Rener's and Cheyfitz's focus in the Renaissance and neoclassical
period, Copeland's in the Middle Ages. No more surprising, given the long dominance (since Jerome) of
segmentation models for translationis the proper translation segment the word (literal approaches) or the
sentence (sense-for-sense approaches) ?is the polemical emphasis all three writers place on the organizing role
played by rhetoric and grammar in discussions of translation. This is oldand yet until very recently who among
twentieth-century theorists of translation has talked about it, or even thought about it?
Needless to say, that common historical and theoretical ground looks very different in the three books. What
Rener shows us is a lockstep formal system that everyone of any "worth" from Cicero to Tytler knew and
implicitly obeyed; anyone who didn't know it or knew it but didn't obey it has no place in Rener's history. What
Copeland shows us is the survival and remarkable transformations of a cultural rift between a worshipful
(usually but not always ecclesiastical and academic) culture that wanted to preserve the foreign text precisely as
it was and a more restless vernacular culture that wanted to make everything new. What Cheyfitz shows us is
the European attempt to consolidate cultural and political power by domesticating the alien, colonizing the
savage, from what he calls the "scene of colonization in [Cicero's] De Inventione" (1991, 117) in 84 B.C. to
Tarzan in A.D. 1912. What Rener formalizes as a monolithic system of linguistic norms and conventions,
Copeland binarizes as a volatile tension between conflicting social groups, and Cheyfitz politicizes as a
geopolitical will to power, a series of (increasingly successful) attempts to impose system on the "aimless
wandering" of the ''savage" (116).
The System
One of the strengths of Rener's book, indeed, its raison d'tre, is his mapping out of a unified theoretical
foundation through the tangle of occasional and fragmentary pronouncements on translation. As he notes in his
introduction, there is a twentieth-century scholarly tradition that denies the unity and even, in some cases, the
very existence of translation theory prior to the Renaissance (or Dryden, or even our own century). This
conception is clearly false, and Rener's book is a massive and on the whole persuasive attempt to dislodge it.
Through a Herculean research effort he has uncovered hundreds of previously forgotten, ignored, or neglected
theoretical remarks on translation, through all of which, he

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shows, runs a singlethough complex, many-stranded scarlet thread: the classical theory of language based on the
duality of grammar ("structure") and rhetoric ("ornamentation").
If you'll indulge me, I think a fairly detailed look at his table of contents provides a good sense of what he is
trying to accomplish: after a prologue that compares theories of the word as a single element (verba singula) to
theories of the word as a component (verba coniuncta), he dives into part one on "Grammar: The Translator's
Basic Set of Tools"; part two will be "Rhetoric: The Translator's Tools in Ornamentation." Each part is divided
into two sections, the first dealing with the general "domain""Grammar and Its Domain," ''Rhetoric and Its
Domain''the second with the translator's specific applications of those domains: "The Translator as a
Grammarian," "The Translator and Rhetoric." Because the system he is elucidating is what is commonly known
as the building-block theory of language, the assumption throughout is that the writer or speaker or translator
begins with minute elements and gradually builds them up into complex grammatical structures, which he then
ornaments rhetorically for maximum impact on readers and hearers. There first is a domain, for example, then
the translator uses it. Part three of Rener's book is rifled "Translation as Ars and the Translator as Artifex,
"covering the nature of translation, translation and imitation, and the translator as a professional person.
Within each part and section, then, Rener deals with the minute elements that together make up the "domain"
and its application. In "Grammar and Its Domain," for example, he takes us through a series of key words,
proprietas, puritas, consuetudo, vetustas, auctoritas, ratio (analogia), and perspicuitas, all of which are
illustrations of verba singula; then etymologia as the focus of a discussion of "words as partes orationis" (parts
of speech) and syntaxis as the focus of "words as verba coniuncta." He also has a short chapter there on idioms.
"The Translator as a Grammarian" deals with borrowing, neologism, circumlocution, and "etymological"
problems involved in the translation of idioms and proverbs. In "Rhetoric and Its Domain" he covers the verba
singula first, of course, especially tropesstarting with small blocks and moving to larger onesthen the verba
coniuncta, especially figures and the periodic sentence, then style as both the ratione materiae and the ratione
personae. In "The Translator and Rhetoric" he discusses ornamentation, style, verse, the approach to the reader,
and polishing or emendatio. In each chapter or subchapter he defines the term as it was defined in ancient Rome
(by Cicero, Quintilian, Horace, others) and generally understood by the Renaissance and gives examples of its
importance for a variety of translation theorists. These latter do not appear in any particular historical order; as
Rener assumes that all of the theorists he discusses over an eighteen-century period knew and accepted

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and applied this monolithic "system" in essentially the same way, he chooses his examples from a wide variety
of theorists in different periods, based on whose words exemplify a given term or principle best.
And there is much to be said for this approach. Despite enormous historical and regional and other variation,
there was a common set of assumptions about how language functioned and what that meant for translation, and
those assumptions remained relatively stable over a long period of time. So deeply ingrained is this "system" in
the Western mind, in fact, that it is difficult to eradicate its surviving traces in our thought about language even
today, after a century of radical linguistic, cultural, and political assaults upon it. Even today it seems intuitively
"right" to say that speakers and writers choose individual words, which they string together into coherent
sentences, or to say that they first order words grammatically, then ornament that order rhetorically.
Philosophically, these ideas have been thoroughly discredited; and yet they have taken such deep root in our
collective intellectual ''operating system," as it were, that it often seems counterintuitive, even "unnatural," to
argue against them.
The cultural and intellectual hegemony of this "system" in the West has been one of my scholarly fascinations as
well; in some sense the first half of The Translator's Turn (Robinson 1991c) and all of Translation and Taboo
(Robinson 1996b) were attempts to chart out the history of that system as well. What Rener can offer that my
own work and that of other scholars cannot, however, is a minutely systematic account of the system, its specific
formulations by specific writers, as they reflected both upon language in general and upon translation in
particular. In contrast with Rener's painstaking study, my own work in this area feels impatient, rushed; there is
obviously much to be learned from his book.
Exclusion
There is, of course, a price to pay for all this unity: it is largely achieved at the expense of local difference and
historical change, and, as Cheyfitz will show, of the political, cultural, and psychological impact of unification
on those so unified. In his introduction Rener (1989, 7) announces his intention "to regard the sameness of the
sources, the so-called 'commonplaces,' as something really common, i.e., shared by all translators regardless of
their nationality or period in which they were active"which is to say, to set aside everything that drops out of or
deviates from this "commonality." Obviously, any study of a complex field must idealize, simplify, reduce
impossibly diverse phenomena to a few (or even a good many) simple representations; and any idealization must
rely on the de-

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limitation of differences and similarities. What goes with what, and what must be left out as irrelevant to this
particular formulation? Rener is interested in what might be called the "center" of this system, and so he
excludes the periphery from view: the people who didn't fit in, who broke the rules, who deviated from the
norm; the ways in which these norms and rules were taught and enforced, learned and internalized, resisted and
rejected.
Noting the popularity of "theory" in the academy these days, for example, Rener attacks "the tendency of several
scholars to use the word 'theory' in the plural. One is thus led to believe that translators followed not a generally
accepted code but rather their own opinions or 'theories'" ( 1989, 3). Implicit in this remark is an all-or-nothing
universalism that harks back almost wistfully to the more extreme forms of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century
classicismindeed further, to twelfth- and thirteenth-century scholasticism: theory is either wholly unified or it is
mere solipsistic opinion. But did all translators during Rener's eighteen-century period follow a generally
accepted code? What of the ones who didn't? There is also a reificatory tendency to Rener's systematizing that
ignores all the interesting social questions that will exercise most of the theorists whose work I will be
discussing. By what social, political, ideological channels were the precepts of this unified "system" developed,
disseminated, inculcated, dogmatized?
One of the things this methodological insistence on unification and reification inevitably means is holes,
omissions, excluded theorists, of course, and as Rener himself freely admits (9), there are many omissions even
in as comprehensive a study as his. The obvious exclusion, from Cheyfitz's viewpoint, would be the "colonized"
in the broadest sense of that word: not only the "Indians" of both Asia and America who were colonized and
displaced through translation but also the illiterate Western masses gradually "colonized" into universalized
linguistic norms through hegemonic education.
Especially, for example, women: Rener does mention Anne Dacier (240), but only as a translator (and only as
commented upon by Paul Mazon, as quoted in Edmond Cary), not as a translation theorist; he has not looked at
her interesting sixty-page preface to her Iliad (1699). No other mentions of female translators or translation
theorists appear in this "panoramic" view of eighteen centuries of translation theory: nothing about Elizabeth
Tudor, the Cooke sisters (Anna Cooke Bacon, Mildred Cooke Cecil, Elizabeth Cooke Hoby, Katherine Cooke
Killigrew), Margaret More Roper, Mary Sidney (Countess of Pembroke), Margaret Tyler, Suzanne de Vegerre,
Katherine Phillips, Aphra Behnthough many of

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these are usefully anthologized in Travitsky's Paradise of Women, and a growing body of feminist scholarship
has been directed at their work.
This omission might seem strange in a study as exhaustive as Rener's, were it not for the fact that the casual and
"accidental" exclusion of women is one of the mainstays of the "classical" tradition Rener presents. The formal
system he elucidates is steeped in the exclusion of women and other subaltern groups: wealth, social standing,
and a classical education are essential to the proper functioning of the system, and until very recently (and still
very largely) these have been and are all but systematically withheld from European women and peasants and
the indigenous populations of foreign colonies. And the exclusion works so well that, even when women and
other subaltern speakers come to voice in the period from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, they are not
heard. Women simply did not write translation theorythus goes the official historyuntil scientifically minded
women such as Juliane House and Katharina Reib and Justa Holz-Mnttri in the 1970s and 1980s. The more
radical female voices, from Margaret Tyler to Myriam Daz-Diocaretz, are screened out.
Interestingly enough, so are medieval translators and translation theorists, the field Rita Copeland will so richly
explore. Rener mentions a few medieval names in passing, notably King Alfred (63), Aelfric (98), John Scotus
Eriugena and Robert Grosseteste (109), and Gregory the Great (128), but does not dwell on or recur to them, as
he does with most sixteenth-century theorists. His conception of translation is by and large a Renaissance one,
grounded ideologically in the power-and-theory consolidations of ancient Rome characteristic of the late
fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. But like his forebears in the Renaissance, he wants to claim universality
for his system. The desired implication is that this is not one historically contingent conception of translation
(even if it is limited to "only" eighteen centuries of European history), but the intrinsic nature of translation.
Hence the necessity of playing down the Middle Agesnot quite to the point of repressing their existence, as
Rener by and large does with the women who have written about translation, but of assimilating them to earlier
classical views and especially to the emergent recuperation of those views in the Renaissance. If his
bibliography is any indication, Rener is largely unaware of the twentieth-century scholarship on medieval
translation and translation theory, from Charles Homer Haskins to Guy Beaujolan, David C. Lindberg, Sebastian
Brock, and Marie-Thrse D'Alverny. The only source in this area that he cites is Werner Schwartz's 1944 article
(which also deals heavily with classical theories, making it

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possible to read it without attention to medieval theories), "The Meaning of Fidus Interpres in Medieval
Translation"though tellingly, he omits the last three words of that tide in his bibliography. 2
Partly this assimilation is a function of his dehistoricized perspective: he is, after all, intent on delineating a
stable system, not on tracing the development of received wisdom over the centuries. But partly also it reflects
the Renaissance conception of the Middle Ages as a great cultural void, a black night of ignorance broken only
by a few shining lights of learning and intellectwhich is to say, by those few scholars such as Roger Bacon
whose work clearly points ahead to the Renaissance. This Renaissance modus operandi was, as Eric Cheyfitz
would insist, itself a colonial attitude: an attempt to bring order to what is perceived as an indigenous cultural
chaos with the imperial codes (legal and linguistic) of ancient Rome. Rener's inclusions and exclusions continue
the same project, organizing all relevant translation theories from his eighteen-century period into a naturalized
system that comes to seem not so much forcibly imposed as commonsensical, pragmatic, and obvious to all
right-thinking people. After all, every translator in every age faces the same problems: how to segment the
source-language text (word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence), whether to rearrange syntactic sequences, whether
to render nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, and so on.
That Rener fails to problematize the political inculcation of this systemthat he fails to move past mystified and
ideologically naturalized technical problems to broader social problems of orthodoxy and heresy, inclusion and
exclusion, intellectual and political power, persuasion and conversiondoes not render his book useless. On the
contrary: his book is the first comprehensive study of a system that did in fact exist in the period Rener studies.
The book probably should have been written centuries agomy own guess is that if Aristotle had written a treatise
on translation, Rener's approach would have been formulated extensively in the sixteenth century and frequently
revised sincebut that does not mean it should not have been written now. We need the systematic attention to
detail he can provide.
The book also fairly hums with commitment, engagementRener's intense identification with sixteenth-century
humanism. This identification is at once the book's greatest strength and greatest weakness. It charges Rener's
progress through his materials with urgency, but it traps that urgency in nostalgia. The book is above all an
attempt to revive and restore to dignity a lost classicism, a sixteenth-century sense of the new possibilities stored
up in classical civilization. We too have inherited this sense, of course, as part of the great Renaissance
mythexcept that the survival of

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the myth in our time obscures the discontinuity of the tradition. Rener traces the tradition up to the end of the
eighteenth century, and in fact it survived in the educational systems of most Western countries until early in this
centuryindeed, I would guess, into Rener's own youth and early adulthoodbut we are losing it now, and
subtextually Rener's book fuses desperation (let's get it back before it's too late) and nostalgic resignation (let's
record its passing in detail before those of us who knew it well are all dead).

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Two
The Middle Ages
Rita Copeland,
Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages
Translation theory is not exactly a hot new topic in medieval studies. Medieval translation has been studied
extensively since the early nineteenth century, beginning perhaps with Amable Jourdain's study of Latin
translations of Aristotle in 1819 and continuing through Guillaume Libri's book on the mathematical sciences in
Italy in 1838, Baldassare Boncompagni's study of Gerard of Cremona in 1852, Ernest Renan's book on Averros
in 1852, Moritz Steinschneider's (1925) study of Abraham Judaeus-Savasorda and Ibn Esra in 19045, Marcellin
Berthelot's study of the archeology and history of the sciences in 1906, and Lynn Thorndike's history of magic
and experimental science in 1993. Charles Homer Haskins transformed the field after over a decade of
exhaustive primary research in the teens and twenties, and his Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science
(1924) continues to be an essential resource for work in the field. Werner Schwartz wrote a series of brief but
influential period studies on translation theory in the forties, and his piece on classical and medieval theories in
the Journal of Theological Studies, "The Meaning of Fidus Interpres in Medieval Translation" (1944a), has been
much quoted by later scholarsas has Guy Beaujolan's 1957 French article on "Medieval Science in the Christian
West," translated by A. J. Pomerans for a 1963 collection entitled History of Science: Ancient and Medieval
Science from the Beginnings to 1450. More recent work by David C. Lindberg, Sebastian Brock, and MarieThrse d'Alverny in the seventies and early eighties brought new critical perspectives on, and new historical
details to, the Haskinsian tradition without seriously challenging either its assumptions or its findings. And of
course, as we have just seen, in 1989 Frederick M. Rener published his study of translation theories from Cicero
to Tytler, Interpretatio, purporting to elucidate the single monolithic rhetorical and grammatical "system"
underlying all theories of

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translation in his eighteen-century period. Although his main focus remained the Renaissance, he ventured
sporadically into the Middle Agesand where he did, he underscored the importance of rhetoric and grammar for
medieval theorists of translation.
This is precisely the point where Rita Copeland (1991) picks up the thread in Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and
Translation in the Middle Agesbut with a difference. Haskins and his followers brought to their task the
assumption that translation in the Middle Ages is a series of translators and texts and their commissioners and
locales (King X sent Y-of-Z to Here-and-There to translate Such-and-Such), and that translation theory in the
Middle Ages is a debate between word-for-word and sense-for-sense. This assumption is all but gone in
Copeland; where it appears, it appears utterly transformed by the exciting new questions she has asked. Rener
brought to his task the assumption that everybody of any worth between Cicero and Tytler had internalized the
same set of static rhetorical and grammatical principles (though they differed slightly in their application of
those principles to specific cases), and that they all proceeded in their translations by first applying grammar as a
"basic set of tools" and then applying rhetoric as "tools in ornamentation." This oppressively reified system is
gone in Copeland too. Rhetoric and grammar inform Copeland's project from beginning to end, but never as a
lockstep robotic operating system.
Rather, as Copeland says in her introductory formulation, her book "seeks to define the place of vernacular
translation within the systems of rhetoric and hermeneutics in the Middle Ages. In serving this aim, its concern
is not with a narrow pragmatics or theory of translation in the Middle Ages. Rather, it seeks to show how
translation is inscribed within a large disciplinary nexus, a historical intersection of hermeneutical practice and
rhetorical theory" (1). In pursuing this aim she eschews the methodological assumptions of both Haskins and his
followers"it is not by tracing the fortunes of these [classical] commonplaces that we can evaluate the theoretical
conditions under which ideas about translation were mediated from antiquity to the Middle Ages" (9)and Rener,
whom (along with hundreds, perhaps thousand of others) she seems to be describing when she notes wryly,
"Rhetorical theory has also been a notable victim of this kind of positivism. It has been viewed as a neutral
preceptive system, a descriptive taxonomy of style, or as an academic discipline whose history is constituted by
its manifest meanings and whose claims to truth about the nature of language and discourse are accepted on their
own terms" (4).
Copeland avoids both of these methodological pitfalls by contextualizing her study within the clash between two
medieval cultures, ver-

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nacular culture and Latin academic culture. One of her dominant premises is that "translation is a vehicle for
vernacular appropriation of academic discourse" (3), and specifically for the vernacular appropriation of that
appropriative moment in academic discourse that works "to displace the very text that it proposes to serve" (3).
Her agonistic model serves her well, allowing her to explore disciplinary conflicts as motors of change:
translation theory in Cicero and Horace is generated out of a rhetorical opposition to the slavish copying of the
grammarians; Cicero's appropriative transformation of the source text into an original target text is both
recovered and repressed in patristic writings, especially Jerome's letter to Pammachius, recovered as a repressive
hermeneutic that proscribes innovation but returns in Augustinian preaching and later, and more importantly, in
the very exegetical tradition that was developed to control original thought. As Copeland puts it, in the early
Middle Ages "the rhetorical value of translation is lost in the very discourses that carry over Ciceronian theories
of translation; but hermeneutical practice itself takes over the functions of rhetoric and creates a new context in
which a rhetorical model of translation can emerge" (6). Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle
Ages is a fascinating ground where dualisms are continually in movement under the reader's feet, requiring
constant alertness and great conceptual nimblenessso much, in fact, that I hesitate to make any specific claims
about just how Copeland says rhetoric and hermeneutics, enarratio poetarum and exercitatio, expositio, and
inventio shift and interflow throughout her period, because I'm almost certain I'll get it wrong.
The conceptual complexity that makes the book difficult to summarize, however, makes it exciting to read (at
least for the reader with a good deal of interest in and knowledge of either the history of translation theory or the
history of medieval criticism; this is not a book for the General Educated Reader). Medieval studies are not
traditionally a hotbed of flashy theorizing, and Copeland is careful not to bombard her medievalist readers with
trendy names and terms; but she is clearly well read in theory, and she plies the complicating analytical
perspectives of recent theorists (especially Roman Jakobson's now-canonical metaphor/ metonymy opposition
and the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur) with a good deal of suppleness. 3 Indeed, if the
rather stolid work of Haskins, Lindberg, and d'Alverny is any indication of medievalists' discursive expectations,
the analytical wizardry that to me seems so intelligent and compelling in Copeland's book is likely to put many
of her colleagues off; it is going to seem trendy and superfluous at worst, at best unnecessarily convoluted.
Still, within the segment of medieval criticism she marks off, academic traditions and vernacular texts, it would
be hard for a medievalist to dis-

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miss her lightly. She is clearly a formidable authority on the traditions she explores: Cicero and Horace and,
generally, Roman theories of translation in chapter 1; patristic theories (especially Jerome) and the rhetoric/
grammar clash of late antiquity in chapter 2; the rhetorical nature of medieval exegesis, and Notker of St. Gall
and the Ovide moralis as examples of "rhetorical" commentary, in chapters 3 and 4; French and English
"receptions" and transformations of Boethius's Consolatio philosophiae in chapter 5; and rhetorical invention
within the hermeneutical tradition, Chaucer and Gower as examples, in chapters 6 and 7. She quotes extensively,
in the original languages and her own useful translations, from the primary texts, making her book invaluable as
a commentary on and source book of medieval translation theories. Ph.D. students in medieval studies, indeed,
anyone looking for research topics in the field, would do well to comb her book carefully, as she generates
exciting avenues for scholarly exploration on every page. It should go without saying that she has just barely
scratched the surface in this enormously rich and complex period; the scratches she has made may well
transform the study of medieval literature and criticism by placing translation at its very core.
The book also has some problems, one of which I broached earlier: it is difficult to read, for all the right reasons,
to be sureher steadfast attention to the complexity of the traditions she tracesbut that isn't likely to reassure the
reader who feels, as I occasionally did, overwhelmed by the swirl of shifting categories. In her attempt to clarify
that swirl for herself and for her readers, too, Copeland often lapses into sheer repetition: "also reflected the
troublesome overlap between the concerns of grammar and rhetoric" and "there was much overlap between the
practices of commentary, translation, and imitation, just as there was much overlap between the study of
grammar and rhetoric" (10); "Within grammatical study, translation was considered to be a special aspect of
textual commentary; within rhetorical study, translation was seen as a special form of imitation" and "When
used as an exercise in grammatical study, translation represented a form of commentary; when associated with
rhetorical study and the production of speeches, translation constituted a form of imitation'' (10); ''the object of
translation is difference with the source" and "Thus in translation, the force of rhetorical invention should
produce difference with the source" (30).
A more serious problem than repetition, though, is the obsessive dualism reflected in those repeated passages.
Copeland has read enough poststructuralist theory to want to contaminate each side of any dualism she
constructs with its opposite pole, and as I've been saying, she delights

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in showing how these dualisms constantly shift and settle through the years; but she also clearly believes in
dualism, in the logical operation by which a complex field is split up into two opposite extremes and then
mapped onto a continuum between them, and longs for more conceptual stability than she can tease out of her
field.
More than that, she believes in dualistic idealization, in the abstract dualisms favored by structuralism and early
poststructuralism as opposed to the more politically and historically grounded dualisms of later (Marxist,
feminist, and other) poststructuralisms. For example, she writes early on that "the transmission of classical and
patristic theories of translation is not a history of continuity but a series of ruptures" (55), in effect rupturing the
history of continuity that previous historians of medieval translation theory have wanted to construct. That's a
good start, but talk of a series of ruptures doesn't really take us very far; it still sidesteps the ideological war that
was being waged over the political unconscious at the time, the steady pressures being brought on translators
from above to impose dogmatic meanings on their texts (and to thematize those dogmatic meanings as
"transcendental," ''divine," and to call the translations that resulted sense-for-sense) and their tenacious resistance
to those pressures through deepseated mystical fears of direct communicability. Copeland lacks a social
psychology, a sense of the controlled collective and resistant individual and group motivations that drive things
like tradition and innovation; there are ideological agents in her book, but they are vague, shadowy figures that
flit uneasily in and out of her argument, peripheralized by large formal abstractions like primary and secondary
translation, or metaphor and metonymythe dualism that, reeking as it does of seventies structuralism, put me off
most in the book. "In the case of medieval vernacular translations, this tension between metaphoric structure
(difference, displacement, substitution) and metonymic structure (continuity and evolution within the same
linguistic community) mirrors in reverse the structural pattern of the relationship of Latin commentary to Latin
auctores" (129). Even for seventies structuralism, metonymy has much more difference and displacement in it
than Copeland will admit; the magic word ''contiguity," applied to metonymy byJakobson and all his
structuralist followers (and capitalized on, and transformed in the direction of its difference and displacement, by
Lacan and Derrida), never appears in Copeland's book, perhaps because she wants metonymy to signify
tradition, historical continuity, the idealized image of stable generational succession that traditionalists see
everywhere. Metaphor for Copeland is another word for innovation, the displacement of the old text by a new
one, translation as rewriting or

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Ciceronian/Horatian imitationa fairly lame tropology of translation that is absolutely crippled by its duality. 4
Part of the problem is that Copeland doesn't really know or care (nor does anybody else, probably, but Copeland
seems to be in the best position to ask, and doesn't) how her dualisms link up with larger historical (especially
ideological, political-unconscious) trends. She seems to be intimating, but also repressing through the use of her
abstract structuralist vocabulary, that there is a battle being fought here between forces of tradition and
innovation, social/ cultural/ textual stability and unrest, political control and personal freedomand that, although
the sides keep changing and intermingling and stealing from each other, co-opting each other, there is a certain
large trend from freedom and innovation in chapter 1 (RomeCicero and Horace), through a period of repression
in chapters 2 to 5 (maybe 6), to a gradual recuperation of that freedom and innovation in chapter 7 (maybe
starting in 6). It's the Renaissance myth, of course, everywhere present in Rener as well, the myth of the noble
classical ideas lost in the night of the Middle Ages and recovered by bold vernacular writers in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries. But this is too pat or simpleminded an answer for a sophisticated intellectual historian
like Copeland, so she buries it in disclaimers to the effect that "primary" and "secondary" translations don't
necessarily mean that "primary" translation comes first and ''secondary'' translation second historically (9394),
even though it does sort of work out that way, and disperses the broad outlines of the myth into proliferating
dualisms like rhetoric and hermeneutics, enarratio and exercitatio, metaphor and metonymy, essentially turning
the history of translation theory and practice from Cicero to Gower into a complex synchronic system whose
"primary" and "secondary" qualities can be discussed in reassuring abstract termsin terms of "affinities and
innate characteristics" rather than "diachronic order" (94).
This is, clearly, only a first attempt at bringing complex theoretical perspectives to bear on the bewildering
historical culturescape of the Middle Agesan unquestionably rich and valuable attempt that lays the groundwork
for future inquiries. Copeland doesn't pretend to draw up the lines of force between developments in translation
theory and social and political history; she does mention some class and profession indicators in passing in her
discussion of the Roman de la Rose and elsewhere (the aristocracy and middle class as writer and reader), but a
large-scale exploration of these matters is beyond the scope of her book and remains to be written. We still need
a social history of medieval translation theory in terms, say, of social class, economics, land management, birth
order, and gender. We still need a political history of medieval transla-

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tion in terms of shifting church-state relations, and the contested construction of the "individual" or the "self' (as
obedient or innovative, as socialized or isolated) in the confluence of those relations; or in terms of conquest and
empire, both within and at the borders of "Europe" or ''the West," and the geopolitical consolidation of those
entities through military conflict with Islam.

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Three
The Colonial Impulse
Eric Cheyfitz,
The Poetics of Imperialism
In The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation from The Tempest to Tarzan, Eric Cheyfitz (1991 ) covers roughly
the same historical ground as Frederick Rener, and with very much the same concern for the intertwined history
of rhetoric and grammarbut with a politicized deconstructive twist that explodes past even Rita Copeland's
important methodological innovations. For example, both Rener and Cheyfitz deal at length with the Quintilianic
tradition of rhetoric as ornamentation, but with radically different emphases. Rener is enamored of the traditional
conception of rhetorical ornamentation as "extra," as a secondary prettification that serves merely to make the
bare truth more palatable. He does try at several points to insert a critical reminder that rhetoric is also
persuasion (1989, 218, 257), but largely fails: he quickly moves from brief mentions of persuasion to references
to enhancing the message, guaranteeing clarity and the reader's comprehension, and the like. Cheyfitz sees
rhetoric not only as persuasion but as always politically motivated, always an attempt to conquer, and quite
rightly reads ornamentation as part of the same process: "within the classical and Renaissance tradition of
rhetoric, 'ornament' does not suggest the superfluous or the exterior; rather, derived from the Latin verb orno,
which means both 'to provide with necessaries' and 'to embellish,' it articulates that place where the interior and
the exterior, the necessary and the contingent are inseparable" (199l, 93). Rhetorical ornamentation is, as Rener
also notes, the clothing words wear (1991, 2426); as Cheyfitz makes clear, however, in the history of Western
rhetoric this clothing is defined in opposition to the clothing that "savages" do not wear. Writing for
Charlemagne, for example, Alcuin in his Rhetoric describes an evolutionary process by which the "mute
savage''mute and savage because he does not speak eloquently, because he is a foreigner or a member of the
European lower classesis gradually

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"translated" or educated upwards by learning first "proper" speech, then eloquence; and he figures this
progression eloquently (metaphorically) as one from naked savagery through utilitarian clothing to ''the pinnacle
of clothing as a sumptuous sign of social rank" (Cheyfitz, 120).
Cheyfitz is interested in translation as empire, as a cultural-political channel of imperialismspecifically of the
European colonization of the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He approaches translation
studies from the "outside"or what will appear to be the outside to those who take translation studies to be a
branch of linguistics or comparative literary criticism concerned with structures of equivalence. His work is
closer to the ethnographic or anthropological strain of translation studies, "in" the tradition, say, of Quine's
chapter on translation in Word and Object (1960), a rich lineage most often uneasily ignored by mainstream
translation theoristsa lineage for which the primal scene is not the translator before the written text but the
European anthropologist before an indigenous culture thematized as "primitive." I say only "in'' the tradition
(and "outside" the mainstream) because Cheyfitz comes to ethnographic translation theory from recent
poststructuralist subaltern studies that radically challenge the hegemonic assumptions of the ethnographer in the
"primitive" culture, especially the assumption that the ethnographer is a politically disinterested scientist
dedicated purely to the objective study of cultures. Cheyfitz is at pains to show how intimate translation (as the
quintessential ethnographic act) has been with empire: how colonizers have employed ethnographic translation
as a channel of domination. 5
To be sure, Cheyfitz is less concerned with the ethnographic scene than someone like Tejaswini Niranjana, in
her book Siting Translationanother important poststructuralist/postcolonial study of translation from this same
period (1992) that I will not deal with here. Cheyfitz's colleagues in English departments will see his book as far
more concerned with political and cultural history than with literature; but next to Niranjana's book, The Poetics
of Imperialism is very much poetically, literarily inclined. Cheyfitz covers an immense amount of ground in a
relatively short space, mainly by weaving his way through texts by and about Native Americans beginning with
Montaigne "On Cannibals" and Shakespeare's The Tempest, and by and about people of African descent from
Frederick Douglass's autobiography through the Tarzan books to Frantz Fanon. Also woven into the fabric are
rhetorics from Cicero to George Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie (1589) and various pertinent
government documents.
Undeniably, Cheyfitz's nomadic intertextual argumentation makes the book difficult to read; but I take it that the
difficulty is deliberate, and instructive. Part of his point is that Western discourse colonizes precisely

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by imposing its own preconceived patterns on the other, by enclosing "places" (the "topics" of an argument) as
"property'' (or the ''proper" way to make a case), and he clearly wants to avoid doing that in his own
argumentation. Given the European derogation of "savages" as "scattered" and "wandering aimlessly," he seems
to be interested in transvaluing that wandering by imitating it in his path through his materials.
The contrast with Rener's book, of course, couldn't be clearer: where Rener locks his argument into a static
hierarchical system marked with mathematical notation (2.2.1., 2.2.1.1., 2.2.1.2., etc.), Cheyfitz drifts
nomadically through the large and vaguely marked off "places" indicated by his chapter titles: "Tarzan of the
Apes: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century," "The Foreign Policy of Metaphor," "Translating
Property," "Translation, Transportation, Usurpation," "The Frontier of Decorum," "The Empire of Poetics," and
"Eloquent Cannibals." In another sense, of course, Rener and Cheyfitz are doing the same thing: imitating in
their discursive structure the socio-ideological configurations they idealize, Rener the classical "legal system"
governing the eloquent use of language, Cheyfitz the colonized Native Americans. 6
This is an oversimplification, of coursethat Cheyfitz idealizes the colonized Native Americans. In his
introduction he specifically disclaims any such intentions: "In line with this politics, I have not tried to
understand Native Americans or blacks in this book. I do not believe in philanthropy, which presumes an
understanding of the position of the other, but in social justice, which presumes nothing, but grounds itself in the
politics of imagining kinship across the frontiers of race, gender, and class" (xiv). But of course it is impossible
to presume nothing, least of all within such a heavily laden ideological construct as "social justice," and Cheyfitz
does seek to understand and place himself within the position of the other throughout the book: he contrasts
"tributary and capitalist modes of production" with "the kin-ordered mode," which he says is "relatively
nonhierarchical, or egalitarian, and decentralized," with "relatively 'open and shifting boundaries'" (5354). The
implicit "understanding of the position of the other" here is of course that Europeans are bad and Native
Americans good, a hierarchical reversal of the standard European position.
In Cheyfitz's defense let me say that he is (usually) aware that he is doing this: that "lacking any direct
knowledge of Native American languages I am forced in my description of kinship economies to use the process
of translation that I am criticizing" (43). This is, in fact, the methodological abyss across which Cheyfitz has to
stretch himself: in order to talk about translation as conquest, translation as empire, he has to have some sense of
the "source-language text," i.e., Native American cultures.

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As a white Westerner, however, that is what he can never have, precisely because Native American cultures
have been silenced in and by translation; so he must rely on translations, must translate the colonized translata
of Western imperialism as untranslated source-language texts. There is no moment at which he is
methodologically "before translation"and yet that is the moment he must inhabit in order to make his claims
stick.
Partly, inevitably, he tries to inhabit it through repression: by simply "forgetting" his promise not to indulge in
philanthropic idealizations of the other or "nostalgia for a mythic past of common land" (44). More important,
he tries to make his case by sliding back and forth across the translational abyss, by working "in translation
between cultures and between groups within our own culture" (xvi). Cheyfitz might be imagined, in fact, as
sliding his way down a slope traversed by Western dualisms. At the top would be the dualism between a more
conventional conception of translationsay, Rener'sand his own: between translation as a technical problem
governed by formal conventions (which he identifies as a repressive colonial mystification of power) and
translation as a political problem that mires us in the inequities of cultural contact.
Once he has begun to break the repressive stranglehold colonial discourse has placed on the politics of
translation, then, he faces another and more paralyzing dualism between self and other, European and Native
American, civilized and savage, enclosed and scattered, domestic and foreign, normal and deviant, proper and
metaphoric, written and oral, capitalist and kin-ordered. Here Cheyfitz slides between complicitous ([hypo]
critical) negations of the first term and condescending (philanthropic) affirmations of the second term until he
surrenders the desire to resolve the dualism and swears off any attempt to understand the position of the other,
proposing instead to examine Western images (translations) of the other. Now he finds himself faced by positive
and negative images, nostalgic and assimilative translations, voicings that articulate and voicings that silence,
and slides between them by seeing both terms as interchangeable: all voicings of the other silence the other, but
all silencings or repressions of the other's voice contain negated (and therefore salvageable) traces of
articulation.
This is the impasse to which Cheyfitz's negative or ideological hermeneutic brings him, 7 and Cheyfitz does not
explicitly seek to escape it. But I sense in his book yet another sliding between binary poles that does begin,
however unconsciously, to pose a positive or utopian hermeneutic: that between translation and nontranslation,
between the appropriative attempt to articulate, to convey, to communicate something about the other, "to bring
something home," in George Steiner's phrase (1975, 298), and the older, more mystical willingness to immerse
oneself in a

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foreign culture without colonizing it, to stop translating and start listening, to open yourself up to the "mysteries"
of an alien culture (immerse yourself in the Cibecue culture, as Keith Basso did) without necessarily trying to
render what you learn into English, the tainted language of the colonizers. Cheyfitz, a white male American
academic paid to articulate, feels himself haplessly pulled toward translation (and who among us doesn't?), and
thus, once he has demystified its politics, toward the invasive politics of empire; and his feeling of helplessness,
his sense that he can do nothing but articulate just how trapped he feels, drives his negative hermeneutic. His
positive hermeneutic would be to follow Gauguin to Tahiti or the Marquesasor perhaps, since those island
paradises have now been colonized for and by tourism, some other noplace or utopia still "untouched" by
Western imperialismand not come back, indeed not even write back: to assimilate himself into a non-Western
culture with no design ever to "translate" it. For the Western academic, this prospect is almost too tempting and
too terrifying even to ponder, and Cheyfitz will not allow himself to raise the possibility in his book; but it
seems to me the inevitable terminus of his argument.

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PART TWO
INSIDE SYSTEMS

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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Four
Many Systems
Andr Lefevere,
Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame
Theorizing the Social
One of the most gratifying turns translation theory has taken over the past two or three decades is the turn into
the social: the increasing awareness that translation is not an abstract equivalence game, divorced from real
people's actions in a social context, but a richly social process involving not only telephone, fax, and modem
contact with a wide variety of employers and clients and other commissioners as well as friends and
acquaintances who might know some word or phrase you can't find in your dictionariesthis is the territory
explored so brilliantly and systematically by Justa Holz-Mnttfiri in Translatorisches Handeln (1984) and a
dozen articlesbut also large-scale sociopolitical forces such as ideology and power. Translation has been
mystified for so long as a set of technical transfer processes performed on texts, on words and phrases, that the
veritable explosion of socially attuned translation theory has felt like a release from prison, a liberation of theory
to explore the fullest implications of translation, without fear of transgressing some taboo. There are, of course,
still people who consider translation studies exclusively a branch of contrastive linguistics, and derogate any
approach to translation that exceeds the purview of linguistic equivalence studies as "not really about translation
at all"; but those people are increasingly finding themselves in the minority, and many of them, in order to go on
being heard in the translation studies community, have been expanding their theoretical frameworks to include
the social and the ideological. 8
The difficulty in moving from the linguistic to the social, of course, is that the relevant data multiplies
exponentially and becomes enormously more complexthus creating numerous methodological crises in the field,
which have been negotiated by individual social theorists of translation in a variety of ways. How do you bring
the vast social realm in which

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translation takes place into the relatively narrow confines of a single book or article? By what method or
methods do you impose orderpatterns, regularities, structureson a field that seems to defy such reductions at
every turn? Even linguistic methodologies are constantly thwarted by the complexity of actual spoken and
written language; how much greater the power to thwart translation scholars, then, do the complexities of whole
societies have, whole cultures, whole civilizations over hundreds and even thousands of years?
What I want to do here in part two is explore some general trends in the methodological management of this
complexity, through close methodological readings of four recent books that I believe illustrate those trends in
exemplary ways. The books are Andr Lefevere's Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary
Fame (1992a), Anthony Pym's Epistemological Problems in Translation and Its Teaching: A Seminar for
Thinking Students (1992), Suzanne Jill Levine's The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction
(1991), and Myriam Daz-Diocaretz's Translating Poetic Discourse (1985). The four pair up tidily, but also
complexly: Lefevere is as intent upon stabilizing systems structurally as Pym is on unraveling them semiotically;
Levine and Daz-Diocaretz both theorize (from) their own practice as translators, Levine as a North American
translator-into-English of Latin American texts, Daz-Diocaretz as a Latin American translator-into-Spanish of
North American texts, Levine translating sexist males, Daz-Diocaretz the radical lesbian feminist work of
Adrienne Rich; Lefevere and Daz-Diocaretz are the more systematic thinkers, Pym and Levine the more
personal and anecdotal.
(Poly)Systems Theory
I'm noticing that polysystems theorists aren't using that term much any more; it seems to be losing its currency,
modulating into the broader and better established field of systems theoryquite rightly, I think, because systems
theory accounts for that multiplicity of systems signaled by the "poly" that Itamar Even-Zohar stuck on the
approach and the school that has followed it since the mid-seventies. Systems theory is a striking application of
the Kantian notion that we can never know the Ding an sich, the thing in itself, raw reality, and that we only
think we know it because we are so adept at imposing representational systems on it, psychosocial systems that
condition or constitute virtually every aspect of our perception and understanding. Kant thought that the
understanding (Verstndnis) constituted "reality" through operations with four innate "categories," quality,
quantity, manner, and relation; radical systems theory would call

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those categories just another system imposed on human behavior, which the categorist then claims to "know."
Systems theory also has an Achilles' heel, however: the survival within it of a pre-Kantian objectivism, aspiring
to the status of empirical science, which leads systems theorists to believe precisely what Kant did, that the one
Ding an sich that can be truly known is the object of their own theorizingin this case, systems. What most people
think of as realities are in fact all socially generated systemsall except that system called systems theory, which
is a science, an accurate representation of the systematicity of external reality.
That Lefevere's argumentative heel is vulnerable to this accusation as well shouldn't be held against him; the
tendency to reify one's own beliefs, opinions, perceptions as reality is one of the oldest impulses in Western
thought, or what Lefevere would call "the Western system," and is incredibly hard to shake. I don't know
anyone, regardless of his or her radical philosophical pretensions, who isn't constantly falling into the objectivist
trapand I'm not excluding myself, either. In fact, to claim immunity to the trap is to fall into it. The instant you
think you're out of it and are never going to fall in ityou're in it. (As Anthony Pym pointed out when I sent an
earlier draft of this chapter and the next to him, in grouping people such as Lefevere, Even-Zohar, and Toury
together as "polysystems theorists," I am myself falling into the trap of systemic reification.) For Westerners
(and, nowadays, anyone who has been significantly influenced by Western thought, which is just about
everyone), reification is one of the cognitive tics that make cognition possible.
But none of that makes it any less useful to explore the many ways in which we continue to reify our perceptions
as reality, our opinions as truth, our feelings as atmosphere or mood. One of the great things about Lefevere's
Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fameas about most systems theories of translation and
related phenomenais its insistence on prying back the covers behind which we repress the process of
"naturalization," the process of making the artificial (seem) natural, the imagined (seem) real. Lefevere's concept
of rewriting not only brings together social activities that have been kept separate and variously respected or
neglectedtranslating, criticizing, editing, anthologizing, writing histories, and so onbut also shows patiently,
painstakingly, with abundant closely examined examples, the extent to which our literary universe is the evershifting product of such activities.
Constructivist theories of canon formationthe insistence that qualifies of literary greatness or ephemeral trash
reside not inside individual texts (where critics simply recognize them and point them out) but in

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social acts of construction, of system buildingare not exactly new, of course. They have been in the air at least
since the late sixties, fed by Derridean deconstruction, Michel Foucault and the New Historicism, various
poststructuralist Marxisms (Louis Althusser's, for example) and psychoanalyticisms (Jacques Lacan's), and the
linked differences of German Rezeptionssthetik and American reader-response theory. But Lefevere is one of a
fairly small but well-placed group of theorists who have been working to articulate the full implications of
constructivist systems theory for translation studies, which they tend to imagine as a branch of comparative
literary and cultural studies; and the implication that he explores most fully here is the profound functional
similarity between translation and the other acts of rewriting by which cultural systems are created, maintained,
and changed. In so doing he places rewriting at the very constructivist heart of system building, at the source of
systemsan exciting and flattering place for translators and other socially ignored or neglected rewriters to find
themselves.
Moreover, he illustrates his theoretical points with rich excursions into literary and cultural encounters not often
experienced by Eurocentric translation scholars, especially "the Arabic system"specially the pre-Islamic poetic
form of the qasidahand "the African system," but also, in passing, various other non-Western and often
nonliterate literatures. That there are serious problems with this Western claim to know the non-Western other
should be clear, of course, from recent postcolonial or subaltern studies (including those dealing with translation,
by Cheyfitz, Niranjana, and others). In seeking to provide "a neutral, non-ethnocentric framework for the
discussion of power and relationships shaped by power" ( 1992a, 10), Lefevere can really only seek to neutralize
his ethnocentrism rhetorically as much as possible through self-awareness and study of the othercan never
actually eradicate that ethnocentrism, which, as Hans-Georg Gadamer (1989, 2.2.2.1B) says of prejudice, is the
condition of his (or anyone's) seeing anything at all; and his attempt "to make this book free from the symptoms
of literary provincialism'' (Lefevere 1992a, 10) isn't exactly the same thing as finding a cure for that dread
disease. But at least Lefevere is making gestures of goodwillgestures that have required enormous research
efforts, far beyond what most of us are typically willing to undertake for a 160-page book.
Conceptualizing System
What I want to focus most closely on in Lefevere's book, though, is system, his systemic conception of system,
specifically as an inroad into the systemic approach to social translation studies today. This seems like a

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heavy burden for a single book to bear, and of course it is; but like a good rewriterlike Augustine in one of
Lefevere's more sardonic examples (7)I'm planning to allegorize it, to treat it as a sign or symptom of an entire
set of assumptions and approaches in recent translation theory, and thus to make it signify beyond its author's
intentions. In the spirit of Lefevere's book, I'm going to undertake this rewriting as neutrally as I can manage,
without holding either the book or its (rewritten) allegorical significance up for praise or blame. Like Lefevere,
I'm interested in exploring the systematicity of what I studywhich in this case is the rewriting performed not by
translators (editors, anthologists, etc.) but by translation theoristsnot in evaluating it.
But this immediately raises a problem, which Lefevere helps me put my finger on: "It is not my intention here,"
he writes at one point, "to evaluate the different translations. Nor is it my task to do so: evaluation would simply
reveal the hidden prescriptive assumptions with which I approach the translations. Since I have tried to describe,
not prescribe, there is no reason why I should evaluate. That task is better left to the reader" (109). This signals a
fairly representative turn among systemic theories of translation as a social act or process, away from the
prescriptive and evaluative bias of most earlier translation theories, which were centrally concerned to determine
the ideal translation or translation model and to evaluate existing or possible translations by reference to that
ideal. Typical of the newer social approaches (as well as some newer linguistic and literary approaches) is a
refusal to normatize translation, an insistence on describing the processes by which translations come to be
commissioned, made, and disseminated with complete indifference to the question of which translations are
better or worse than others. (The significant exceptions to this are the explicitly political theorists in the
foreignist/postcolonial camp, who fiercely attack translations that seem to be complicit with or overt instruments
of various sociopolitical hegemonies, especially patriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism.)
But I wonder: "evaluation would simply reveal the hidden prescriptive assumptions with which I approach the
translations" (109)? Lefevere's hidden polemic is directed specifically against the essentialist notion that
evaluation is an objective representation of quality or value residing somehow intrinsically within a translation,
and with that much I agree wholeheartedly. But his choice of the word "simply"as opposed, say, to ''merely" or
"only"makes me wonder whether the revelation of hidden assumptions is ever simple. The revelation of hidden
assumptions, along with the systemic explanation of the origin and nature of those assumptions, is one of
Lefevere's most significant tasks in the book. In fact this is by and large what constructivists do: explain behavior
that the behaver

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thinks of as autonomous ("I wanted to do it!") by reference to a higher level of control or constraint, which is
systemic. Is he suggesting here, then, that the only hidden assumptions that should not be revealed are his own?
If he isand I can't imagine what else he could be implyinghe is pointing tacitly toward a major area of
disagreement between systematizers of his stripe and more personal theorists such as Anthony Pym and Jill
Levine, who, believing that it is impossible ever to conceal (let alone eradicate) personal biases and prejudices,
would rather be as up-front as possible with them. For the "personalizers," this is a question of honesty, and
ultimately of self-awareness, which the theorist develops in her/himself and encourages in others. For the
systematizers it is another kind of issue altogether, one controlled by "the theoretical system" to which Lefevere
and most other systems theorists "belong," or attach themselves, the ethos of neutral, unbiased, objective,
empirical science, an ethos that seeks to convince readers by repressing personal bias. "I have constructed the
argument of this book," Lefevere writes, "on the basis of evidence that can be documented, and is'' (10): he isn't
just making this up, it's an accurate representation of the systemic nature of social reality. To support this
evidentiality he has also ''had liberal recourse to quotations from sources generally regarded as authoritative"
(10). Lefevere is just as honest in his empiricist rewriting of translation (and other forms of rewriting) as the
translators he discusses in their moralist (etc.) rewriting of the texts they translate: just as the literary system of
pre-World War II Anglo-American culture did not allow translators of Aristophanes even to consider calling a
penis a penis, a vulva a vulva, so too will the theoretical system of empirical science not allow Lefevere to
reveal (let alone explore) his own hidden assumptions in rewriting the translations he reads. It is simply
inconceivable. To become self-reflexive would be to step outside of the system that enables him to perceive
what he perceives; in that sense self-reflexivity would be almost literally blinding.
Most helpful of all in Lefevere's book, it seems to me, is the openness and comprehensiveness with which he
defines his conception of systemlargely because few systems theorists of translation outside the polysystems
group have ever foregrounded their implicit systems model as articulately as they. This is one reason, in fact, for
choosing Lefevere's book for close analysis here: it not only exemplifies but also explicitly theorizes system,
systematization, a systemic approach to the field. Lefevere's first definitional task is negative, in fact, doubly
negative in that he must negate the negative connotation "the system" has picked up in ordinary nontechnical
English: "When I use the word 'system' in these pages," he writes, "the

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term has nothing to do with 'the System' (usually spelled with a capital S) as it increasingly occurs in colloquial
usage to refer to the more sinister aspects of the powers that be, and against which there is no recourse. Within
systems thinking the term 'system' has no such Kafkaesque overtones. It is rather intended to be a neutral,
descriptive term, used to designate a set of interrelated elements that happen to share certain characteristics that
set them apart from other elements perceived as not belonging to the system" (12). One doesn't have to have
read very much Freud to suspect that something is going on here that Lefevere isn't telling us about, perhaps that
he isn't exactly aware of himself: we have a nightmarish Kafkaesque scene, which we are to banish from our
imaginations ("the jury," to quote a similar impossible request, "will please disregard the witness's last remark''),
and a reassuringly neutral scientific scene, which we are to embrace.
I'm not exactly sure what to make of this negation (Verneinung), except that its significance is probably nothing
so simplistic as the exact opposite of what Lefevere says it isthat is, he says it's not Kafkaesque, so that's
precisely what it is. No, it's more complicated than that. Like the foreignisis and the postcolonialists, Lefevere is
concerned throughout with power; unlike them, he is concerned here to distinguish his analysis of power
rhetorically from Kafkaesque nightmares: he wants to analyze the systemic functioning of power, but he doesn't
want his analysis to be (mis)taken for an indictment, so he scientizes it, descriptivizes it, portrays it as valuefree
inquiry. To give that impression he must here, in the early definitional stages of his book, euphemize systems far
more than his actual analysis would warrant: "a set of interrelated elements that happen to share certain
characteristics that set them apart from other elements perceived as not belonging to the system" (12). No
power? Just interrelated elements sharing characteristics?
"Literature is not a deterministic system," he goes on, "not 'something' that will 'take over' and 'run things,'
destroying the freedom of the individual reader, writer, and rewriter. This type of misconception can be traced
back to the colloquial use of the term and must be dismissed as irrelevant. Rather, the system acts as a series of
'constraints'" (12). As Lefevere portrays it, "the'' literary system does determine, control, regulate a good deal of
what most readers and rereaders, writers and rewriters like to think of as their personal autonomy, and in that
sense it is deterministic; it is just not deterministic in an absolute sense, leaving no room at all for freedom. His
conception of system is bureaucratized, steeped in what Nietzsche called the internalization of mastery, what I,
in The Translator's Turn (Robinson 1991c), called ideosomatics: it lacks a

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despot, no one tells you what to do, but it does regulate nearly every aspect of social life; it does condition the
actions we like to think of as our own, even though it can never control our behavior perfectly. It is also
bureaucratized rhetorically, in Lefevere's determination not to rail against it (or sing its praises), to remain
perfectly neutral, descriptive, scientific about it.
On the other hand, the bureaucratized or systemically internalized "constraints" repeatedly fight their way back
up to the surface in Lefevere's own rhetoric, as here when he declares a certain understanding of system a
"misconception" that "must be dismissed as irrelevant." More effectively repressed, this ''constraint" would have
been less personal, less obviously the product of individual insistence: not must be dismissed as irrelevant, is
irrelevant. Even in the strongest bureaucratic regimen the rules keep embodying themselves in individual despots
who lay them down and tell people what to do, what to dismiss, what to accept.
Less effectively repressed, of coursefor example, more insistently personalizedthis constraint would have told us
more about Lefevere's own ideological agenda, the origins of his systematism not only in desire, will, and need,
but also in the collective inclinations of his group and background as well.
Implicit in Lefevere's conception of literary systems (probably of other systems also) is that they have coherent
and well-marked beginnings. This is, in fact, an important component of most systems theory: without a clear
beginning, and presumably a clear end as well, it is difficult to pace off any sort of boundaries, to distinguish one
system from others, or from the nonsystemic swirl surrounding it (if, indeed, there is such a swirl). This is an
interesting paradox at the heart of systems theory: in order to set the stage for the dynamic study of change
within a system, the theorist has to build static walls around the system, saying, in effect, all I'm really interested
in is what happens inside these four walls, and I'd rather not think of the walls at all, except to posit their
presence and their relative permanence. Needless to say, a systems theory of translation is forced to deal also
with incursions from one system into another, and this forces Lefevere to focus more attention on the problem of
systemic boundaries, interfaces, permeabilities than systems theorists in many other fields; but like other systems
theorists, Lefevere still, despite the transformations wrought by translation, retains a primary belief in the
stability of systemic boundaries.
This is particularly clear in his repeated references to the beginnings of literary systems: "Once a poetics is
codified . . ." (26), "Codification takes place at a certain time, and once it has taken place . . ." (38), "Once a
literary system is established . . ." (38), "Once a culture has arrived at a

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canonized image of its past . . ." (112), and so on. The cumulative impact of these remarks is strong: systems
start at specific moments in time, and once they have started, once they are in place, certain laws apply, certain
patterns derived from systems theory can be discerned. This assumption at least loosely ties our interpretive
hands in the strangest of these remarks, in which Lefevere tells us that "practice precedes theory when the
poetics of a literary system is codified. Codification occurs at a certain time . . ." (27): here, but for Lefevere's
repeated emphasis on "at the moment that," we might be tempted to read "when" to mean ''if" or ''whenever,"
that is, "in all cases in which the poetics of a literary system is codified," allowing for a greater temporal
diffusion of codifications. The strange thing about the remark is that it seems to be saying that "practice
precedes theory" at the historical moment when the system begins. Is there some mystical instantaneity here,
some massive convergence of energies into the moment at which a system is born, a systemic poetics is
codified, so that at that moment practice is given precedence or priority over theory?
The real problem that I see from Lefevere's own point of view is that it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish
codification (and thus systematicity) from theorization, which places practice in an uncomfortable middle ground
between system and nonsystem, order and chaos. If theory is the codification of practice, which precedes theory
at the moment of codification, what is the systemic nature of practice? Is practice a presystemic directionality
that is then theoretically codified at a certain moment? If so, does "presystem" belong proleptically (or, less
insistently idealized, retroactively) to system? Can a system, once theoretically codified and thus officially in
place, be expanded backward to cover the loose (chaotic or disordered) odds and ends that preceded and in some
sense also preformed it? We speak of the "preromantics," the "premoderns"does the retroactive codification of
their presystematic directionality in effect incorporate them into the system, extend the system to cover them
too?
The other temporal problem I see in this conception of a literary system as bounded by theoretical codification is
that there are numerous horizons of theoretical codificationin fact, an endless series of them, beginning,
theoretically, with the theoretical beginning of the system (though it could also be argued that Herder is a
preromantic theorist who helps to theorize romanticism, Henry James is a premodern theorist who helps to
theorize modernism, etc.) and continuing long past the official or unofficial end of the system. (Is romanticism
over? Is modernism over? These are favored topics of debate among literary historians.) Ironically enough, it
seems likely that the official beginning of a literary system is something that can only be codified or theorized
after the system is officially codified (often, in fact, when it is in decline or

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officially over). The system-beginning act of codification can't codify its own originary moment. That is left to
later codifications, theorists who come along and say, "Look, folks, right there was the place this or that all
started."
And then, of course, other theorists will argue that some other moment was in fact the originary one. There must
be a clear boundary in order for the thing to be thematized as a system, but clear boundaries in human events are
notoriously hard to come by; usually they have to be declared by fiat, usually by a group of theorists powerful
enough to enforce the fiat, usually by denying various institutional goodies (recognition, publication, hence also
directly or indirectly promotion and tenure) to dissident theorists who refuse to toe the party line. (This is a
nascent systems theory of systems theorysomething I want to do more of in a moment.)
A corollary of this is that systems typically overflow their codifications, contain far greater complexity and
diversity than any of the successive theories that purport to codify them. A systems analysis might show that
some systems theorists operate within a pre-Freudian system that coaches them implicitly or metaphorically to
conceive systems as rational beings (or forces) that know exactly what they're doing and articulate that
knowledge as a theory or code that leaves no unconscious or other irrational residue, whereas others operate
within a Freudian system for which the code is only the rational tip of a monstrous unconscious iceberg. How
conscious does a system have to be, how thoroughly or exhaustively codified, in order to be called a system? It
depends on the theoretical system the systems theorist works in. Compared to the work of Foucault, for example,
Lefevere seems to be working in a pre-Freudian system, implicitly believing as he seems to that every detail in a
literary system is available to systematic articulation by a properly objective scientific thinker like himself.
It is, in any case, highly likely that the literary system of a given period overflows the bounds of the
contemporary codification, so that the system someone such as Lefevere identifies today is significantly
different from the system codified by those who lived in it. The next systemic step beyond that formulation is to
say that there is a significant difference between all collective regularities, hegemonic social patterns, which
exert a largely unconscious or ideosomatic power over the people who live in and through them, and systemic or
theoretical codifications of those patterns, which are usually ex post facto attempts to generalize the patterns
they discern to cover all variability. In other words, codification occurs not at a single but at a never-ending
succession of "certain times," whenever someone such as Lefevere (i.e., any theorist) decides to collate
regularities and impose some sort of overarching explanation on them.

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But this is essentially the duplicity in systems theory that I mentioned earlier: the systemic tendency to see all
systems but one's own as social fictions. Like most systems theorists, Lefevere (32) wants the systems he
identifies to exist in reality, beginning at a specific point (when they are codified) and continuing, with minor
variations ("There are local variations in both cases, to be sure, but the general picture is clear"), until they are
superseded by new systems; he wants his description of those systems to be objective in the sense of merely
representing a stable object outside his imagination. Hence the importance to Lefevere of differentiating the
process of "rewriters creat[ing] images of a writer" (5) from the realities they represent: "These images existed
side by side with the realities they competed with" (5). You have systems, codified at specific historical
moments and susceptible to stable objective description, and you have representations of those systems.
Hence also the importance of referring to these systems with the definite article: "The situation is different in
Egypt and the Maghreb because they belong to the Islamic rather than the African system," "This last statement
points to a similarity with the Western system that is not easy to overlook" (3132), etc. There is one whole
coherent literary system whose geographic boundaries roughly coincide with those of the Roman church around
1000 A.D.; another whose boundaries coincide with the Islamic countries; a third that more or less covers the
African continent, with the exception of those northern countries that belong to "the Islamic rather than the
African system." These are enormously complex geopolitical entities to be subsuming under the concept of a
single system.
And Lefevere generally recognizes that complexity: "A poetics, any poetics, is a historical variable: it is not
absolute. In a literary system the poetics dominant today is quite different from the poetics dominant at the
inception of the system" (35). The problem, of course, is how yon can ever tell when two historical horizons
dominated by quite different poetics are part of the same system. If the poetics change dramatically, is the
system still the same? How can you tell? Or do you just assume it from the continuity of other systems within
the same geographical area, such as language? In Lefevere's formulation the extension of literary systems is in
fact controlled more by linguistic than by political boundaries; does this mean that every Anglophone country is
part of the same system for as long as it goes on speaking English? Well, no, because literary periods are
systems too: the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, romanticism, naturalism, modernism, postmodernism, and so
on. Also, every Anglophone country has tended to develop in quite different ways and directions; so have
different regions in each country, different groups (the "professional"

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and "non-professional" readers Lefevere talks about), and so on. There is a good deal of slippage among
language families as well, as Lefevere unconsciously signals when he refers to "Turkish, a Finno-Ugrian
language" (31)most scholars would say that Turkish is a Turkic-Altaic language, but then there are Finnish
scholars who claim that Finnish itself is more Indo-European than Finno-Ugric. The whole notion of language
families was the German romantics' systemic projection, the construction of enormous historical and
geographical and linguistic systems to fit and support their self-imagea projection whose dangerous political
implications, made all too clear in the Nazi era, were present from the start: the German association of the
imaginary Indo-Europeans with blond Scandinavians was explicit in Indo-European philology from near the
beginning of the nineteenth century.
How big or small can a system be? Could we imagine all the literature ever produced by human beings as part of
the same system? I don't see why not, although it would probably only be useful by contrast with "the literary
system" of some other planetary race. Could we imagine, with the formalists, that a single literary work forms its
own coherent system (especially encyclopedic works such as Sakuntala, La divina commedia, Paradise Lost,
Faust, A la recherche du temps perdu, Finnegans Wake)? Critics often speak of the "system" of William Blake
or William Butler Yeatsis that enough? Or would Lefevere resist that sort of atomization of systems theory?
A more radically constructivist systems theory would insist that in all these cases "system" is mainly a useful
way of thinking about, and thus retroactively organizing, certain lines of force we see flowing through various
thens and nows, heres and theresand that a system can be as big or as small as the systems theorist needs it to be
for specific contextual explanatory purposes. If we want to explain certain regularities we perceive in, say,
literary works written (down) in several African nations or linguistic areas or periods, it may prove useful to
posit not only "the African system" but also "the Islamic system" and "the Western system''; if we discover a
Martian literature and want to explore its regularities, it may be useful to posit "the Martian system'' and "the
Earth system." Or we may be more interested in smaller systems, "the literary system" of a certain caf in Paris
or New York in 1936, for instance. Depending on how attached we are to descriptive stability, we may or may
not want to go on and draw up rigid boundaries for the systems we posit, beginnings and ends in time,
geographic limitsbut in a constructivist context these are all calculi, useful explanatory fictions, not accurate
representations of external reality.

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A Systems Theory of Systems Theory


That Lefevere never makes this leap into radical constructivism is almost certainly due to the fact that, as I
mentioned before, he himself as rewriter stands within a system, the academic system of (poly) systems theory;
that theoretical system enables him to see many things that other theorists outside that system can't see, and also
blinds him to certain other things that outsiders can often see better. This is, again, not an accusation; it's a
neutral fact of systems theory, which I have promised to follow as closely as possible. Systems are powerful
lenses for seeing and experiencing the things that they recognize (or project) as real, but extremely ineffective
lenses for seeing and experiencing things that lie beyond their purview. Systems naturalize their own belief
structures as the sum total of reality and expect people to enter wholeheartedly into their projections in order to
see what they see; to outsiders it often looks like mumbo-jumbo, largely because they have been conditioned by
other systems to see things in other ways. In chapter 5 we'll see Anthony Pym arguing that translators, who live
between systems, are the people best situated to break down those barriers; Lefevere, on the other hand, seeing
things through the lenses of systems theory, tends to see translators as more or less entirely in the service of a
single system, specifically the target-language literary system.
But more of that in a moment. I think it's interesting to note that Lefevere too seems to conceive polysystems
theory as a kind of closed system, with insiders who are in the know and outsiders who are not, but should be. I
get this impression from his tendency throughout the book to assume familiarity with the categories by which
polysystems theory organizes or systematizes the translational worldin fact, one of those categories is a thing
called "the categories," a kind of Kantian operating system that enables polysystems theorists to make taxonomic
sense of the cultural field they study. "The categories" also provided Lefevere with his thematic units in
Translation/History/Culture: A Sourcebook (1992b), his anthological companion volume to Translation,
Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame; in the latter they appear (without explanation of their
significance or origin) in his chapter titles after the colons: patronage, poetics, the categories (which is, as I say,
itself one of the categories), ideology, Universe of Discourse, and language. Later he calls ''the personal" a
category also, though I have never seen that in a chapter title: "These can be said to belong to three categories:
some changes are of a personal nature, some are ideological, and some belong in the sphere of patronage"
(1992a, 61). The categories are systemic calculi, the polysystems conceptual lenses that impose systemic
regularities of various sorts

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not only on the social field but also on all polysystems thinking about that fieldand Lefevere's use of the word
"belong" suggests that they do so specifically by assigning the phenomena they "observe," and can only observe
through the categories, to separate categories.
"Universe of Discourse" is apparently like the categories in not needing to be defined: it appears for the first
time in this book on page forty-eight, without comment, and forty pages later gets its own chapter, but again
without definition, almost certainly because it has been defined a hundred times before in previous polysystems
books and articles. I'm not quite sure why Universe of Discourse (which is usually referred to without a definite
or indefinite article, like God) is capitalized and the other key words are notwhy don't polysystems theorists refer
to Patronage, Ideology, Poetics, and so on? In any case it is clear that it forms part of polysystems theory's
liturgical ritual, which is not mere ornamentation, as the Calvinists claimed about Catholic rituals, as
grammarians claimed about rhetoric, but a virtually subliminal shaper of perception, an inverted retinal image
that precedes and informs the act of seeing (or else, as Eric Cheyfitz suggests, that's what ornamentation is).
With many of the other polysystems categories, notably ideology and poetics, Lefevere works hard to bring
newcomers up to speed; the categories and Universe of Discourse, for some reason, remain subliminal.
A systems theory approach to Lefevere's book, and thus more generally to systems theories of the social act of
translation, requires one to see it (and them) too through the lenses of these categories: to ask what ideology lies
behind it, what patronage systems support and maintain it, what poetics and Universe of Discourse inform it.
Here it is necessary to tread carefully, or risk giving the impression that I am attacking the book, or the systems
theory that drives it. I hope I have made it clear how impressed I am by the book, how convinced I am that the
questions I have been asking about it are evidence of its productivity, its fruitfulness as an approach. But I want
very much to explore the significance of Lefevere's approach in the spirit of that approach, and that requires
asking some tough questions, questions that are often perceived as demystificatory and thus as debunking. I do
believe there are mystifications in polysystems theory, as in all theories, my own included; but I don't consider it
bunk, and hence have no need to debunk it.
The easiest categories to cover concern the poetics and Universe of Discourse of polysystems theory: the poetics
are roughly constructivist, grounded in the belief that "value" is never something that lies in a poetic or
theoretical text but is always something that is assigned to it or constructed for it by an institution, a system, an
ideologically saturated power structure; the Universe of Discourse is roughly scientistic, grounded

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in the belief that "reality" lies outside the individual and his or her experiences and is best described in a
rhetorically cool, neutral, objective way. I have discussed the obvious clash between these two categories above;
no need to pursue them further here, except to note that the clash between them is precisely why polysystems
theorists are not given to doing systems analyses of their own systems analyses, and why my insistence on doing
one might well (though falsely) be considered a hostile act.
The question of ideology is a more difficult one, though it is clearly tied in here. Lefevere himself notes that
"even such bastions of 'objectivity' as dictionaries might have some kind of ideology behind them" (52), and it
should go without saying that such bastions of objectivity as polysystems theory do as wellthough the rhetorical
dominance of a scientistic Universe of Discourse makes it go without saying, unsaid. But what ideology? I
suppose it would depend on the extent to which we take the demystificatory impulse behind systems theory to
be repressed or disguised hostility: the more hostility toward systems that Lefevere and other polysystems
theorists feel but repress or rhetorically suppress or displace in their work, the more strongly their ideology
would lean toward the oppositional, the antinomic, the counterhegemonic (and thus toward solidarity with the
foreignists and the postcolonialists); the less hostility they feel, the less hostility they need to repress in order to
remain within their scientistic Universe of Discourse, the more strongly their ideology would lean toward the
authoritarian, the idealized defense of state and other systemic power (and thus more solidarity with the
hegemonic systems the foreignists and postcolonialists attack). I have no firm evidence one way or the other,
though Lefevere occasionally allows his biases to surface rhetorically, as when he claims that "the rhyme and
meter rule . . . has been responsible for the failure of many a translation to carry its original across into the
Western system. This situation, in turn, greatly obstructed the process of assimilation" (36). This still has the
patina of neutrality, but the dualisms implied by "failure" (as opposed to success) and "obstructed" (as opposed
to facilitated) suggest here that Lefevere is on the side of assimilation, and thus, if Lawrence Venuti is right, of
state power, systemic authority, capitalism, and so on. Elsewhere, as in his discussions of Aristophanes and
Anne Frank, he is clearly disgusted with assimilative translations. So I don't know. Set side by side with the
overt political (left-leaning) polemics of Venuti, Lefevere's neutrality looks unmistakably like a whitewash of
systemic hegemony, a refusal to indict political power wherever it appears; set next to the work of Eugene Nida
or Peter Newmark, it looks more like Venuti. Again, like Lefevere, I pass the evaluative buck on to the
readerand rhetorically suppress my own take on these matters.

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The question of patronage is a much more involved matter, one that would properly require a massive and
daunting research effort that I am not inclined to undertake, but that might make a good dissertation topic for
some ambitious graduate student: who (or what) supports polysystems theory (or any given systems theory of
the social act of translation) institutionally? The easy answer is "academia": all of the polysystems theorists are
entrenched in university jobs, are paid not only a salary but also various forms of research support (including
travel to conferences and archives) by their academic employers, and their access to those monies is partly
determined by objective assessments of their publication records, which is to say by their success in
disseminating polysystems theory. But virtually every translation theorist, indeed virtually every theorist period,
is employed by some university that "patronizes" or supports financially a wide variety of theoretical
approaches; is there any sense in which the institutional patronage of polysystems theory is "undifferentiated,"
which according to Lefevere means that economic success follows directly from the propagation of a specific
ideology? Or is it "differentiated," so that the economic success of the various theorists is independent of the
ideology they support?
I just got through saying, of course, that polysystems theorists work hard not to propagate any ideologytheir
public ideology, as their more overtly political colleagues in the postcolonial camp would insist, is that scholars
shouldn't have a public ideology, that true scholarship is valuefreeso it may be difficult in this case to
differentiate "differentiated" from "undifferentiated" patronage. What's more, "value-free inquiry" is such a
widespread academic ideology that it would be extremely difficult to talk about its interrelations with economic
success (jobs, promotions, raises, teaching loads, travel money, etc.) in the specific case of polysystems theory,
or even of systemic theories of social translation in generalto differentiate its patronage status from that of other
theories. In addressing this issue fully, therefore, one would need to look closely at the specific power
relationships between various polysystems theorists and their departments, their deans, and so on; but one would
also want to explore other forms of patronage, such as publishing and translator organizations. What journals
support polysystems theory, to what extent do they mainly or exclusively support polysystems theory? Until
recently, Lefevere and Susan Bassnett were general editors of one of "the English-speaking system's" most
prestigious book series in translation studies, at Routledge, the publisher of the two Lefevere books I have
mentioned here. One would want to study the list of books published in that series, the extent to which it is
exclusively or mainly or even loosely a polysystems seriesalso the relationship between the general editors and
the Routledge edi-

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torial office, which had, presumably, ultimate say over what got published. How much autonomy did Lefevere
and Bassnett have? If they said "publish this," would Routledge obey? Did they have to persuade the Routledge
acquisitions editor and editorial board to publish the books they liked? If so (and that is likely), what form did
that persuasion take? A description, written by Lefevere and/or Bassnett, of the book's virtues? One external
evaluation, two external evaluations, three?
An even more difficult question concerns the extent to which polysystems theory, in accordance with its
scientistic Universe of Discourse, attempts to build a patronage system in less overt ways, to encourage in
readers and students the internalization and thus bureaucratization of their authority, so that the school's systemic
success doesn't depend on, say, the capricious favor of a powerful dean or editor. In what ways, for example, is
polysystems theory presented to the translation theory community as the fullest or most comprehensive approach
to the topic, or the most scientific, or the most pedagogically sound or effective? Patronage, as Lefevere hints
throughout Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame, can come from above or below:
from an elite group of professional readers (the precapitalist model) or from the large book-buying public (the
capitalist model). If translators and translation instructors, and thus translator training programs in general,
around the world declared fealty to polysystems theory, that would constitute a powerful form of patronage:
look, translators need us! Translation studies programs need us! One would also want to study polysystems
theorists' institutional behavior in terms of the more negative forms of academic empire building: convincing
students to take classes from you and your allies rather than those other professors, whose thinking is not as
progressive as yours; ostracizing or otherwise punishing in-group members who stray from the fold; disparaging
theorists from rival groups at conferences (both in sessions and at the bar or over dinner) and in various printed
remarks, and so on. Without undertaking the massive research effort this would require I can't say which if any
of these practices (which all academics see around them every day and often participate in themselves) are found
within the system of (poly) systems theory, and I certainly don't want to be understood as merely insinuating
unsavory activities without evidence; all I'm saying is that these are some of the directions systems-theoretical
research into the polysystems school would have to take in order to establish patronage.
Outside Systems
Systems thinking is attractive largely because it promises a universal key to understanding, and thus mentally
controlling, large quantities of external

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data. Part of this, too, is the hegemonic status of systemic thinking in the West, where systemic thinking is in
fact a kind of tautology: presystematic or unsystematic thinkers are often portrayed as people who don't think at
all, because thinking is either system (at)ic or no thinking at all, blind uncritical practice. As I noted earlier,
feminists have underscored the ways in which this narrow systemic conception of thought arises out of, and
helps maintain, patriarchal norms of masculinity in the West, where men are supposed to be more spiritual, more
intellectual, more abstract thinkerscloser to God the Systemic Father, God the Creator of Paternal Logic through
his Son, the Logosthan carnal, emotional women.
On the other hand, systemic thinking is more than just a male fantasy of mental control; it is also a powerful tool
for analyzing (and indicting) recurring social patterns that bind not only our ability to act as freely as we'd like
but also our ability to analyze and indict them. In a theoretical system shaped by Marx and Freud and their many
brilliant followers, it is difficult not to believe in systemic collective forces, partly conscious but largely
unconscious, working through both institutions and individuals to control our lives in fine detailand partly
falling, due to the complexity of the human nervous system, but largely succeeding. Systems thinking has
proved invaluable not only to Marxists and other leftists analyzing and indicting capitalism and postcolonial
subjects analyzing and indicting colonialism, but also to feminists analyzing and indicting patriarchy. Mary
Field Belenky (1986) and other personalizing feminists to the contrary, systems theory has been an essential
rung on the feminist ladder to liberation.
Systems theory has many serious flaws, of course, and I have covered some of them above: the need to invent
and stabilize boundaries around systems in order to account for dynamic change within them; the high level of
abstraction, which necessarily neglects the variety and creativity of personal experience; the illusion that the
systems a theorist "sees" actually exist and function in the way the systems theorist imagines. But the many
methodological benefits may make it worth the candle. What does a translator do in the day-to-day process of
accepting, researching, completing, and sending off translation jobs? What implications does this process have
for translation pedagogy? What are the social forces that control the selection of texts for translation, translators
to translate them, methods to translate them by, publishers to publish them, readers to read them, and so on? It is
difficult to imagine any answers at all to these questions without systems thinkingpartly, perhaps, because
systems thinking is so endemic to "the" Western philosophical tradition, partly also because it is so incredibly
useful, such a powerful method for tracing (maybe partly inventing) large-scale patterns in the midst of the
confusions of everyday living.

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Five
Personalizing Process
Anthony Pym,
Epistemological Problems in Translation and Its Teaching
In their focus on the social in translation, Andr Lefevere and Anthony Pym are more alike than different: both
theorists insist on tracing specific acts and facts of translation to their social determinants; both understand social
determinants to be large-scale sociopolitical forces with historical continuity lasting over periods of years,
decades, even centuries.
But there are also significant differences in the two approaches. One that I hinted at throughout my discussion on
Lefevere in chapter 4 lies in the relative honesty or openness or self-reflexivity of the two theorists' theorizing:
whereas Lefevere, in accordance with his scientistic Universe of Discourse, wants to portray stable facts
uncovered by stable theories (or methods), Pym stays in process with his own thinking, showing how he came to
think in certain ways and how he still isn't quite sure this or that is the most productive way of seeing things.
This latter approach is rhetorically irritating to systems theorists, who consider such personal disclosure to be
mere self-indulgence, the theorist rambling on about himself or herself rather than getting down to the matter at
hand, that is, the actual systems; but for the local, experiential, personal theorist, this "rambling" is anything but
self-indulgent. It is a modeling of the process of theorization, of systems building, if you like (although these
"systems" never quite seem to get fully built), and it is intended to give the reader not only an experience of the
theorist's process but also a sense of how he or she might proceed from where the theorist left off.
At the simplest level, this means that a theorist such as Pym is highly unlikely to say things like "There is one
level on which translation remains a prescriptive operation: translators would be well advised to bow to the
dictates of the dictionary" (Lefevere 1992a,101). As we'll see, Pym says some very similar things in his book,
but addresses them in a very different rhetoric. The obvious problem with Lefevere's remark is that he

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clearly means a level on which translation theory, not translation, remains a prescriptive operation. This is part
of Lefevere's quite normal systemic tendency to reify representations as realities: the theorist prescribes for the
translator, and what the translator subsequently does is called "prescriptive"; the theorist systematizes a social
field, and the field is called "systemic." This process of prescribing, systematizing, and calling is one of the
practices that should be covered under Lefevere's wonderful concept of rewriting but isn't. It is notoriously
difficult to stand outside your own ideology long enough to realize just how thoroughly it saturates your
thinkingwhich is one reason why more personal and experiential theorists as much as possible avoid trying to
get outside their ideology, preferring instead to explore it as fully and as complexly as possible from the inside,
from wherever they happen to be standing. One of the things systems theorists are typically (almost necessarily)
blind to is their own construction and outward projection of the systems in and with which they work. One way
of avoiding this particular pitfall at least some of the time is by telling personal stories about coming to think
and see and articulate things in specific ways, especially when one of the things you see (even if only
occasionally) is how often you are blinded by your own assumptions.
And in Epistemological Problems (1992) Pym provides a striking example of this latter approach. His book, as
his subtitle suggests, is an edited transcription of an actual "seminar" he gave for "thinking students" (also
faculty members) from March 17 to April 3, 1992, at the University of Las Palmas, where he was teaching at the
time. The eight two-hour taped sessions became the eight chapters of the book, and in editing those tapes for
publication, he retained not only the sloppiness of ordinary speech"I have retained a lot of repetition and several
curious sideshows that don't really lead anywhere" (l1)but also various passages in which he is clearly thinking
out loud, formulating ideas for the first time, and reflecting upon the process; also, "Where there were questions
or comments, I have indicated the speakers' names whenever possible" (11). He apologizes: ''The transcription
of the tapes has provided several occasions for self-criticism. In particular, I have seen how I tend to avoid
questions rather than confront them with honest answers. I thus offer apologies to those who didn't receive the
answers they deserved'' (12).
As I say, this sort of thing baffles and irritates most systemic theorists: why would anyone deliberately go to all
this trouble, with the risk (possibly even the full intention!) of appearing sloppy, stupid, indecisive, unsure? Why
would Pym not only retain all this orality in a version edited for publicationthe repetitions and the dead ends and
the second thoughts and the apologiesbut base his book on a transcription of a live event in

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the first place? Most books based on a lecture series are first written out, with an eye to ultimate publication,
then read to the audience more or less exactly as written, with only a few occasional digressions and
parenthetical comments that in the published version are either ignored or edited to fit that version seamlessly.
Because systems theorists privilege systems, systemic thought, carefully planned systematicity, they want to
control every detail of the rhetorical presentation of their ideas in advance; hence the importance of putting
writing before speech, argumentation before conversation, even to the point of reading densely brilliant and
overlong conference papers in a rapid-fire machine-gun monotone that few members of the audience can
comfortably follow. To these systems thinkers, Pym's reverse approach must seem quixotic beyond beliefor
perhaps only arrogant ("he thinks he's so smart that even his ramblings are worth listening to").
And this is the major drawback in Pym's approach: it stands outside hegemonic paradigms for academic
thinking, which are systemic, and thus risks seeming unthinking. If Pym doesn't have his system worked out
down to the finest detail in advance, if he makes it up as he goes along, perhaps even changes his mind halfway
through, then he doesn't have a system; if he doesn't have a system, he's not a systematic thinker; and an
unsystematic thinker is no thinker at all. To write this way is, therefore, within the prevailing paradigms of
Western theoretical discourse, to proclaim yourself stupidto prove to all thinking students that you are at best a
chaotic thinker, at worst (and due to the hegemonic definition of thinking this "at worst" follows immediately
and inexorably) an idiot, an ordinary pretheoretical or prescientific or prerational person.
Interestingly enough, Lefevere himself attacks the ethnocentric biases behind this assumption when it appears in
Western readings of Arabic poetry: "W. R. Polk reminds the Western reader of the fact that the 'audience was
expected to break in at the end of each verse, to comment, to recite comparable verses, and to savor the artistry
of the poet' (1992a, xxi), explaining both theto the Western mind'chaotic' structure of the qasidah and its lack of
sequential narrative as defined in logical terms" (83). Compare this description with Pym's book, which is also
interrupted by questions from the audience and meanders far more anecdotally and nonsequentially than a
systematic or logical thinker like Lefevere would accept. For a systems theorist like Lefevere, this is an invalid
leap: what applies to other rewriters, translators and critics and editors and anthologists and the rest, doesn't
apply to a rewriter like himself, the systems theorist In the name of systemic cohesion, though, shouldn't it?
Pym calls his approach "semiotic," but his conception of semiosis, which he develops at length in chapters 2 and
3 (and throughout), is far closer

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to Peirce than to Saussure, far closer to Julia Kristeva (the "chora") than to Jacques Derrida, and far closer to
Derrida than to most semioticians, which last are by and large systems thinkers. Pym's model of semiosis is one
of open-ended process, a never-ending series of "takes" on things, interpretations of signs that create one thing
as sign in and through the act of interpreting it and create another thing, the interpretation itself, as another sign
(dependent on the first) that itself must in turn be interpreted, and so on and so on. He builds this semiotic theory
out of a series of readings of major theorists (especially Derrida and Quine), which he passed out to the
participants in the seminar in advance, and which they may or may not have read; most of the "thinking
students" who ask him questions during the course of the lectures are, not surprisingly, his colleagues (one of
them his wife, Monique Caminade). So he has placed constraints on semiosis in advance, and in his ''Preface to
the Written Version" he apologizes both for making those constraints as lax as they were and for not getting rid
of them altogether:
Further, with respect to the actual ideas put forward, the transcription underscores that the model of
semiosis, of a constant movement of meaning, is rather idealistic and at odds with the cruelly final nature
of the translator's work. Since only a few of my examples really carry semiosis beyond four or five terms,
they are a little incongruent with the theoretical notion of an endless series of alternatives. I should
probably have placed more emphasis on non-binarism as "more than one solution," and less on open
series. That is, my epistemology should have focused more on problem-solving activities and less on the
generation of alternatives. But this is a general reserve that I would extend to all deconstructionist
approaches to translation. (12)
Since we're out of systems theory now and into more open-ended and personalized semioses, I want to argue
with a single point Pym makes here, and maybe even use a personal example to make my own point: this is a
whole new Universe of Discourse we're into now, and I feel less bound to suppress my opinions and experiences
rhetorically. The thing is, I have my doubts about "the cruelly final nature of the translator's work" that Pym
speaks of. As I've been writing this chapter I've been interrupted several times, on successive days, by the fax
machine spewing out addenda and corrigenda to a translation job that I thought I had finished a month and a half
ago: it's a chainsaw manual, English to Finnish, neither a particularly interesting topic nor a particularly
attractive direction for me, as I do most of my work from Finnish to English. The translation agency that
commissioned the work is having the manual translated into a dozen

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different languages, working with nearly that number of different translators, all of whom have had queries of
various kinds during the protracted process; these queries have generated alterations in passages previously
translated, and the alterations have generated new queries, and so on. The manufacturer, too, has been modifying
the manual as the translation process has proceeded. Frankly, I don't know if this job will ever end. The flurry of
faxes has so far shown no sign of abating. "Cruelly final"? Rather, blissfully final! I would love to see the end of
this job!
Of course, Pym also means that the translator does finally have to settle for a single rendering of each word,
each phrase, each passage, ultimately of each text; but that's not always true either. That's only the "normal"
process, the process that has been "normatized" as the core or basis of all "true" translation, translation ''proper,"
the ideal process of translation, according to which you begin with one source-language text and after a
potentially endless but factually finite series of drafts you end up with one target-language text, which is the
''cruelly final" end product. But there are a number of variables in that process that the ideal model artificially
controls:
(a) Certain economic constraints connected with publication (in the fullest sense of "making public") do usually
require a translator to select a single draft as the "final" one and submit it, upload it into an agency's computer
network over the modem or UPS (United Parcel Service) a book manuscript to an editor or whatever. But not all
translation is public. I have generated numerous English drafts of Finnish poems that I have subsequently cut
from the collection I've stored on-line at http://www.olemiss.edu/~dir/turn-tc.html, with the result that no single
draft of the rejects is or ever will be the "cruelly final" version. Some people, "nonprofessionals" considered by
many to be beneath the consideration of professional translation theorists, never translate for publication: they
translate for the fun of it, or to help themselves learn a foreign language. For them there is no pressure to
produce a "cruelly final" version.
(b) In certain sociocultural contexts multiple translation is not only tolerated but favored, especially the contexts
that privilege "variations" on poetic texts, as in the publications that showcase student work. For example, the
Exchanges journal that Daniel Weissbort edits for the literary translation program at the University of Iowa
encourages multiple versions by the same translator. Multiple translation can be an extremely productive
teaching tool as well, and depending on the teacher the series of translations may or may not aim toward the
creation of a "cruelly final" version; personally, I would prefer to see a series of parallel texts, because that
enables students to explore a wider variety of translation methods without pushing that variety into a false
teleology.

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(c) Even when a particular translation process is aimed at a single final text, there are often several copy-editing
stages that follow the translator's supposed "completion" of the work, introducing an element of uncertainty into
the translator's feeling of "finality" about any given version. When I translated Aleksis Kivi's 1864 play
Nummisuutarit ("Heath Cobblers") in 1976, I thought I was done with the work and sent it out to publishers, all
of whom rejected it and continued rejecting it over the years until 1992, when I finally found an editor at a small
ethnic press in Minnesota willing to take a chance on a classic Finnish play. I then revised my translation
substantially, eliminating almost all traces of the archaism I had originally thought so wonderful, and submitted
it for consideration; they accepted it and copy edited my manuscript extensively, leading me to make some more
changes and generally to take a whole new look at many passages I thought I knew. They wanted to get it into
print by FinnFest in late July, a huge annual Finnish-American festival (that year being held in Thousand Oaks,
California) that constitutes the best annual market for Finnish books. They got me the page proofs in late May,
just as I was leaving to drive to Los Angeles with my family, heading for Finland for a month and a half, then
back to L.A. in time for FinnFest, and I spent two hours on the phone from my parents' house in Phoenix, going
over corrections, some of which required me again to change my translation in minor ways. Two passages
needed to be compared with the Finnish original, which was, of course, back at home in Mississippi; but I would
be in Finland in a few days, so I promised to drive, immediately upon my arrival, straight to the nearest library
in Helsinki, check the two passages, and fax back my corrections. I did so, and assumed that we now had a
"cruelly final" versionand, well, that time I was right, but I had thought that before, and could not be sure that I
would not be wrong again. (And what if the translation sells so well that the publishers want me to undertake a
revised edition? Not likely, but not beyond the realm of possibility either.)
And maybe this would be a good time to address the question of personal anecdotes in translation theory.
Throughout the lectures that make up his book Pym is constantly telling stories about himself, but he doesn't
really defend them explicitly, except by reference to "orality"; nor does his "semiotic" or "deconstructive"
method necessarily justify their use. He could have constructed his argument semiotically without telling stories
about the first time he read Derrida and his girlfriend wanted him to come to bed, or about the first time he
traveled out of Australia, or about the time he bad-mouthed a previous translator's work to a client and won the
client but then was himself bad-mouthed to that same client by that same previous translator and lost the client
back to him, or about his

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experiences at a conference in Barcelona, where, as an invited expert on Australian culture, he confessed his
uncertainty as to the meaning of "the bush," and so on. He doesn't need all this for his open-ended conception of
semiosis to work. He didn't need to start with a live oral event and move from there to tape and transcription and
editing to drive his point home about semiotic series. There's more going on methodologically in personal
anecdotes than the theory of semiosis can justify.
Pym calls himself, in the prefatory passage I quoted above, a "deconstructionist" theorist, and certainly
deconstruction has had a salutary impact on his thinking, especially, I think, in his determination to loosen up
the play in theoretical systems"play" in the sense of the play in a steering wheel, of course, but also as
playfulness. In a sense he is a chaos theorist without the name: the asystemic play that he explores and expands
in his work could also be called, following chaos theory, the "turbulence" in a system, or the "sensitive
dependence on initial conditions" (see Gleick, 1987). But Pym is emphatically not a deconstructionist in his
recognition that there are times when you have to bring a potentially endless series of playful semioses to an
endan end that is invariably controlled not by systemic principle or precept but by experiential practicalities:
For me, equivalence isn't at the beginning of semiosis. It has nothing to do with looking back to the value
of the first signified. Equivalence happens at the end of semiosis. It's a belief that something is equivalent
to something else, that semiosis can come to an end. In theory, there could always be further discussion.
But in practice, as translating translators, we hope readers will be gullible enough to believe we can end
semiosis. We hope readers will accept our texts as adequate translations. We hope we'll be seen as
producers of equivalence. And the kind of equivalence we produce can then only exist as a belief held by
the receivers of our work. (115)
Once again I want to argue with this, especially with his rhetorical strategy of moving from "for me" to "for us"
(as translating translators). (He also passes through a stage of flat factual generalizations"Equivalence happens at
the end of semiosis" and "It's a belief"but these could still be read as prefaced by an implicit or remembered ''for
me.") The ''for me" statement is personal and moves powerfully through personal preference, personal
experience, personal discovery to a significant insight, that "equivalence" is not only an illusion, it's a
pragmatically necessary illusion that a translator imposes on a translation job in order to bring semiosis to a halt.
This is an exciting and productive discovery that presumably arose out of Pym asking himself things like, What
does equivalence really

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mean for me? how do I really feel about it? do I believe in it? do I use it? and so onand then presenting it to us
as his personal revelation, not as a systemic truth but as something arising out of a critical engagement with his
own experience of translating. (I personally wonder to what extent my enthusiasm for this particular insight is
conditioned by the fact that I said some very similar things about equivalence in The Translator's Turn [2122]).
By contrast, Andr Lefevere simply ignores equivalence: it is not a relevant part of his systems analysis, so he
never mentions it. This too makes an important statement, especially in a theoretical tradition that has talked of
little else but equivalence for two millenniabut it doesn't provide much assistance to the reader who says,
puzzled, "Yes, I see what you're saying, but how does equivalence fit into all this?" Pym's subtext seems to be
something on the order of "the only way all these translation theorists could go on pronouncing on equivalence
and never saying anything new must have been that no one ever stopped to test his or her theories against his or
her own personal experience of the thing; so I stopped and tested the notion against my experience, and here's
what I found."
But then, having drawn his audience into his discovery, Pym next attempts rhetorically, through what Kenneth
Burke calls identification, to draw them into a homogeneous community of those who agree with his insight:
"we hope readers will be gullible enough," "we hope readers will accept our texts," "we hope we'll be seen," and
so forth. My hope shall be ours. It's an effective rhetorical technique, of course, a powerful subliminal suggestion
that, based on your experience, you already agree with me; but it's rhetorically constructed specifically to block
(or at least to go on silencing) listeners' and readers' own processes of personal discovery, their testing of Pym's
claims against their own experiences. As Pym's ''thinking student," I stop to think about this, to test it, and find
that it doesn't always work (and now write about it, breaking silencetypically easier for a colleague to do than
for a student, as Pym's own book illustrates). It works with my translations of chainsaw manuals, and even of
my correspondence with an editor at a university press that I'm hoping will contract with me to translate Maria
Jotuni's 1936 novel Huojuva talo (''Tottering House"), but it's not true of every translation I've ever done. I have
lots of ways of bringing translational semiosis to a halt, only some of which involve equivalenceand only some
of which lend themselves to articulation. Sometimes, for example, especially but not exclusively in literary
translation, some rendering that feels less equivalent forces itself on me over a rendering that feels more
equivalent, and I don't know whybut I have been known to go with my intuition. I have arrogant moods when I'd
rather be flashy than accurate. I generally don't translate chainsaw

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manuals in those moods, and when I do, I force myself into another mood, hating it, but doing it anyway to
protect my supplemental income. Sometimes, too, thoughts of equivalence reopen semioses, as when I wonder
whether it would be better to go with (the illusion of) equivalence of mood or of semantics. When I translate a
text as an example for a theoretical piece I'm writing, I'll often use conflicting equivalence-images to keep the
semiosis openas in my discussion of Eino Leino's "Erotessa" ("At Parting") in The Translator's Turn (16466).
Pym might argue that these examples lie outside the "core" of translating that he's talking about, a core of which
translations of chainsaw manuals are more typical; but I resist his attempts to restrict my experience of
translation to that "core,'' by whatever subtle rhetorical means.
It should be clear that personal experience is an extremely effective crowbar, useful for breaking through the
shiny carapaces of authoritywhether it is the authority of an ossified belief structure that no one has questioned
for decades, even centuries, or of a writer or teacher like Anthony Pym (or Doug Robinson) who wields his
personal experience like a weapon, convincing even some thinking students that their experiences are the same,
and that they should therefore agree with the guru. I personally agree with Pym that "translation cannot be taught
or theorized in an authoritarian way" (13) and recognize with him the paradoxes in that very statement: "Worse,
if I can say that translation shouldn't be taught in an authoritarian way, how can I, as a supposed authority,
pretend to say anything about translation, including what I've said so far?" (13). Worse still, saying that
"translation cannot be taught or theorized in an authoritarian way" is theorizing translation in an authoritarian
way, and worst of allsince translation has been taught and theorized in thousands of authoritarian waysthe
pronouncement can only be defended as "true'' or "valid" through a lengthy process of authoritarian
philosophical reasoning intended to define "translation," "teachability," and "theorizability" in special restricted
ways (a person who is taught to translate following rigid rules hasn't really learned to translate, because
translating is something very different from that).
But this is only a preliminary formulation for Pym, almost, in fact, a canardthough I do believe that he believes it
when he says it (and so do I). He says specifically of this pronouncement on authority that "my first idea is a
minor paradox that has to be worked out" (13), and in some sense the whole book becomes a working out of that
paradox (and others), a semiotic process of thinking through his attitudes on authority by testing them against his
experience, leading finally to an entire chapter (7) on "The positive uses of authority." In his final chapter, too,
he keeps coming back to the question of authority, using his authority as a teacher

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and a theorist to tell students that semiosis and indeterminacy and open-endedness are liberating ideas (or
experiences) for translators while they're working or talking about their work with other translators (what he
calls "internal knowledge") but useless for the essential "external" process of convincing an agency or a client
that you're a good translator and worthy of its or his or her business:
The most important part of a translation job is perhaps gaining and keeping authority. But will this help
you avoid errors? Not really. It's just a bag of tricks that might help you build up a solid working
relationship with your client. But this should happen little by little, through the asking of a few questions
at the beginning and then longer discussions as you go on. The process should be carried out as a careful
negotiation. Of course, you can't start off with a long list of questions. If you do this, your client will think
you know nothing and you'll never establish any authority. And you can't start off criticizing a source text,
because if the author hears about it people will soon be saying you're a bad worker blaming your tools. So
a gradual process of exchange and mutual help is the best way of establishing a good working relationship.
And this is perhaps the most important part of a translation. (145)
It's also helpful to note that this pronouncement comes at the end of the book, after Pym has taken us through a
"gradual process" of working through texts and examples and stories and questions and answers, fielding
comments from the audience, building trust in his intelligence, flexibility, sense of humor, and experience of
translation. If this "authoritarian" tone were Pym's only rhetorical mode, if his entire book had been constructed
to tell us in precise detail what the most important part of a translation is, I would have found it unbearable; by
the end of the book, with its radical notions of translation as open-ended semiosis and its complex presentation
of Pym as a person, I'm ready to let him give me a little piece of adviceactually, to recognize that his advice fits
my experience of working with clients and agencies as well. Above all, by now he has established the difference
between the actual process of translating, which is semiotic, and what Erving Goffman calls ''the presentation of
self in everyday life," the production and maintenance of a public image as competent translator. He's not telling
us, in other words, how to translateonly how to present ourselves as translators, how to play the very real game
(most translators' livelihood depends on it!) of "being translators.''
This is, perhaps, a circumlocutory way of establishing authority; it almost certainly takes Pym longer to prove to
academic audiences that he's worth listening to than it does speakers and writers who signal their

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authority with a more formal theoretical discourse. A chatty, personal style, with all the hesitations and false
starts and "I don't knows" of ordinary nontechnical conversation, is initially not conducive to "gaining and
keeping authority" in an academic settingbut once Pym has established his authority as a translation theorist, the
personal, anecdotal means through which he has established it has made it a significantly different kind of
authority, grounded less in systemic cohesion than in a reciprocal process of asserting and testing claims against
experience:
Instead of saying "I know what the text means; let's see if you can find out," we should be saying "Let's
see how we can translate this text."
Monique Caminade: Don't you first need some kind of agreement between teachers and students? Don't
they have to decide how they're going to work and how they're going to decide between different
propositions. For example, how can you decide between situations where the teacher says "It's right, but
yes" and "It's right, but no"? And what should the teacher do about students who want to carry on
debating what you call mistakes? We see this problem in our oral language exams, where students are
really unable to evaluate themselves. They can't see the mistakes they're making or how serious they are.
So I think you first need a scale of values so that students can know how to evaluate themselves. We have
to decide how many marks are going to be taken off for each kind of error.
I'm not so sure. I don't see why a debate with a student should be a problem. And I don't really know why
we should talk about self-evaluation when the class situation should enable some kind of mutual
evaluation. . . .
Monique Caminade: But it's a general problem of evaluation.
No, not in class.
Heidrun Witte: But you could talk until the year 2000 about something that you know is wrong and a
student is sure is right. You can't go on forever with your idea about talk and discussion and debate.
Sooner or later you're going to have to tell a student "Sorry, but you're wrong. "You, as a teacher, are
going to have to impose your authority.
Yes, of course. With mistakes it's quite simple. I can refer to a dictionary, a grammar or a reference book,
falling back on the unholy Trinity. (1089)
And so on. It's an incredibly uneconomical way of presenting an argument, if what you have is a ready-made
argument that you want to present as is, without change or diminishment; but it's an extremely rich way of

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exploring possibilities in a community of experienced practitioners who are used to articulating their views but
are forced to rethink those views when they are contradicted or challenged by someone else. It's a process much
closer to the consensual "ways of knowing" that some feminist scholars are calling more typically feminine
(though perhaps only became that's how women have been conditioned in patriarchal society) than to the more
abstract and systemic ways they are calling typically masculine. And it is no surprise, perhaps, that as women
move increasingly into translation theory, after centuries of being locked out or peripheralized, they are
frequently finding their voices in these more personal and consensual, more tentative and exploratory modes that
leave plenty of room for everybody's voice, everybody's experience, everybody's opinion.
Much as I am drawn to personalized approaches, however, I really don't want to privilege them over more
systemic approaches. We need the perspectives on translation that both overarching systems theories and
localized personal anecdotes and discussions can bring. Above all, we need conversation between the two
approaches, mutual testing of theories and claims, so that systems theorists can listen closely to the personal
anecdotes people like Anthony Pym and (next chapter) Jill Levine tell and, where necessary, adjust their systems
to account for them; and personal or anecdotal "chaos" theorists can listen closely to the systemic explanations
of various translator behaviors and attitudes that the systems theorists adduce and, where necessary, adjust the
stories they tell to account for broader, more global forces that they increasingly realize have a significant
impact on their behavior.
And I think Pym's most attractive claim is that translators, as members of intercultural communities, are
perfectly situated to mediate between discourses in just this way: "The position and role of translators is thus
primarily to straddle the borders between cultures and to bring about interaction, gaining a form of knowledge
that is inaccessible to many of those who remain within cultural frontiers" (150). If we take systems theories and
chaos theories, abstract globalism and local personalism to be different cultures, say, masculine and feminine
cultures, or academic and lay cultures, who could be better at living in the borderlands between those two
cultures than translatorsor, one would hope, translation theorists? The time for exclusive allegiances, to this
culture or that, this system or that, this rhetorical mode or that, is past. Or rather, as Pym would say, those
allegiances may have their place in our attempts to establish our collective authority as a growing field of study
among governmental and academic bureaucrats who don't really understand what we do; but our "internal
knowledge," our discussions of important issues among fel-

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low translators, is, as Pym says, "fundamentally intercultural" (150) and should partake of both broad
methodological cultures, the systemic and the personal. A translator without (at least) one foot in each culture is
not going to last long in the profession; may the profession of translation theory gradually be transformed along
similar intercultural lines.

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Six
Pain and Playfulness
Suzanne Jill Levine,
The Subversive Scribe
Literary Theory and Translation
With the exception of Anthony Pym, who was originally trained as a sociologist and later strayed into
poststructuralist thought, all of the paradigm-busting translation scholars presented here came to the field from
literary theory. Literary theorists, after all (that much-disparaged crew), were the ones to begin challenging
theocratic assumptions about the critic's instrumentalization as the medium by which the author conveys his
Olympian intentions to the reader, back in the twenties in the Soviet Union, with Russian formalism, and in the
thirties in the United States, with the New Criticismwhich by the fifties had cut itself free from both authorial
intention and reader response in the important papers of Wimsatt and Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" and
"The Affective Fallacy." The sixties, seventies, and eighties then saw an explosion of theoretical assaults on
even the surviving remnants of medieval theocracy in the New Criticism, from the psychological decenterings of
the author and the reader in psychoanalytical and reader-response criticism to the historical, political, and
ideological demystifications of the text and its social production and consumption in deconstruction, feminism,
Marxism, and the New Historicism.
And the pioneers of the new centrifugal approaches to translation, especially in the United States, for the most
part cut their critical teeth on this theoretical upheaval: they (we) are baby boomers taught the New Criticism in
high school and college (an orthodoxy by the late sixties and seventies), hurled willy-nilly into the theoretical
fray in grad school in the seventies and eighties, hired as multiculturally literate junior professors of English and
modern languages and comparative literature to write and teach criticism for a living but somehow compelled to
translate on

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the side, inspired at some point to integrate their/our vocations and avocations and read up on translation and to
discover the stifling pre-New Critical authoritarianism and prescriptivism of translation theory. How could this
be? How could medieval theocracy have survived so long and so strong in this adjacent field when it was so
roundly abused and assaulted in our own?
And so this group has turned its collective hand to the renovation of translation theory from within, bringing its
subversive theories of language, culture, society, and politics to bear on a tradition that with a very few
exceptions was still fixated on formalistic structures of equivalence. That fixation will probably continue; the
early reviews of these new books suggest that the old guard considers them beyond the theoretical pale,
irrelevant to translation practice as narrowly defined, and therefore irrelevant also to translation studies. Whether
these new approaches to translation are but a passing fad, as normative theorists believe and hope, or whether
what we see passing is not a fad but an ancient theocratic ideologythe next decade or two will tell.
The Subversive (Woman) Scribe
Jill Levine tells us in The Subversive Scribe that G. Cabrera Infante and she "once considered writing a book
together, partly because he thought I had too much of an ego to be a mere translator, and yet I have feared to
tread where he dares" (1991, 46); but in some sense that is precisely what she has done in this book, not only
treading where he dares but bringing her "too much of an ego" to bear on the problems facing the "mere
translator," that neutral instrument of the hegemonic source text. Personal, self-reflective, bouncing restlessly
between the punning ego's "too much'' and the "mere translator's'' self-denigrations, The Subversive Scribe is an
astonishing and explosive tour de force. Levine is steeped in critical theory and quotes Freud, Lacan, Benjamin,
Derrida, De Man, Brodsky, and others with a kind of casual insouciance that bespeaks both her easy familiarity
with their complex problematizations of language and culture and her unease at bringing these big guns to bear
on what often seem to her to be trivial problems, such as what to do with a difficult word. She also delights in
what she calls "second-grade jokes," like "Off the Cliff by Hugo Furst, Yellow River by I. P. Daley, Twenty
Years in the Saddle by Major Assburn" (23), a list sent to Cabrera Infante by a narrative persona whose name
should probably have been Lawst N. Translation. Levine shifts registers with gleeful abandon; this is not a book
for stylistic purists who demand a depersonalized academic nonvoice. Levine lives her book, and her two
languages, with her whole body.

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A big part of the attraction of the book is Levine's freewheeling passage through her collaborations with
marginalized and eccentric Latin American novelists such as Cabrera Infante, Severo Sarduy, and Manuel
Puigher stunning transformation of the "this is how I did it" genre of translation theory into a big boisterous
rumpus full of cartwheels and barked shins, childish shouts of joy and sudden fits of dejection. But another big
part, and certainly her greatest strength as a subversive translation theorist, is her often excruciating selfawareness, from the personal revelations of the introduction to the almost bitter self-recriminations of the
epilogue. In the first section of part four, for example, she states the purpose of her book and then goes on to
discuss her (partial) sense of failure as a translation theorist:
The title The Subversive Scribe and what followswith an ironic smile underneathis meant to jolt the reader
out of a comfortable (or uncomfortable) view of translations as secondary, as faint shadows of primary,
vivid but lost, originals. Originals and translations, acts of communication, both fail and succeed, both
fulfill and subvert the drive to communicate. The word aspires to be the same, to be as complete as its
object (be it another word or a primal reality), but is always, to greater or lesser extent, a fragment, an
approximation. To dramatize this I have purposely focused on writers and writing that speak explicitly of
the original's self-betrayal. More significantly and prior to this written mediation, I gravitated toward such
writers and writing.
The Subversive Scribe also both succeeds and fails: The reader may agree that the translations of these
writers are continuations of the original's creative process, and that these translations (and their discussion)
perform a critical act as well, but such may not be the case with all translations and translation discussions.
In all honesty, I can only speak for my own experience and hope that others find familiar repercussions,
though the textual journeys they take may lead them down different paths. (167)
And she's right: her subversions of Latin American fiction do often sound like special cases, subversive
renditions of subversive authors who demand subversion and thus in some sense co-opt it. "Cabrera Infante was
adamant, however, about faithfully translating his sometimes faithless, and even ruthless, literary parodies"
(93)so how is she subversive? (We'll see Philip Lewis confronting this problem in conjunction with his theory of
"abusive fidelity" in chapter 11.) She does say on the next page that ''as subversive collaborator I still sought a
compromise'' (94), fighting Cabrera Infante's vision of the translation in order to impose her own; but even this
scenario belies the impression given by the book's title

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of the wily translator undermining the original author's godlike authority. As Levine says explicitly, she has
gravitated toward subversive writers whose subversions authorize and justify her own. What would she do, or
have the reader do, in translating a more mainstream author, especially a dead and deified one who is not
available either physically or ideologically to authorize deviations from normative translation modes? And what
about the advertising copy, the instruction manual, the legal document? Just what is the extension of Levine's
scribe's subversion? To the extent that her book merely produces a witty series of exceptions to the traditional
rule, and thus can be thematized by that tradition as proving the rule, she has failed to subvert mainstream
translation theory; she has only become a token deviant within it.
If this sounds harsh, it is not nearly as harsh as Levine is on herself. In her feminist epilogue, for example, she
confesses her own self-betrayal as a woman "fallen under the spell of male discourse, translating books that
speak of woman as the often treacherous or betrayed other" (181); and although she sees Puig, Sarduy, and
Cabrera Infante as somehow ideologically feminine writers who undermine the father tongue "in perhaps more
corrosive, radical ways, digging into the root (route) of hypocrisy, into language, the very matter in which
consciousness is inscribed" (182), and thus herself as woman translator participating in that antipatriarchal
project, she refuses to let herself off that easily. She has, she says, translated a few short works by women, but
"my main work as a translator has been as handmaiden to the discourse of male writers. But what is really the
problematic issue here is this catchword handmaiden, the gender-identified term and role that has been assigned
to translators, male or female" (183). She quotes Albert Bensoussan in French on the translator as woman, as
handmaiden, and then translates him into English, loosely, subversively, retonalizing his playful acceptance of
the feminization of the translator with her own anger and anxietyand, interestingly, without quotation marks, so
that the translation stands as both Bensoussan's statement of the ideological norm and her own inward and nolonger-quite-passive deviation from that norm: ''The translator is secondary, enslaved, nay raped by another's
words; the translator does not belong to himself but is alienated from his own language; the author creates
himself, the translator remains secret. The translator is only a voice of passage. The translator is female, even if
she is sometimes a male" (183).
This subversive act of translation is somehow emblematic of Levine's method in the book: not so much utopian
as anti-antiutopian, she inhabits the interstices of traditional translation with a twist, a subtle subversive spin that
constantly leaves her open to (her own and others') accusations of complicity in the ideological norms she is
passing on, but also keeps

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her in ideological movement around and beyond those norms, weaving and unweaving a web of illusion that
both extends and exposes the norms. She ends, in fact, on an overtly utopian note
If somehow we learn to de-sex the original vis--vis its translation, particularly in our postmodern age,
when originality has been all but exhausted, if we recognize the borderlessness or at least continuity
between translation and original, then perhaps we can begin to see the translator in another light, no longer
bearing the stigma of servant, of handmaiden. (183)
but throughout the book her insights are far less stable, more nomadic, shifting, sniperlike, living the delirium
tremens of translation theory as a displaced person:
The subject, everyone and no one, Sarduy commented to Rivera, is expelled: "The I is no longer a
monolith but a crossroads, a series of ephemeral, unconnected elements." . . . Sarduy perceives a unity
behind cultural diversity; the bricoleur joins fragments to create the illusion of a monolith, be it a
protagonist or a novel, to expose at the same time its fragmentation.
Translation, upon fragmenting that self-conscious illusion to create yet another illusion, exposes, parodies
the creative process of the "original," a process of conversions and of apparent disconnections. (176)
As both translator and translation theorist, Levine becomes an outlaw or barbarian who lives within society,
within civilization, as a kind of internal exile, a "translooter," as she says in one of her many brilliant coinages,
who expresses the pain or discontent of civilization. If "traditional translation practices reveal a fear of the other,
a need to turn the alien into the familiar" (16), subversive translation practices reveal the anxieties and
frustrations and hurts inflicted through society's alienation of the familiar. "We are reminded," Levine goes on,
"that translation is a manipulative political act, that languagealways 'scarred' by its politico-historical contextcan
be manipulated to censure the foreign'' (16), and one of the things censured is the foreignness of the native
translator: the Jewish girl from New York who goes to Spain during college and assimilates herself to a foreign
culture, then returns "home" to a toxic culture shock that she attempts to express, and perhaps exorcize, in and
through her translations.

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Seven
The Translator-Function
Myriam Daz-Diocaretz,
Translating Poetic Discourse
Middle Grounds
The three theoretical works I've examined so far here in part two, by Lefevere, Pym, and Levine, mark out
useful extremes in the systematic versus anecdotal methods debate: Lefevere will only allow the most repressed
traces of the personal into his methodology, whereas Pym and Levine submerge the systemic well beneath the
surface of their casual, personal address to real people, real translators. What, one might well askor whoinhabits
the middle ground between these extremes?
Well, Anthony Pym claims that he does, really; most of his work, as he pointed out to me in a letter, responding
to an earlier draft of chapter 5, is far more systematic, far less personal, than Epistemological Problems. My
book, too, The Translator's Turn, although frequently both attacked and praised as personal and anecdotal,
occupies an uneasy middle ground between the two methodological poles, systematizing translation theories and
models historically in part one and taxonomically in part two.
But the fourth book I want to explore briefly here, Myriam Daz-Diocaretz's Translating Poetic Discourse:
Questions on Feminist Strategies in Adrienne Rich (1985), provides an even better example of the middle ground
between systematic and personal approacheseven, as I'm going to suggest, to a fault, although it is a most
interesting and productive fault indeed. Daz-Diocaretz is described on the back cover of the John Benjamins
paperback as "a Chilean poet, critic, translator, and a Research Scholar of the Faculty of Letters at the
University of Utrecht," and like many translation theorists who are graduates of or faculty members at Dutch
universities, she is clearly, among other things, a polysystems theoristalso a Jakobsonian communication
theorist, concerned with

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senders and receivers, decoding and recoding. But she is above all Adrienne Rich's primary Spanish translator, a
strong feminist voice in the Hispanic world, an advocate of reader-response criticism, and a deeply selfreflective thinkerand all of this inclines her strongly, it seems, toward a personalized, anecdotal approach. One
whole section of her book, in fact, is taken directly from her translator's logbook (4954), musings while reading
and translating Rich, an approach that clearly pushes hard on her theoretical framework, unsettling it, forcing her
to deal far more complexly and problematically with resistant details than she would have without this
grounding in her own carefully recorded experiences. But she is also at pains throughout the book to articulate
as finely structured a theoretical understanding of translation as possible, using her anecdotal material fruitfully
not only to illustrate but also to motivate her theoretical framings. Most important, the theoretical construct that
seems to me her most significant contribution to translation theory, the concept that I've highlighted in my
chapter titlethe translator-functionoperates in a mediatory middle ground between the large-scale social and
ideological systems that Lefevere articulates and the personal experiences that Pym and Levine articulate,
building enormously useful conceptual bridges between the two.
As I say, I also find the integration of systematic and anecdotal thinking highly problematic in Daz-Diocaretz's
book, to the point, I think, of rendering her theoretical framework virtually incoherent. That's a strong statement,
but I think it's important to begin a reading of Daz-Diocaretz there, precisely because the theoretical confusions
of her book seem so powerfully productive. Her confusions arise, I believe, because something, some such
hegemonic force in society as she herself attempts to theorize, doesn't want her to say what she's trying to say.
This sounds ominous, I knowmaybe even paranoid, seeing conspiracies everywhere. But this is not really a
conspiracy theory; it's an ideology theory, an attempt to express the suffocatingly repressive power of ideology,
its power to stifle and thwart deviant thought. And the theory of the translator-function gets right to the heart of
that power, even though, as I say, Daz-Diocaretz isn't quite able to clear away the obstacles that the normative
author-function operant in her own thinking processes keeps throwing in her path.
In fact, this experience of being thwarted in our attempts to rethink translation in counterhegemonic ways is
almost certainly a shared one in the new centrifugal approaches. Some theorists (Eric Cheyfitz, for example)
seem to burst through the ideological obstacles to fresh thought with ease, others (Levine and Daz-Diocaretz,
maybe Robinson too) with great anguish and many stammerings and stumblings along the way; but there are,
clearly, monstrous blockages that all of us are dealing with, and

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it seems to me that Daz-Diocaretz not only exemplifies the theoretical difficulties those blockages cause, but
offers the germ of an explanation for how they work, and how they can be combated.
The Anecdotal
But more of that in a moment. First I want to take a look at Daz-Diocaretz's anecdotalism, from the first section
of chapter 3, called "A Poem Can Begin/With A Lie. And Be Torn Up." This is where she personalizes her
systemic theory with excerpts from her translator's logbook, telling us that she begins reading Rich's Twenty-One
Love Poems (1976) through Pablo Neruda's Veinte poemas de amor y una cancin desesperada (1924), in which
the male speaker addresses his female lover. But soon the pressures of Rich's poetic discourse begin to push her
past the familiar Chilean Spanish of Neruda, indeed, past the familiar patriarchal male-identified discourse of
Neruda, to something new. Let me quote at some length:
Thus I begin to leave Neruda's sequence behind, suspending the familiar in order to grasp the unfamiliar
world of Rich's poetic sequence. In poem II, the speaking voice becomes more distinct, now as the
represented 'I' who is at once a poet, a dreamer, a lover. I follow the lyric stream, its rhythms, pauses, I
begin to feel the cohesion of that world, and I start translating what gives me the most aesthetic pleasure,
from poem II . . .
You've kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together . . .
In my notes I write:
Me has despertado con tu beso
en los cabellos. So que eras un poema,
es decir, un poema que dese mostrarle a alguien . . .
y ro y vuelvo a soar
que deseo mostrarte a cuntos amo,
que avancemos libremente, juntos . . .
I stop and embark on the will to have the poems present, represented in my consciousness, on the search
for a bridge between the objects as experience

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of perception and the thoughts which that perception arouses; to reconstruct the meanings of Rich's poems
and to select the corresponding sense, I must discover the "truth" in each text. My background and culture
are different from Rich's; there may be gaps that might prevent me from inferring those true meanings. Do
I dare disturb the poet's universe? The line "no one has imagined us" keeps resonating. To imagine the
lovers, as I go on translating, means also to look for textual clues defining further the speaker's and the
addressee's gender. (50)
And it is not long before she stumbles over her first unthinking translation of "together," juntos, which is marked
in Spanish for both plural and masculine gender, implying literally two or more men together. True, in "normal"
Spanish, the masculine plural is thought of hegemonically as unmarked for gender, so that nios can mean either
"boys" or "children'' (and nias means only "female children"), todos can mean either ''all of the males" or
"everyone/everything"; so too juntos can mean either "men together" or "people/things together." But like the
English "man/men" and "he" when used to refer generically to human beings regardless of gender, this
grammatical "rule" in Spanish is specifically a patriarchal form that reflects the normativity of masculine
experience in culture: men refer to children as boys because they were once boys themselves, and in their world
girls were deviants; men refer to everyone as all males, because in a patriarchal society women count for little;
men think of togetherness as implicitly a guy thing, a male-bonding thing (because who knows what women do
when they're together?). The use of nonsexist discourse has been favored in English publications since the late
1970s or early 1980s, due to steady ideological pressure from the women's movement; in the Latin world it is
just now, two decades later, beginning to take hold, slowly and with great difficulty, especially given the
existence in Spanish of grammatical gender, which often assigns masculine and feminine versions of the same
noun different meanings. Thus Daz-Diocaretz feels that she is treading on potentially dangerous ground when
she gravitates toward a translation marked for female speaker and addressee:
However, as a translator who is aware of the moral and social tradition and conventions in the Hispanic
culture as a whole, in the context of my own horizon of prospective readers, to use the adjective in the
feminine plural (juntas) would be more than daring. It would explicitly refer the reader to conceive of the
speaker and addressee's relationship within the homosocial context, which in fact the twenty-one love
poems develop. The connotative code indicates association with the word homosexual, and more precisely
"lesbian" by implication. This is an obvious interpretative hypothesis I can

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anticipate the readers of my translation will carry out in their decoding of the text. (5152)
And here's an interesting point. Not having been raised in a Spanish-speaking culture, indeed having been raised
in the determinedly progressive atmosphere of southern California in the 1960s, I fail to feel the "more than
daring" nature of juntas; it seems perfectly reasonable to me, even obvious. After all, Rich is a lesbian poet
addressing her female lover; Rich has herself expressed her anger when her poems have been assimilated to
"heterosexual romance," her poems' addressee taken to be male; 9 what better word than juntas? But this is
precisely why Daz-Diocaretz's personalized discourse is so extremely important: I don't feel the risks in juntas,
but she does. And she is not only the native speaker of Spanish; she is the translator, the individual through
whom Rich's words have to travel en route to Spanish. When I was in Mexico recently, doing a seminar on
translation, I asked a few of the participants in my seminar how they would feel about juntas in that context; and
while many said categorically that it would send the "wrong" message ("wrong" because too overtly lesbian!), a
few, including one male student in his mid-twenties (who had, in fact, lived in the United States for several
years), said that obviously juntas was the best translation. Shall we generalize here? Shall we systematize? I
suppose the social transformation in the Hispanic world (as elsewhere) that is increasingly making it acceptable,
indeed preferable, to avoid sexist genderings in Spanish could be reduced to systemic descriptions. But the
initial "feel'' for the right or wrong word that the systematizer seeks to reduce to stable laws always comes from
individuals, who disagree on grounds that are partly collective and partly idiosyncratic; and the bottom line is
still one person's need to sift through all the competing pulls and pushes of a word choice like this and settle on
a translation. Daz-Diocaretz continues:
One evident solution for the translator could be to avoid the equivalent for 'together' ('juntas,' 'juntos')
which requires a choice in gender category, with a "safer" substitution of the personal pronouns 'you and I'
instead of the adjective together. It would then read "que avancemos libremente t y yo"; either this
semantic solution or the one which prefers the masculine plural form (generic) would leave the line, the
poem and the sequence, ambiguous as to speaker and addressee, since the generic form is a conventional
and grammatically accepted way to indicate the plural for male and female subjects. However, if I selected
the neutral, ambiguous form (the plural), I would be cooperating with those who have left what Rich calls
the "half world" (1976:27) of silenced and unwanted women "outside the law." Translating a structure of
language, a sentence, a phrase,

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does not imply necessarily translating a text with its correlations organizing the aesthetic message as it was
conceived by the poet. It can be a grammatically correct translation, yet it would convey 'aberrant'
presuppositions. I am also torn between the poet's message and the constraints tacitly imposed by the RT
[receptor-text] culture, that is, constraints that limit the accepted norms and conventions of a woman's
poetic voice within the Hispanic literary tradition. (5253)
Daz-Diocaretz's book is rich with such examples. My favorite, which I'll only cite briefly before moving on to
an examination of her theoretical framework, is the rainbow:
The rainbow laboring to extend herself
where neither men nor cattle understand. (103)
The problem here is that the rainbow for Rich is clearly feminine, but in Spanish it is grammatically marked
masculine, el arco iris. What is the feminist translator to do? Ignore the problem and use the normative
masculine gender? This would undermine everything Rich stands for. Daz-Diocaretz's solution is to leave arco
as is (as opposed, say, to feminizing it, making it arca, which would rather drastically change the meaning of the
wordarca means an ark, as in the Ark of the Covenant, but also a chest or a coffer, and when it has water in it, a
tank or a tower) but to drop the masculine article el from in front of it; then to allow the article to resurface after
the noun not as the masculine personal pronoun el, "he," but as the feminine personal pronoun ella, "she":
arco iris, ella, est luchando por extenderse
all donde no comprenden ni el hombre ni el ganado (104)
Through a steady stream of highly particularized examples like this one, Daz-Diocaretz fleshes out an explicitly
feminist theory and practice of translation grounded in the desire to validate and disseminate a woman-identified
discourse: the translator "preserves as much of the literal meaning as possible," she writes, "by offering solutions
to apparent contradictions, obscurities, non-determinacies, discontinuities in feminist discourse, with an
exploratory attention focused on gender markers which inscribe the author in her own textuality/sexuality"
(104).
The Translator-Function
This much Levine did as well, although without Daz-Diocaretz's specific attention to the translation of feminist
authors. The series of articles Carol

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Maier (1980; 1985) has been writing since the early eighties has had at bottom a similar aim. But Daz-Diocaretz
wants to take the matter further: she wants to systematize feminist translationor rather, to put that more
complexly, to theorize translation in terms of, or through the personalized lens of, her own feminist practice.
This is a tremendously ambitious project; one that I think fails, but fails in all the right ways. Daz-Diocaretz
wants to take everything she has learned from the structuralist translation theories of Jakobson and his group,
along with everything she has learned from polysystems theory, mix it up with everything she has learned from
Russian formalists like Mikhail Bakhtin and Viktor Shklovsky and French poststructuralist theorists like Michel
Foucault and Julia Kristeva and German Rezeptionsstetiker such as Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser and a
host of other important theorists as well, and filter it through her experience of translating Rich, into a coherent
theoretical framework for the study of translation. The book that resulted was originally her dissertation at the
State University of New York, Stony Brook (1983), and traces of the dissertation are still present everywhere,
especially in her desire to do everything and say everything all at once, without quite knowing how it all fits
together; but there is also great virtue, I think, in both her eclecticism and her valiant efforts to bring it all
together (juntas, I suppose). Even if she doesn't quite pull it off, the sheer quantity of divergent theories and
ideas and insights in the book, powered by Daz-Diocaretz's contagious energy, makes the book highly
productive for later scholars in the field.
There is so much here, in fact, that I'm experiencing some difficulty deciding what to focus on; the more I read
and think about Daz-Diocaretz's book, the more convinced I am that another whole book could (and perhaps
should) be written about it, unpacking and unfolding the many suggestive ideas in it. But I will restrain myself,
lodging only the passing disclaimer that the theoretical "center" I find in the book, the translator-function in its
dual roles as the omniscient reader and the acting writer, is only one of many potential centersand making also
the recommendation that you seek out the other centers for yourself.
Chapter 2 in Translating Poetic Discourse is entitled "The Translator-Function," and it is divided into two
sections, "The Translator as Omniscient Reader" and "The Translator as Acting Writer." In fact, she broaches all
three concepts earlier, promising definitions later; but the definitions are not forthcoming in the chapter
supposedly devoted to them, and even when they finally do comein her conclusion, 150 pages laterthey still
leave me more or less completely confused. Not only the chapter devoted to the translator-function but also the
entire book seems to be an attempt to define the concept associatively, maybe metonymically,

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like a game of charades or twenty questions (is it bigger than a bread box?). Having read Foucault's "What Is an
Author?" I assume Daz-Diocaretz is deriving the translator-function from his concept of the author-function,
and in fact that article does appear in Daz-Diocaretz's bibliography; but Foucault is never mentioned in the
chapter that introduces the concept, and only some of her tangential descriptions of it connect up with Foucault's
theory. Later, in chapter 3, she refers to Adrienne Rich's "author-function activity (a term I borrow from
Foucault 1979 as a parallel to translator-function)" (59). This seems to imply that the translator-function came
first; then she found Foucault's article and borrowed his concept as a useful parallel to her own. Although this
seems unlikely, it would explain my vague sense that the translator-function as she imagines it has vast networks
of associative links that have nothing to do with Foucault.
Certainly some of what Daz-Diocaretz calls the translator-function comes out of Foucaultor rather, to put that
more precisely, the notion assumes what vague conceptual shape it has for me largely through my reading in
Foucault. For Foucault in "What Is an Author?" the author-function is a social construct projected onto the
author's verbal traces (name, titles, words) by some social group, either "the society" as a whole or some smaller
collective that regulates the normative understanding of its members ideologically. This author-construct is a
"function" because it invariably serves some social purpose: it becomes a focus or an organizer of ideological
activity, encouraging various directed forms of emulation, warning people against various kinds of social
deviancy, regulating admiration and disgust, loyalty and rejection, and so on.
For example, Adrienne Rich's author-function for American society at large might be positively construed as a
"confessional poet" or as a "love poet," channeling and modeling both a certain kind of individualistic concern
for one-on-one love relationships (unmarked for sexual preference, but implicitly heterosexual, because that is
the social norm) and a searching self-disclosure widely affirmed as essential for "communication." A hegemonic
reader conditioned to "like'' or "appreciate" or ''admire" the author-function called Adrienne Rich might, in other
words, be thereby guided to read her as a normative exemplar of telling the one you love (implicitly a person of
the opposite sex) how you feel.
Or that function might be negatively construed as "lesbian poet" or "radical feminist," channeling hegemonic
warnings against various kinds of deviance from heterosexist patriarchal norms. A hegemonic reader conditioned
to this negative author-function would probably not read her actual wordsthey would occasion too much
ideologically channeled anxiety and disgust for thatbut would "know" her (actually only her

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author-function) as a lesbian poet, and thus as a powerful example of the kinds of sick, perverted trash that is
being called "art" by a godless liberal establishment (in the United States, for example, Senator Jesse Helms
against the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities).
For a lesbian or radical feminist group, finallypossibly even for the liberal intellectual/artistic "establishment"
that Jesse Helms rails againsther author-function would clearly be different, directed at social ends like group
solidarity and pride. A straight liberal reader conditioned to this positive gay author-function would read her,
discuss her, mention her in order both to express and to feel solidarity with gays; a lesbian reader conditioned to
it would read her (etc.) in order to overcome internalized traces of the culture's destructive homophobia and to
enhance personal and collective self-esteem in being lesbian.
And Daz-Diocaretz seems to meshe never spells this outto be blending something like this Foucauldian notion
of the author-function with a polysystems approach similar to the one I explored in Lefevere in chapter 4. If I'm
right, this would make the translator-function a social construct created and wielded by the target culture as a
vehicle for the "reliable" or "faithful" or "accurate" (i.e., ideologically regulated) transfer of foreign texts for
domestic use. This initial approximation of the translator-function's meaning for Daz-Diocaretz is apparently
confirmed by passages like this one:
The translator may contribute, unknowingly or not, to the suppression of a text or to its diffusion,
according to an ideological reading of the textual strategies of the ST [source text]. By way of example,
the theological Diego de Cisneros undertook the translating responsibility of Montaigne's Essays, at the
request of an Inquisitor; the task took around three years (16341637). In his exercise of translator-function,
Cisneros eliminated portions of the text, modified others, especially the propositions he found "heterodox."
(29)
Or again: "The translator-function becomes normative, providing a 'competently accepted' interpretation which
may result in a loss; this interpretation implicitly appeals to canonized aesthetic or ideological norms" (30). And
at one point she enumerates the four operations by which the translator-function organizes source-language
information in the target language: (1) the didactic (teaching the target-language reader through notes, morals,
and other textual commentaries); (2) the corrective ("adapt[ing] the interpretation to the reader's 'literary
competence'") (38); (3) the polemic (arising out of the TF's resistance to specific

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aspects of either the source-language text or the target-language culture that is expected to receive the
translation in a certain way); and (4) the preventive (modifying the text so as to introduce partial or total
censorship or suppression) (3839).
This sounds very much like Foucault. But this construction of DazDiocaretz's understanding of the translatorfunction is complicated by the patent fact that she is most centrally concerned in the book with her own work
(and similar work by other translators) with a North American poet whose radical feminist and lesbian voice is
presumably not wanted in Chile and generally (hetero)sexist Latin America; and this problematizes a
Foucauldian conception of the translator-function. What "inquisitor" or other representative of social hegemony
created the antihomophobic translator-function exercised by Daz-Diocaretz? Is her translator-function
normative? Or is it personal, oppositional, dissident? It seems to be both, in different contexts; but DazDiocaretz never quite addresses that bothness. She typically refers to the translator-function as "he/she," not
"it"it's a person, perhaps a persona, but always gendered. Sometimes it sounds like what Jacques Lacan would
call the translator's ''subject," a self-projection for public consumption. "The translator [and here the context
suggests she means the translator-function] is no mere phantom; he/she is a presence incorporated in the author's
discourse, yet not as an invisible or untraceable figure or a voiceless first person whose existence becomes
totally reduced or hidden in the translating process'' (31 )as what, then? Again:
The translator-function spells out the assumptions and operations that lead from text to interpretation.
He/she organizes the text diachronically (e.g., existing moral codes, literary conventions, author's
position), or synchronically, identifying points of discord. The translator as reader [still the translatorfunction, I presume] identifies the conventions that underline various interpretations; he/she can rearrange
the codes that generate a different sort of interpretation as a safe option, or can maim texts to adapt them
thoroughly to traditional and respectable enterprises. (31)
"Such interpretative factors," she concludes, "may have interesting effects" (31), which is, of course, putting it
very mildly indeed. Here again the translator-function seems to be normative, collective, a hegemonic agent
instilled in the real translator's activity by the target culture; but elsewhere she refers to "the translator-function's
(TF) subjectivity":
Let us start with a simple definition: subjectivity includes personal preferences and choices,
misapprehensions, aversions guided or defined by prin-

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ciples which include ideology and aesthetics. Aesthetics, within this framework, refers to the elements
selected as appropriate for the structure as a verbal sequence, such as acceptance or rejection of a given
rhythmic or rhetorical figure (aversions and avoidance of cacophony, repetition, or certain rhyming
patterns). The aesthetic selections are closely linked with ideological choice, but the former are determined
more by the text's structure than the translator's beliefs, since a particular decision may arise because of the
norms or deviations of norms in a certain historical period. The complexity emerges when the ideological
factor and the acknowledgment of the TF's addressees interact. (37)
Which ideological factor? Whose acknowledgment? And above all, who selects the aesthetic elements? Who
considers them appropriate? Who links the aesthetic selections with ideological choiceand where did that choice
come from in the first place? Her depersonalizing rhetoric"a particular decision may arise"suggests a
poststructuralist focus on the hegemonic or institutional or ideological (generally, supra-individual) control of
decisions that each individual translator may want (because he or she has been conditioned to think this way by
liberal ideology) to believe are made personally, individually motivated and willed; but DazDiocaretz is also
addressing the problematic of subjectivity, here, and without considering the conflicted structure of subjectivity
within a poststructuralist and above all postbourgeois, postindividualist ethos. 10 What ideological agents within
the individual subject "make" these decisions? What internal battles are fought over the decisions that "arise"?
Equally problematic are the "omniscient reader" and "acting writer" aspects of the translator-functionspecially, I
suppose, the omniscient reader, as I could never figure out what Daz-Diocaretz meant by "omniscient." The
term "omniscient reader" is borrowed from the reader-response work of Iris M. Zavala, but Daz-Diocaretz never
summarizes Zavala's concept for us, even in passing, leaving us once again to guess at meanings.11 At one point
she says, intriguingly, that ''the translator's omniscience involves knowledge of a text's existence,'' and that "the
text conveys the suggestion that it has an author other than the translator himself" (25). Here the "knowledge of
a text's existence" seems to promise a retheorization of the obvious that will help us get past a blockage; but
Daz-Diocaretz quickly segues into other matters, Bakhtin on the wandering word, and the promise is lost.
Elsewhere, Daz-Diocaretz discusses possible translations for "deviant" in Rich's usage; she considers desviado,
descarriado, but claims that (besides being marked masculine) these words have misleading connotations,
desviado pointing to degeneracy, descarriado to madness. Hence: "A

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non-omniscient reader who would select one of these lexical units would violate the poet's textual strategies. A
translator who wishes to write a more accurate meaning and who wishes to put to practice the author-function
spectrum would have to consider the option marginadas, suggesting 'put on the border,' or marginated" (63)or,
well, marginalized. What is strange about this systemic rhetoric, though, is only partly that it seems to be a
mystification and euphemization of "I think marginadas is better." All along, as I say, I had been wondering in
what sense any reader could ever be considered omniscient; but I had tried to fit the term into my vague sense of
the theory as a whole, telling myself that "omniscience" was not meant as an objective characteristic of a real
reader or translator but as one facet of the ideal model called ''translator-function.'' In this formulation, which is
not Daz-Diocaretz's but my own best guess, the real translator is able to access a broader range of knowledge
about the source-language and target-language authors, texts, cultures, and readers by channeling the
"omniscient reader" aspect of the "translator-function." As I read on I still had only the vaguest sense of what
that might mean, but it seemed intuitively like a step in the right directionaway from trying to imagine any real
reader as omniscient. But now she refers to "a non-omniscient reader"what am I to make of that? Are we still
operating in the realm of ideal models, here? Is a non-omniscient reader a kind of counterideal, an actantial
aspect of a bad translator-function? Or is it, as it unfortunately seems to me, a description of real readers? Could
it be that Daz-Diocaretz means by "a non-omniscient reader" someone who doesn't know enough about
Adrienne Rich? If so, and I find myself hard put to believe otherwise, the term "omniscient reader" serves only
to mystify the survival in Daz-Diocaretz's theorizing of traditional knowledgeability requirements for the
translator.
And what does it mean to "put to practice the author-function spectrum"? Is this just another jargonistic
mystification of the traditional notion of fidelity? Could we paraphrase Daz-Diocaretz to be saying "an illinformed reader who translated 'deviant' as desviado or descarriado would be deviating from Rich's intention; a
translation more faithful to her intended meaning would be marginada"? Or does "author-function" still carry
with it some vestige of the meaning Foucault gave it? (Or should I say some vestige of the meaning which an
omniscient reader would attribute to Foucault's author-function?) As I began to suggest earlier, the only way
Rich's "author-function" (in Foucault's sense, as my "omniscient reader" construes it) could be taken as
deliberately excluding connotations of "madness" and "degeneracy" from her use of "deviant" would be through
the elucidation of a social group that constructs her as simultaneously lesbian and as sane and moral: a radical
lesbian or other opposi-

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tional group, some group that works to recondition its members to perceive their own and other people's gayness
in positive ("sane," "moral") terms. In Foucault's terms, any reference to Rich's author-function that does not
specify the social group projecting it will implicitly refer to some such monolithic group as ''the United States of
America" or "all English-speakers"an ideologically conservative (specifically in this case homophobic)
collective for which lesbian "deviancy" emphatically does connote both madness and degeneracy. Is there
anything left of Foucault's idea in Daz-Diocaretz's conception of ''author-function spectrum/activity," or does
she really mean by it roughly "authorial intention"?
Daz-Diocaretz seems, in other words, to harbor a powerful strain of essentialism that resists the social and
ideological relativism of Foucault's formulations, according to which the author-function is whatever a social
group says it is, and keeps returning her forcefully to the normative prescriptivism of the "old" translation
studies. There is a sense in which Daz-Diocaretz seems to be saying, behind all her fancy theoretical
vocabulary, something like "The good translator had better know a lot about her/his source language author and
work in sympathy with that author's intentions to transfer the intended meaning accurately to the target
language"in other words, nothing particularly new or earthshaking.
But this seems to me a transitional problem, not a substantive one: a problem arising out of those mental and
emotional blockages that a normative author-function creates to thwart Daz-Diocaretz's oppositional
understanding of translation. Reaching toward a new and counterhegemonic translation theory grounded in a
deep sense of social power and various forms of small-group resistance, Daz-Diocaretz finds her path littered
with distractions, obstacles, stumbling blocks that keep her from giving her articulations their full oppositional
force. What better ideological revenge on the would-be counterhegemonic thinker than the emptying out of her
dissident categories, so that they seem new while still saying and doing the same old hegemonic things?
This thwarting can perhaps best be illustrated through a close look at the moment in her concluding chapter,
"Translation and Women's Studies: Problems and Perspectives," in which Daz-Diocaretz finally defines the
translator-function fully:
Much more important than the consideration of the translator as an individual, whether male or female, is
an understanding of a meaning-generating network called translator-function defined as including: ( 1 ) the
individual and the corresponding concrete circumstances (2) a given socio-cultural context (3) a particular
interpretive operation (4) a specific reading role (5) the translator's relation to source and receptor-text (6)
a

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specific writing role (7) the textual features through which the activities as omniscient reader and acting
writer become evident or traceable and by means of which the receptive disposition of the readers of the
translation is designed. The modes of integration of all these properties is [sic] what constitutes the
translator-function. (151)
Happy as I am to have these properties spelled out, after trying to guess at them all through the book, I'm afraid I
still don't know what they all add up tojust how their "modes of integration . . . is what constitutes the translatorfunction." There is a conceptual laxness or diffuseness about this list of "inclusions" that makes it difficult for
me to guess at its "modes of integration'': Is the translator-function just a grab bag of individuals, circumstances,
contexts, operations, roles, relations, and features (they're all "included" in there somehow), or is it a complexly
active ideological agent that regulates these things in socially purposeful ways?
For example, Daz-Diocaretz says that the translator-function "includes" the individual, and it "includes" the
corresponding concrete circumstances;just what does this mean? Could we paraphrase that to mean that the
translator-function controls or channels or uses the concrete circumstantiality of the individualperhaps even
constructs the individual as situated in specific circumstances? This would mean that when we speak of the
translator-function's channeling through the individual, we mean not the romantic individual, the individual as
holistic godlike being, but one functional circumstantiation of the individual.
If we make that adjustment in Daz-Diocaretz's formulation, then, it makes sense to modify (2) as well, to mean
not that the translator-function includes a given sociocultural context but is always contextual, that it always
operates in and through a given sociocultural context. I'm not sure what it would mean for the translator-function
to "include" specific interpretive operations, either; it sounds vaguely formalistic, like a list of the functions a
computer program will perform, without a sense of how they are performed and why, and when, and by what
.exe and .com files. It would make more sense to me (though maybe just because I'm still thinking this thing
through Foucault) to call the translator-function the collectivized agent in the translator's head that performs,
guides, and oversees those interpretive operations. Similarly, I would want to see the translator-function
controlling reading and writing roles and constructing the translator's relation to source-language and targetlanguage texts.
The last "inclusion," textual features, is the hardest for me to fathom, probably because any talk of textual
features seems to me so uncritically essentialist and formalista naive reification of actual human response.

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Indeed Daz-Diocaretz's own reader-response remarks suggest that she doesn't necessarily believe in the
existence of textual features either, apart from the interpretive activity of a reader, which constitutes black marks
on white paper as "a text"; and her suggestion that the translator-function "includes" textual features only insofar
as those features act as traces of various interpretive activities points us back to a constructivist viewpoint. But
from that constructivist viewpoint it would make more sense to say that the translator-function includes
interpretive activities as reflected in or reified as textual featuresnot the other way around, the way DazDiocaretz has it, that the translator-function includes textual features as traces of interpretive activities. Does she
really believe that the translator-function is, or has, or includes textual features?
In an explicitly Foucauldian (or maybe just Robinsonian) paraphrase of Daz-Diocaretz, then, the translatorfunction would be a collective social construct projected onto (and educated into) any given translator in order to
conform his or her professional activity to hegemonic normsan ideological force that mediates between societal
norms and individual behavior, because it is social and political in its origins but psychological and personal in
its operation. So far this would fit polysystems theory perfectly; indeed, it would help explain how polysystems
theory works at the microlevel of individual translator decisions. The target culture, in this conception,
conditions its translators to translate only those authors that it considers worthwhile, and to translate them in
accordance with normative methods that it believes will best serve social utility. Through the translator-function,
that is, the society shapes and guides each individual translator in his or her concrete circumstances and
sociocultural context; regulates his or her selection and application of specific interpretive operations, adoption
of specific reading and writing roles, and relation to both the source-language and the target-language texts; and
coaches real readers to reify its operations not as brainwashing or mind control, but as neutral, objective textual
features. Through the translator-function, the society conditions the translator to an idealized omniscience that
sees everything the society considers normal (and thus normative) and ignores everything that it considers
deviant. Hence, for example, the possibility of translating "together" as juntos, or of women reading Rich's
poems to their male lovers: the address to a lesbian lover is deviant, therefore nonexistent, therefore
prescriptively and repressively "(to-be-)unseen" by the omniscient reader. And through the translator-function,
the society controls the way in which the translator acts as writer, specifically by conditioning him or her not to
think of himself or herself as a writer at allmerely as a translator, as the neutral instrument or vehicle of the
source-language text's meaning.

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If this is the case, however, if society controls translators this effectivelyand I think it is undeniable that it
doeshow do translators like Daz-Diocaretz manage to resist hegemonic control and translate "deviant" or
"dissident" texts like Rich's in deviant and dissident ways? Where does that counterhegemonic (and hence also
counterintuitive) translation together = juntas come from? Certainly not from Hispanic society's normative
translator-function, which is presumably the voice that whispers in Daz-Diocaretz's ear that juntas in this
context is "more than daring." Where, then, does she find the strength to whisper back, "All right, then, I'll be
more than daring"?
An expanded conception of the translator-function might explain this possibility of counterhegemonic translation
by pointing to the existence and influence not only of a main hegemonic group, "society" as a monolithic whole,
but of oppositional social groups as welland insisting that these dissident groups operate by constructing for their
members, and conditioning them to work through, new oppositional author-functions and translator-functions.
The impulse to translate "together" as juntas, for example, obviously comes to Daz-Diocaretz not out of the
blue, but from the women's movement, possibly from a Chilean or South American or North American or
international lesbian community, which has successfully managed to instill in her functioning as a translator the
impulse to reflect Rich's homosocial address in her Spanish renditions. This is not simply a personal rebellion
against dominant heterosexist norms; it signals the birth, out of an emergent social group, of a new translatorfunction, which circumstantiates and contextualizes the individuals that channel it in new ways, creates and
controls for those individuals new interpretive operations, new reading and writing roles, new intertextual
relations, new textual features.
To be sure, the old hegemonic translator-function is not thereby utterly displaced, banished, superseded; indeed,
it is probably impossible to get rid of entirely. But its commands fade in the translator's ears; translations like
juntos for two women together come to seem not normal and obvious but bizarre, alien in comparison with the
obviously correct juntas. The hegemonic voice still sounds in the translator's head, but dimly, as if from a great
distance; instead of enforcing instant obedience, it occasions a little snort of impatience, even, eventually, an
indulgent smile, as if for some ancient childhood folly that is no longer even embarrassing.
All of this is finally to suggest that Daz-Diocaretz's book is most powerfully a study of the tensions and
conflicts between various hegemonic and counterhegemonic translator-functions: between those that coach her to
be faithful to patriarchal homophobic culture and those that coach her to be faithful to dissident feminist lesbian
culture; or, to put that differ-

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ently, between a normative translator-function that constructs Rich's author-function as "female love poet"
(strategically unmarked for sexual preference) and a deviant translator-function that constructs that authorfunction as "lesbian love poet." Both make large claims on Daz-Diocaretz's actual practice as a translator;
indeed, both (types of) forces or voices, normative and deviant, have to be reckoned with by every translator,
although in an infinite variety of ways. For some translators it may be no more than a conflict between a word
that feels more correct but flat and a word that feels more alive but wrong. The powerful ideological charge to
translatorial decisions, which traditional theories of translation studiously mystify as this or that technical
(semantic/syntactic) problem, may not always be apparent to the translator, but it is always present.
And once a translator begins, like Myriam Daz-Diocaretz and other feminists or leftists or postcolonial subjects,
to unmask the ideological tensions and conflicts that plague their practical work as translators, specific
"technical" decisions expand into ever-widening ideological circles and become monstrously problematic. Do
you "foreignize" your translations (as the theorists in part three will name the process) propagandistically,
remaining insistently faithful to an oppositional source-language authoror, more problematically still, to an
oppositional ideology that the source-language author would have despisedand in the process alienating large
portions of your potential target-language audience? Or do you surrender to hegemonic power, to the normative
translator-function that keeps telling you to toe the line, and produce easily assimilated target-language texts that
undermine your integrity as a target-language writerindeed, as a human being?
This ethical choice is everywhere tangible in Daz-Diocaretz's book, even when she cannot articulate it, even
when she can only feel it operant in her translations. It is an ethical choice that troubles many of the new
translation theorists, and by troubling them (us) seems to define the new approach(es). It is a choice that,
because it was always mystified before, repressed beneath technical considerations that always tacitly presumed
the translator's conformity to social norms, is only now becoming a choiceonly now being perceived as a
decision that the translator, and the translation theorist, must face.

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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PART THREE
EMBRACING THE FOREIGN

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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Eight
Foreignizing Experience
Antoine Berman,
The Experience of the Foreign
Neoliteralism
At the 1993 American Translators Association meeting in Philadelphia, Marilyn Gaddis Rose argued that we are
seeing, in the theory and practice of translation, a rebirth of literalism, that "taste, or accepted rhetorical norms,
in translation appears to have been drifting into a new literalism, rather like that espoused by Walter Benjamin in
'The Task of the Translator' 70 years ago" (1993, 266). Not only, she notes, are Lawrence Venuti's article "The
Translator's Invisibility" (1986) and introduction to his essay collection Rethinking Translation (1992) powerful
polemics in favor of what he calls, respectively, "visible" and "foreignizing" translation, but also more and more
academic translators, rendering problematic texts by Derrida and Baudelaire and others, are pursuing neoliteralist
projects, projects that move deliberately and decisively past ''plodding word-for-word translation" to ''translating
to bring to the target language text the interliminal language that bilingual readers experience between
Baudelaire's French lines and the lines of his translators" (267).
And Rose is largely fight: although, as she admits, "the drift into visibility and foreignizing which by the middle
of the 1980s we might have expected to prevail stayed in its channel and has not affected the mainstream" (267),
it has had a profound impact on academic thinking about translation. Of course, if we were to read this as a
recent development, introduced in the eightiesor even in the 1920s by Walter Benjaminshe (or we) would be
wrong: literalism, even neoliteralism, has been around as long as translation has been around, at least since
Livius Andronicus in the third century before the Christian era, and has been at the uneasy antipodes of
mainstream translation theory at least since Cicero

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in 55 B.C. In his letter to Pammachius (A.D. 395), our seminal statement of sense-for-sense translation, Jerome
admits that when translating Scripture, "where even the syntax contains a mystery" ( [395] 1958, 137), he
translates word-for-word; and famous medieval commentators on translation from Boethius to Burgundio of
Pisa defended literalism against the orthodox encroachments of Hieronymean sense-for-sense translation.
Various qualified or modified literalisms continued to inspire fine translators and translation theorists through
the Renaissance and on into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when literalism was picked up in a
major way by the German romantics, for whom it became a rallying cry in a nationalist cultural-political
campaign against the assimilative French classicism that then dominated German culture.
What Rose calls neoliteralismforeignizing without slavish word-forword renderinghas continued to be the
translation theory and practice of choice for elitist intellectuals in the twentieth century as well, from Benjamin
in his 1993 essay "Die Aufgabe des bersetzers," through Vladimir Nabokov's aristocratic contempt for the
bourgeois reading public in his Eugene Onegin, through Martin Heidegger's romantic fascism, on into the
present, where the novelty of Lawrence Venuti's foreignism lies primarily in his insistence on justifying it on
leftist, materialist grounds. Even the left-leaning Benjamin presented his neoliteralist translation theory in
mystical rather than materialist terms; and the neoliteral tradition has been, and continues to be, by and large a
celebration of unabashed cultural elitism, scorning the "masses" and their demand for instant understanding on
their own terms, addressing translations to a tiny cosmopolitan intelligentsia that reads them not for access to the
foreign text (they already possess that) but for a new (yet still worshipful) perspective on it.
There is, I suggest, an important distinction to be made between literalism as a translation practicewhere it may
take a variety of forms from sheer blundering ineptitude to a radical transformation of the target language-and
literalism as a utopian social movement, which is my concern in this chapter on Antoine Berman, and more
generally throughout part three, as I work through the theories of Lawrence Venuti and Philip E. Lewis as well. I
personally find radical literal translations quite interesting, possibly because I am part of the cosmopolitan
intelligentsia to which they are typically addressed; but the social movement that takes literalism as its byword I
find profoundly disturbing, hovering as it does always on the very verge of overt fascismand sometimes, as in
the case of Heidegger, plunging boldly over it.

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The Ethics of Foreignism


Antoine Berman's influential book L'preuve de l'tranger: Culture et traduction dans l'Allemagne romantique
was first published in 1984, and along with shorter pieces of his, such as "La traduction et la lettre" (1985), it
has steadily built a loyal following among restless innovators seeking a dramatic alternative to mainstream
theories of translation. His name, his titles, his aphoristic pronouncements on alterity in translation crop up
everywhere in studies of translation, evenperhaps especiallythose that have nothing to do with German romantic
theories, or with the history of translation theory. In 1991 TTRTraduction, Terminologie, Redaction set aside a
special issue (vol. 4, no. 2) as a homage to Berman. In the pages of Canadian Review of Comparative
Literature/Revue Canadienne de Littrature Compare (March/June 1992) George Lang based a lengthy reviewessay of new books on translation, including my own Translator's Turn, on Berman's dialogical approach to
translation, modifying in his title the famous phrase Gilles Mnage coined in the seventeenth century to describe
the loose translations of Nicolas Perrot d'Ablancourt, les belles infidles, to fit Berman's diametrically opposed
conception of alterity: "La Belle Altrit: Toward a Dialogical Paradigm in Translation Theory?" In 1992 SUNY
Press brought out Stefan Heyvaert's English translation of the German romanticism book, entitled The
Experience of the Foreign: Culture and Translation in Romantic Germanythe translation that provided the major
impetus for my remarks.
For Berman, as Heyvaert transforms him, the "pure aim" (1984, 5) of translation is to transform the self in
dialogue with the other; "the pure translator is the one who needs to write starting from a foreign work, a foreign
language, and a foreign authora notable detour" (5). Translation that fails to maintain alterity, or succumbs to
"the danger of killing the dimension of the foreign" (155)translation that assimilates the foreign text to reductive
and ethnocentric target-language norms, that erases all trace of foreignness, otherness, alterityis impure or ''bad
translation.'' "A bad translation," he writes, "I call the translation which, generally under the guise of
transmissibility, carries out a systematic negation of the strangeness of the foreign work" (5). And again: "A
translation that 'smacks of translation' is not necessarily bad (whereas, conversely, it might be said that a
translation that does not smack at all of translation is necessarily bad)" (155).
Berman takes this concern with dialogical self-transformation to be the "ethical aim" of translation: he is
explicitly concerned with the

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translator's ethical growth, growth out of slavish obedience to ideological norms for his (never her) behavior
toward the ethos of the "true" or "pure" translator. In order to facilitate this growth, he adds to the ethics a
(psycho)analytic of translation, which would coach both the translator and the translation theorist to"localize the
systems of deformation that threaten his practice and operate unconsciously on the level of his linguistic and
literary choicessystems that depend simultaneously on the registers of language, of ideology, of literature, and of
the translator's mental make-up'' (6). This sounds to me like a social psychology, a determination to discover and
root out the collectivized (socialized, normatized) forces in the translator's individual psyche that would
"threaten his [not her] practice"what I would call ideosomatic forces, which Berman claims condition the
translator to favor reductive, assimilative, ethnocentric target-language words and phrases over more
sourcelanguage-like ones.
Berman might be paraphrased, in fact, as imagining a kind of ideological psychomachya political-unconscious
battle in and over the soul of the translatorbetween the forces of assimilation and the forces of diversification, in
which the former, associated with capitalism and cultural reductionism, are the bad guys and the latter,
associated with romanticism and high-cultural cosmopolitanism, are the good. The capitalist forces would
stultify growth by reducing everything to controlled images of the collective self, blocking all enlivening access
with various cultural Others; Berman speaks for a utopian romantic force, peripheralized and largely silenced by
capitalist culture, that would smash the confines within which the capitalized self has been bound and allow the
transformative and hence ethically liberatory voices of alterity to come crashing in. But because the "true" or
"pure" translator, thus transformed by his (not her) engagement with the Other, remains vulnerable to the forces
of assimilation that surround him, and bombard him, and seek to quell him from within and without, he needs a
firm ideological vigilance and the analytical tools to back it up, so as to track down and eradicate every trace
(new and old) of reductionist hegemony in his psychic makeup.
Like the other postromantic theorists whom Marilyn Gaddis Rose dubs neoliteralists, Berman is adamant about
not prescribing literalism; 12 his foreignism looks a bit like literalism, reads like it, but differs from it in his
willingness to compromise with assimilationist ideals, to write a readable and vigorous target language that
nevertheless retains some trace of the source-language text's strangeness, otherness, foreignness, alterity. Some
might call this timid literalism, literalism without the courage of its convictions, especially as Berman is strongly
opposed to what he calls "opaque" literalism (186) and I would call radical literalism, translation that pushes

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the target language as hard as it can toward source-language syntax and semantics. In fact Berman's opposition
to "opacity" puzzles me. Like his romantic and postromantic forebears, especially (most explicitly) Benjamin, he
insists on not basing translational decisions on what the reader can or cannot understand"The task of the
translator," he writes, echoing Benjamin's title as well as his sentiments, ''consists in . . . drawing the dividing
line himself, without any consideration for the reader" (155)and from where I stand "opacity" looks like nothing
so much as a textual reification of some reader's inability to understand. If he is as unconcerned about reader
response as he claims to be, what possible objection can he have to ''opaque" literalism?
But in fact his conception of translation is far broader than his neoliteralist pedigree would suggest; he insists on
the translator's use of "modalities" such as borrowing and neologism, modes "usually no longer classified in the
category of translation . . . but in that of 'creative transposition,'" saying that "in fact this 'transposition' is the
very essence of translation, and the former can only be opposed to the latter on the basis of a petty and
imaginary (the perfect correspondence, the adequatio), even speculative concept of translation" (190). There is a
potential openness here to all forms of transformative translation (except of course reducfive, assimilative,
ethnocentric ones) that would break down the barriers between the domestic and the foreign, the self and the
other; words and ideas flow uneasily across those cuts, contaminating each other, undermining all pretensions of
purity. This might be called the Bakhtinian moment in L'preuve de l'tranger, which does cite Bakhtin several
times. 13
And indeed, like Bakhtin, Berman is at pains to distance himself from the romantics' "metaphysical aims"from,
in Berman's words, the "search, beyond the buzz of empirical languages, for the 'pure language' which each
language carries within itself as its messianic echo" (7). Berman's idea, clearly, not unlike Bakhtin's, is to tone
down or tame or rechannel the notorious messianism of the romantics (here specifically of Benjamin), to
secularize and liberalize and socialize it as ethical growth. Berman remarks strikingly, in fact, and strangely, that
"the metaphysical purpose of translation is a bad sublimation of the translational drive, whereas the ethical
purpose is the surpassing of it" (8).
For what is the "translational drive," and what would it be to sublimate or surpass it? Is Berman referring to the
impulse I have, every time I pick up a Finnish poem I like, to start rendering it into English? Is this the "drive"
Benjamin sublimates and Berman surpasses? If so (and I can't imagine what else it could be, though I remain
uncertain that that is quite what he means), what would be the difference between sublimating and surpassing it?
He seems to be working with the difference between

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"pure language" and "pure translation," the former, Benjamin's concept, being a kind of cosmic superlanguage
that makes translation unnecessary because it transcends linguistic differences, the latter, Berman's, being more
mundanely grounded in the ongoing ethical growth of translators. But both sound like sublimations to me.
Berman's ethics of translation sublimates the "translational drive" into an idealized, utopian, transcendental
realm where individual acts of translation (grounded in engagement with alterity) are personally, perhaps
socially redemptive, whereas Benjamin's metaphysics of translation pushes it toward universal redemption; but
these seem less like polar opposites than like hierarchical shifts in the metaphoric field of redemption. In fact,
Berman's reference to "bad sublimation'' suggests that what he is doing logically is first splitting his "aims'' into
good and bad sublimations, then mystifying the former as no sublimation at all but a "surpassing" of the drive
that constitutes the translator as translator.
Purity and Alterity
Part of Berman's difficulty here, it seems to me, is his acquiescence in the romantics' purity fetish: given his
rhetoric of the "pure aim" of translation, which, when pursued by the "pure translator," produces "pure
translation," it is hard to maintain much conceptual distance between his claims and Benjamin'swhich is
probably why he feels it so important to derogate the metaphysics of translation as a bad sublimation. Because
this recurring emphasis on purity seems diametrically opposed to Berman's key term, alterity, a generous reading
of the book would probably place purity and alterity in some sort of dialectical tension; but because Berman
never explicitly sets up such a dialectic, nor does he ever problematize the conceptual proximity and conflict
between purity and alterity, nor does he reveal the ideological and emotional background of his grounding belief
in the a priori existence of purity, such generosity would require a good deal of ingenuity.
In fact, my sneaking suspicion is that for Berman there is no tension between purity and alterity, that for him
alterity is purity, and purity can only be attained through alterity. Alterity is only superficially messy, chaotic,
unpredictable; beneath the surface it possesses a reassuring stabilitya view that harks back powerfully not only
to Benjamin but also to the entire German (post)romantic tradition from Herder and the Schlegel brothers
through Heidegger, Gadamer, and Steiner. There is some force, some transhistorical power, that employs the
apparently messy interchange of alterity to its own utopian purposes; Hegel called it Absolute Geist; Goethe, das
Ewig-Weibliche; Benjamin, Intention; Heidegger, Sein;

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but whatever its name, it seems capable of ordering the difficult and disturbing, traumatic and transformative
encounter with the Other, rendering it pure, stable, safe.
If Berman knows that this is what he is doing, he doesn't let on. These romantic concerns power his rhetoric but
remain repressed in his argumentationan ironic observation, given his repeated insistence on the importance of
translation becoming self-conscious. Not only does he seem unaware of the tremendous destructive power of
alteritythe fact, say, that as overpopulation, famine, and the displacement of millions of people from their
homelands draw increased attention to the unequal distribution of global wealth, the Third World is as likely to
overrun and smash French culture (and the rest of the exploitative West) as it is to "enrich" it through cultural
dialoguehe also has only a very vague and bland notion of the utopian state to which he hopes alterity will direct
the French:
The work to be done on modern French, in order to make it capable of welcoming that literary domain
authenticallythat is to say, without ethnocentrismshows quite clearly that we are concerned here, in and
through translation, with a participation in this movement of decentering and change that our literature
(our culture) needs if it wants to find again an image and an experience of itself which it has partly
(though, certainly, not completely!) lost since classicism. (19)
What image? What experience? What is at stake here? Are we talking liberal humanism, multiculturalism,
neoclassicism, what?
Ethnocentric French classicism was, of course, the methodological Other for German romantic translation
theory, and L'preuve de l'tranger fairly pulsates with Berman's troubled sense that contemporary French
culture is still guilty of the German romantics' charge; the book taken as a whole might well be read as an
attempt to atone for French guilt, for the sin of ethnocentrism laid at its door by half a century of German
nationalists. Berman wants his French readers to follow him deep into that guilt, into that inner pressure that
pushes him toward Germanness as Other, as the foreign. If he can swallow German romanticism whole, without
a single protest, without withdrawing from its embarrassing transcendentalism and purity fetishism into the
protective spaces of French irony, perhaps he can atone; if he can get his readers to follow him, perhaps French
culture too can atone, and growth toward the utopian future of the romantic imagination can begin.
But the only way he can envision that sort of collective transformation is through the coercive politics of
"traductology"a theory of translation

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less as poetry (the romantics' messianic agent) than as what Althusser (1970) called ideological state
apparatuses:
In fact, one of the axes of traductology is to elaborate a theory of non-ethno-centtic translation with a
generalized field of application. This theory is both descriptive and normatire.
It is descriptive in that it analyzes the systems of deformation that weigh upon any operation of translation
and is able to propose a countersystem on the basis of that analysis. It is normative in that the alternatives
it defines concerning the direction of translation are mandatory. (186)
A countersystem: this is, clearly, no vision of pastoral anarchy, no freewheeling carte blanche. Berman wants to
control translation as absolutely as the normative system that has reigned in the West since Augustine and
Jerome, wants the choices made by individual translators to be as mandatory as they ever were for the medieval
Bible translator who valued his or her life (and afterlife). And as he makes clear a few lines later, Berman wants
to control those choices in much the same way as did the medieval church, by instilling in translators' heads a
generalized operating system that will guide them to empirically correct decisions without having to "descend"
(note the top-down metaphor) to the infinitude of contextual variations:
For instance, traductology is not supposed to settle the problems of the translation of Chinese poetry for, if
it descended to that level, its task would obviously be empirically infinite. But there is a level where the
problems are the same for the sinologist, the specialist of Serbian literature, or of Greek tragedy. This level
concerns the problematic of translation itself and the systems of constraints that French (and any great
'national' language) poses for translation. This level is that of pure translating competence. (186)
This is purity conceived in terms of a reified and idealized "translation itself" and a reified and idealized French,
or "any great 'national' language"as opposed, I take it, to a Third World language or tribal dialect. Here is where
Berman's elaborate anti-ethnocentric framework begins to break down. The goal of translation for Berman is "to
open a relation, finally accurate (not dominating or narcissistic), to other cultures, and notably those of what has
now become the 'Third World'" (181)and of course it is the Frenchman, the representative of the colonial power,
who will do the "opening'' and determine the ''final" "accuracy" of the relation. How, I wonder, is this not
dominating or narcissistic? Berman antici-

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pates, but with far less self-awareness, Eric Cheyfitz's ideological contortions in The Poetics of Imperialism as
he tries to know the position of the Native American, whose cause he is championing against the white
imperialist Europeans who also claim to know the Indian; and his claims look increasingly less tenable as Third
World voices themselves, from Tejaswini Niranjana in Siting Translation to Samia Mehrez in "Translation and
the Postcolonial Experience," begin to open a new translatological relation with their former colonizers. 14
In fact the normative and purificatory control that Berman would wield over "dialogical alterity" renders that
dialogue and that alterity highly problematic. What alterity is possible when every relation with an Other must
be purified of all retrograde elementswhen purification is regarded as the sine qua non of the confrontation with
alterity? What dialogue is possible when every relation with an Other must be opened and controlled by the
educated, white, middle-class European male speaker?15 Berman's history of German romantic translation is not
just a period study, not just a look at a handful of theorists and translators and poets who wrote two centuries
ago in the geographical middle of Europe; it is a polemical teleology cast anxiously into the future, picking up
Berman and his privileged group and sweeping them along with it: "Hlderlin's translations, for their part,
inaugurated a new epoch in the history of Western translation that is still in its initial stages. In that sense," he
continues in the next paragraph, ''our study may appear to be an archaeology of European translation, centered
on its key phase at the dawn of the nineteenth century" (17576). The archeology begins with Luther, of course,
rather than with Cicero or Jerome or Augustine, or, for that matter, with Salutati or Bruni or Dolet (the mystified
Renaissance mainstream), or even the uncomfortably and explicitly politicized mainstream from Thomas More
and William Tyndale to the Earl of Roscommon. Luther begins the archeology because it is centered in German
romanticism, and Luther anticipates that center, whereas Bruni and the others anticipate more politically correct
and thus more culturally dominant strains of translation that are retroactively peripheralized by that center. This
is a power move disguised as a teleology, which is in turn disguised as an archeology. By setting up European
translation as a trajectory from Hlderlin to a utopian future of dialogical alterity, Berman thematizes everything
elsethe whole range of self-effacing and culturally reductive translations that keep the capitalist machine
functioning properly (au propre), scientific-technical, legal, commercial, advertising translations, a fortiori those
highly ritualized areas of translation such as weather reports that seem to lend themselves to machine translation,
in fact all translations that deviate from the pure ethical aim of translation and

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thus kill translation by draining the alterity that is translation's lifeblood not only as bad translation but as no
translation at all. Only the highest literary translation is true translation, translation proper; and among literary
translations, only those that foreignize the target-language text as Hlderlin did truly propel us as a civilization
toward the ethical utopia Berman envisions.
And there is something powerfully and insidiously attractive about this claim for modern intellectuals, the
political action committee for utopian literalism: it seems to provide an aura of otherworldly justification for
what we do, for our high-cultural concerns as opposed to the dehumanizing impetus of capitalism that flourishes
all around us. In fact Berman's deification and narrow high-cultural definition of "authentic experience" as aura
is a move that Walter Benjamin himself, wrapped up as he was in the utopianism of this group, identified as
protofascist; it is an implicitly political move, an attempt, through the displacement of "modernity" by an ancient
mystical or romantic authenticity that is the exclusive possession of a few intellectuals, to gain political
ascendancy for our group over the Philistines, the commodity capitalists, who have peripheralized us. 16 "His
two famous verses,'' Berman writes of a couplet by Brentano, ''obviously do not allow a translation, at least a
literal one, without losing their aura" (118); and it is this "aura" that Berman insists most strenuously that we
retain, this auranot the bedraggled voices of African writers, certainly not the voices of advertisers, technical
writers, meteorologists, or business correspondentsthat Berman regards as the true alterity, the pure alterity, with
which "we" must engage in dialogue.17
Tied in with this, as Lawrence Venuti has shown persuasively (1991), is Berman's (like Heidegger's)
mystification of the politics of translationhis willingness to discuss German romanticism purely in terms of texts,
of transtextualities, of philosophical positions, and not at all in terms of political or ideological undercurrents. He
works hard, for example, to dissociate romantic appropriation (Zueignung) from the political annexation
Nietzsche attacked: "Romantic agility and Goethean curiosity," he states flatly, "are not Will to Power" (1992,
46). When he discusses Schleiermacher's hermeneutics, therefore, it is all "understanding" (147)not the anxious
attempts of an upper-middle-class intelligentsia to shape Prussian cultural politics to its own ends. But
Schleiermacher, as Venuti reminds us, "is enlisting his privileged translation method [which is Berman's as well]
in a cultural political agenda, wherein an educated elite controls the formation of a national culture by refining
its language through foreignizing translations" (1991, 131). The French translators whom Schleiermacher and
his fellow high-culturalists attacked as assimilationists served as a common enemy in a

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nationalist project aimed at reorganizing German culture around the privileged but peripheralized elite
represented by the romantics: a negative exemplar whom all good Germans could comfortably despise, and from
whom they could then transfer their contempt back onto the romantics' true enemy, the German masses' desire
(now thematized as "French," non-German) to have everything served up to them in familiar guise. By despising
the "French," Germans would toss out their cultural pablum and enthrone the romantics as their new cultural
despots. None of this surfaces in Berman. Berman is too wrapped up in the same elitist project to notice such
things.
Foreignizing Berman
Another question altogether is what Berman's theory of translation does for and to his English translator, Stefan
Heyvaert, who, like Andr Lefevere, is a native speaker of Dutch. Heyvaert has a better ear for English than
Lefevere, but translating into English still provides him, unmistakably, with the experience of the foreign, and
this interests me: what difference does it make for Berman's theory, and for Heyvaert's application of that theory,
when the translator is not a native speaker of the language into which he or she is translating?
Many of Heyvaert's renditions are patent applications of Berman's principle that the translator should give the
reader the experience (l'preuve Heyvaert always gives the French word in brackets) 18 of the foreign without
opaque literalism: "Such a theory is highly desirable, and it is in effect being developed today from different
fields of experience" (1992, 85), "contrary to the attempts of the age" (90), "and it is even Schleiermacher who
probably managed'' (143), and of course the very Germanic reference to W. Benjamin, E Schlegel, G. W.
Hopkins, and the rest. All this is understandable English, but sounds alien in fairly obvious ways, precisely what
Berman says he wants. But other strange-sounding renditions are not so obvious.
For example, take Heyvaert's expansion of the English conditional would: what difference does it make for a
Dutch translator of French into English whether he expands would into the territory of the subjunctive, following
contemporary colloquial North American English, or into the negative shading of an affirmative subordinate
clause negated in the main clause, following Berman's French? Here is Heyvaert's use of the would-have
subjunctive: "The translation of the approximately fifty words for bread in' the region of Aix-en-Provence would
pose 'insoluble problems' if 'a French novel of some merit would have the world of baking in this region as its
setting'" (189; emphasis added). Here is an example of the

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use of would to import main-clause negation into an affirmative subordinate clause: "But this does not at all
mean that the poet would be abandoning the Greeks" (162; emphasis added). 19 Both of these feel alien to me;
both give me the experience (l'preuve) of the foreign. But the former feels foreign because of my age, class,
and educational background (younger Americans, especially of lower class and less education, regularly use
"would have," writing it "would of," in place of the subjunctive "had''), whereas the latter feels foreign because I
have never heard a native speaker of English use it.20 Would Berman consider both of these translational
decisions equally good, equally steeped in alterity?
And what about the kind of "foreignizing" impact that writing in the "foreign" language of academic discourse
has on the native speaker, and the transferred impact of native speakers' "errors" along these lines on the
foreigner who hears them? Colloquial North American English does not retain the standard distinction between
adverbial as and adjectival like in clauses like "like I said," but in academic discourse beginning writers are
asked to make ita distinction that is, like most academic discourse, foreign to them. Heyvaert, like (not as) most
Americans, uses "like'' where standard English would use "as""just like in late Romanticism we encounter" (39),
"just like we did with translation" (121), "exactly like in German" (169)which again feels alien to me but would
probably feel assimilative or reductive to Berman, because it is grounded in colloquial North American English.
But then Heyvaert also overgeneralizes "as," using it adjectivally where both standard and colloquial English
would use "like": "As many others . . . we have sought" (19). Is this because English is a foreign language for
him, or because he has read so many papers by American students for whom academic discourse is a foreign
language that he has begun to write like them?21
And what about the SUNY Press copy editor? This is the kind of "error" that copy editors specialize in; they
love pouncing on adjectival "as" and adverbial "like." How did these incidences get past the censor? Did
Heyvaert insist on the alterity of his text and convince his copy editor of the necessity of leaving strangesounding phrases in place?
More radically still: what would Berman say about typos and punctuation problems? Do these count as "alterity"
too? Some of the typos in the book are relatively uninterestingfor example, "every literature grows bored if it not
refreshed" (65)but others raise crucial questions regarding the application of Berman's principles to actual
translation. What about "Mallarm's translations of Poe's poems has sometimes . . . " (110) is it singular or
plural?and, on the heels of that one, "Po&sie" (178), poetry as Poe & sie, German sie as singular and plural?
And what about the foreign-looking "schizofrenia" (158), spelled "schizophrenia" ten lines

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above, and, as if in anticipation of the onset of schizoid behavior, the return of repressed institutional regimens
four pages earlier in "And what is an uniformed reader?" (154)? The use of "an" before ''uniformed" is a
common mistake among nonnative speakers of English, since the [ju:] sound that begins the word is not
immediately obvious in its written form; but the error here seems more than a typo, more than a printer's devil,
more than Heyvaert's or a compositor's booboo. What is the relationship between the "uninformed" and the
"uniformed" reader? Do only prison guards and psychiatric ward nurses wear uniforms, or can the prison and
hospital garb of the repressively ''uninformed" schizophrenic be considered a uniform too? 22 The "foreignizing
typo" turns the passage into a kind of (anti)romantic poem, plagued by a polysemy that reveals what it most
wants to conceal, its own complicity in the prison house mentality it ostensibly deplores.
Foreignism and the Alien Word
In my reading of Berman thus far, I have been highlighting an eschatological movement in his argument, a
postulation of purity within and beyond alterity that allows him to reintroduce romantic messianism into an
ostensibly antimetaphysical traductologythat allows him to imagine an ethical utopia whose projected demands
require the imposition of coercive norms on translation in the present. This movement toward utopia and
redemption is one that I take to be focal to neoliteralism in all its romantic and postromantic guises: one calls for
better translation, as narrowly conceived along foreignizing lines, only in order to save one's country from
retrograde forces (the bad kind of alterity, the Others one wants to have nothing to do with); and one wants to
save one's country, finally, in order to save the world.
But let us suppose for a moment that all this eschatological intensity I'm sensing isn't really there; let us suppose
that all Berman's talk of purity is just a manner of speaking, a careless (perhaps simply overblown) way of
saying "the best." Suppose, in other words, that for the neoliteralists the "true" issue, I want to say the "purest"
issue, is truly and purely the ethical impact of translation on the target-language reader and culture. Suppose
that, as Berman argues, a reductive, ethnocentric translation will stultify target-language readers and the targetlanguage culture as a whole by lulling them into an unthinking, uncritical sleep, soothing them with easily
digestible pablum with no lumps, no spices, no surprises, nothing that might upset or worry them, and that this is
a project in which the translator ought not to participatethat the translator's job should be to wake people up, to
rub their noses in the unknown, the uncanny, the

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strange and the foreign, in anything and everything that lies beyond their ken. Let us grant them, in other words,
their strongest ethical claim. Having done so, can we agree that neoliteralism, foreignism, the strange feel of the
foreign language in the target-language text, is the only, or even the best, way to accomplish that goal?
I think not. In fact, I think it is one of the worst. Several spots in Heyvaert's translation make this clear. For
example, in rendering Berman's discussion of the use of the word "translation" in French ordinary language,
Heyvaert gives us this: "This notion is based on everyday language: 'I have translated my thoughts as follows . . .
'; 'I have given my version of the facts'; 'I don't manage to translate what I feel'; etc." (85). Everyday English
does use "translate" and "version" in many senses unrelated to cross-linguistic communication, but these ain't
themthese just sound awkward. More, they sound awkward in an immediately recognizable way, which, because
it is so immediately recognizable, so tediously familiar, so easily identified, undermines the very foreignizing
effect Berman wants to achieve. They sound, in fact, like textbook Englishlike the kind of pompous, insincere
English prose that textbook writers generate when they imagine themselves writing to a generalized audience
defined by relative youth and ignorance. It is, in fact, a subtly punitive rhetoric, the rhetoric of educational
authorities intent upon (surprise, surprise) stultifying students' innate love of learning by depriving them of
natural language used in real-world contextsby surrounding them with an artificial language used neither by the
students nor the textbook writers themselves, an alien interlanguage specially created to bridge the gap between
the writer's world and the reader's world in subtly irritating ways.
Foreignism, it turns out, isn't foreign at all; it's the language of parents lecturing, teachers teaching, ministers
preaching. It is the language of authorities imposing an alien set of behavioral norms on a subordinate groupa
condescending doubletalk that wields alterity like a velveteen stick. It is what V. N. Voloshinov ( [1930] 1975)
called the "alien word" an authoritarian discourse drawing on thematic and rhetorical repertoires of foreign
languages and alien registers of the native language in order to mystify priestly power. 23
What then would shock the students into sitting up and taking notice? What would have a similar effect on
target-language readers not only numbed by reductive translations but also annoyed into half-repressed
resentment by earnest translationese? How about: "Hey, bottom line, people: uninspired marketing strategies
translate as decreased market share"? Or: "Yeah, well what's your version, asshole?" The neoliteralists' wellmeaning arguments to the contrary, readers are shaken far more

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effectively out of their "stupor"if we have to follow the neoliteralists in positing stupefied readersthrough radical
and aggressive domestication of the source-language text than through timid foreignism, which is one of the
most powerful stupefactants around.
The fact is, the assumption that a phrase has to be alien to startle us into an awareness of alterity is grounded in a
naive realistic epistemology according to which old (or realistic, or familiar) information is always ground and
new (or fantastic, or alien) information is always figured. This epistemology, which dominated literary-critical
discussions of realism in literature for decades, would predict that bringing a real bear on stage at the end of
Shakespeare's Winter's Tale would be less striking than dressing an actor up in a bear costume, because the bear
is a real bear and the actor is a fake one. Obviously this is not the case. If a real bear comes on stage, the
audience immediately starts wondering whether it's dangerous, how it was trained, whether it's going to defecate
on the floor, and the like: the "real" bear in effect breaks the illusion of reality and returns the audience to a
sense of the problematic and overlapping natures of reality and artifice. The realer the bear, the greater the
cognitive dissonance (at least on stage, where artifice is ground), and thus the greater the shock value. In the
same way, the "translate" and "version" sentences I just made up are more strikingly colloquial in English than
Heyvaert's, thus less likely to have come from Berman's pen, thus more flagrantly artificial, thus more likely to
force the reader to face up to the discontinuities involved in the act of translation.
A better example might be constructed by translating a passage out of Luther's "Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen,"
the arche of Berman's romantic archeology and a major German voice for radical domestication:
Denn ich halte dafr, Sankt Lukas als ein Meister in hebrischer und griechischer Sprache habe das
hebrisch Wort, so der Engel gebraucht, wollen reit dem griechischen "kecharitomni" treffen und deutlich
machen. Und denk mir, der Engel Gabriel habe mit Maria geredet, wie er reit Daniel redet, und nennet ihn
"hamudth" und "isch hamudth," vir desiderirum, das ist, "du lieber Daniel." Denn das is Gabrielis
Weise zu reden, wie wir im Daniel sehen. Wenn ich nun den Buchstaben nach, aus der Esel Kunst sollt des
Engels Wort verdeutschen, mbte ich so sagen: Daniel, du Mann der Begierung, odern, Daniel, du Mann
der Lste. O, das wre schn deutsch! Ein Deutscher hret wohl, dab ''Mann,'' "Lste" oder Begierungen
deutsche Wort sind, wiewohl es nicht eitel reine deutsche Wort sind, sonder "Lust" und "Begier" wren
doch besser. Aber wenn sie so zusammengefasset werden: Der Mann der Begierungen, so weib kein
Deutscher, was gesagt ist, denkt, dab Daniel vielleicht voll bser Lust stecke. Das hiebe denn fein

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gedolmetscht. Darum mub ich hier die Buchstaben fahren lassen und forschen, wie der deutsche Man das
ausdrckt, was der Hebrische Man "Isch hamudth" nennt: so finde ich, dab der deutsche Mann so
spricht: Du lieber Daniel, du liebe Maria, oder: du holdselige Maid, du niedliche Jungfrau, du zartes Weib
und dergleichen. (1963, 2324)
I'm sure St. Luke brought all his mastery of Hebrew and Greek to bear on finding the best possible Greek
word, kecharitomeni, for the angel's Hebrew word. And the angel Gabriel probably spoke to Mary as he
did to Daniel, whom he called hamudoth and isch hamudoth, vir desideriorum, which is to say, "dear
Daniel." That's the way the angel Gabriel talks, as we see in the Book of Daniel. Now if I wanted to
translate this like the jackasses insist, literally, I'd have to say "Daniel, you man of desires." Doesn't that
sound great! Of course, "man of desires'' is perfectly recognizable English. The only problem is that it
means something rather different from what the angel Gabriel meant, like "O Daniel, who lustest after
women" or "Hey, horny Daniel.'' Pretty wonderful translation, huh? If I let the letters go on their merry
way and try to determine what the Hebrew speaker meant by isch hamudoth, I find that the true meaning is
something like "Dan my man," "sweet Mary," "June honey," "you great big gorgeous hunk of a man," and
the like. (1997, 8788)
Here it is almost impossible to imagine Luther having written "Hey, horny Daniel" or "Dan my man" or "you
great big gorgeous hunk of a man"let alone having referred to a phrase as being "perfectly recognizable
English"and that cognitive dissonance has precisely the alienating and unsettling effect Berman and others
mistakenly claim foreignizing translations have. Personally, I'd rather have opaque literalism than either timid
domestication or timid foreignization, and in their insistence on a little foreignism the neoliteralists are finally
very timid, unwilling to go for broke, too cautious to hurl their translations in the faces of editors (who might
decide not to publish) or readers (who may decide not to buy the book). Radical literalism, not just word for
word but morpheme for morpheme, affix for affix, creates an almost unreadable text that a highly trained
bilingual reader reads like Finnegans Wakeunquestionably a specialized taste, but one that, because it is
unreadable to the uninitiated, is ineffective in the authoritarian project of stupefaction to which the neoliteralists
unwittingly, or at least without admitting it, lend their support. Disturbing domestication of all sorts, from
archaized and modernized to overtly propagandistic renditions, can be read, enjoyed, and raged at by everybody;
as such it still remains the most effective way to unsettle the complacent reader.

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Nine
Foreignizing Fluency
Lawrence Venuti,
The Translator's Invisibility
Foreignism
Since the 1986 publication of "The Translator's Invisibility," Lawrence Venuti has been one of the major figures
in contemporary U.S. translation theory. Not only have his publications broken new ground theoretically,
building powerful historical and ideological cases against what he calls the forced "invisibility" or
"transparency'' of ''fluent" or "domesticating" translation and in favor of what he calls the resistant dissidence of
"foreignizing" translation; he has also worked institutionally to win translation studies a more prominent place in
the academy, most recently working with several other translation scholars to squeeze a single discussion group
on translation out of the serenely antitranslational Modern Language Association. Professor of English at
Temple University and a literary translator from the Italian, he has published numerous book-length translations
that have received a good deal of favorable attention, even from critics who disagree in principle with his
foreignizing approachevidence perhaps that foreignism isn't intrinsically the pillowcase full of concrete blocks it
is often taken to be, that in the hands of a translator like Venuti it can win over even the staunchest
domesticators.
Theoretically Venuti's range is narrow but intense. He only has the one issue, really, this opposition between
domestication or fluency and the normative disappearance of the translator that it requires, and foreignism as a
channel of dissidence or resistance to hegemonic norms; but with his restless intelligence and penetrating
historical and political insight, he manages to find such endless variety in the historical and ideological
exfoliation of that opposition that it rarely sounds as if he is playing on a single string. Here is how he
formulates his thesis in his most recent book, The Translator's Invisibility:

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Foreignizing translation is a dissident cultural practice, maintaining a refusal of the dominant by


developing affiliations with marginal linguistic and literary values at home, including foreign cultures that
have been excluded because of their own resistance to dominant values. On the one hand, foreignizing
translation enacts an ethnocentric appropriation of the foreign text by enlisting it in a domestic cultural
political agenda, like dissidence; on the other hand, it is precisely this dissident stance that enables
foreignizing translation to signal the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text and perform a
work of cultural restoration, admitting the ethnodeviant and potentially revising domestic literary canons.
(148)
This thesis has changed very little in the years he has been arguing it; but Venuti has the intellectual range to
bring constant surprises, even to readers who have read a great deal of his work and think they know what he's
going to say next. The attack on fluency is always there, of course; so is the strategic attack on the elitism of the
foreignizers and the insistence that foreignism should become a mode of dissident resistance, that "the
contemporary English-language translator [should seek] forms of resistance against the regime of fluent
domestication" (184). But he pays such close attention to the details along the way, sees and remembers and
theorizes so many things that no one else has even noticed, that I always learn from himalways find myself
pushed more or less uncomfortably into new perceptions of things I thought I understood.
Venuti's dissident politics has allied him with a number of new feminist and postcolonial students of translation,
such as Jill Levine, Lori Chamberlain, Sherry Simon, Samia Mehrez, and Richard Jacquemond, all of whom he
published in his influential 1992 collection Rethinking Translation; also, more loosely, with Vicente Rafael's
Contracting Colonialism, Eric Cheyfitz's Poetics of lmperialism (1991), and Tejaswini Niranjana's Siting
Translation (1992), especially perhaps the last, which draws on Walter Benjamin's literalism as a resistant
channel of postcolonial retranslation. Like Niranjana's celebration of Benjamin's literalism, however, Venuti's
advocacy of foreignism also rather uneasily allies him with a number of cultural elitists whose theories he
admires but whose politics he dislikes, especially Friedrich Schleiermacher and Antoine Berman. As I want to
suggest in some detail here, this conflict is the bind in the swing of Venuti's ideological gate: how to distance
himself from the aristocratic or hautebourgeois elitism of the vast majority of foreignizers through the ages and
transform their preferred methodfor so long a channel of contempt for the great unwashed, a means of regulating
or even completely blocking popular access to various sacred and classical textsinto a form

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of grass-roots dissidence, the oppositional translator's resistance to assimilative capitalist culture.


The Translator's Invisibility, which I propose to take as my text here, is in this sense no surprise: it continues the
battle Venuti engaged back in the mid-eighties with the article of the same name and has been fighting
indefatigably ever since, and it does so with most of the same weapons. Much of the book is in fact familiar
from previous publications, reworked material from articles and conference papers, most of it substantially
rewritten for argumentative continuity, moving now from a history of normative fluency through several
salutary foreignizing projects (John Nott's, Francis Newman's, Ezra Pound's, Celia and Louis Zukovsky's, Paul
Blackburn's) to a critique of the dominant notion that a translator must work with an author who feels simpatico.
He has also done, and drawn on heavily throughout, a massive amount of archival research in the history of
translation, beginning with two chapters on the evolution of normative translational fluency in English
translation since the early seventeenth century; he says in a note that the roots of this thinking of course go much
deeper, citing my rather cursory attempt in The Translator's Turn to trace congruent norms back to Augustine
and Frederick Rener's more exhaustive history of translation norms in Interpretatio (316). But Venuti doesn't
seem to be interested in exploring where the ethos of fluency came from, what social needs might have
motivated its formation and given it ideological pride of place. It is enough for him that "fluency emerges" (43).
I must ask the question, emerges out of what? In the early modern period and by the end of the seventeenth
century fluency has become normative, and he establishes that fact beyond a doubt through close readings not
only of translations but of translators' letters and other private documents and contemporary reviews, always
read carefully and closely against the backdrop of the social and political history of the era in question. As a
history of English translation over the past three or four centuries it is truly an impressive piece of
scholarshipone that will make it difficult in the future to universalize translational fluency by repressing its
historical evolution. This is Venuti's "big book," a work that translation theorists who have admired his shorter
work have been waiting for since the late eightiesand without question it was worth the wait.
Elitism
What has always troubled me about Venuti's work continues to trouble me about this book, however: its
uncomfortable rapprochements with elitism. Venuti says, for example, that he will concern himself exclusively

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with literary translation, partly because, unlike the scientific-technical translator, the literary translator is
relatively free to challenge the hegemonic norms of assimilative capitalism and still make a livingignoring, of
course, the telling fact that in Anglophone countries the literary translator's living by and large comes from
universities, not from publishers, so that rebellious translators aren't really taking great economic rissand partly
because innovative theories of translation have always arisen out of literary translation (41). I'm not sure how
fair this is, but I can't help hearing a kind of displaced class contempt, here, the upper-middle-class literary
translator who lives comfortably on an academic salary looking down on the lower-middle-class technical
translator who has to translate, in order to go on paying the rent, whatever instruction manual or technical
documentation the fax machine spits out. When he says, late in the book, "A translated text should be the site
where a different culture emerges, where a reader gets a glimpse of a cultural other" (306), I assume he means a
translated literary text, and that his generalizations about the desirability (should be) of foreignizing translation
don't refer carte blanche to all translated texts. But I'm not even sure he really wants to extend his foreignizing
principle to all literary translation: what about mass-market genre fiction, or, even more interesting, advertising
translations, which are typically quite literary but almost exclusively controlled by target-cultural norms (often
as determined by extensive market surveys)? Should target-language "fluency" and "transparency'' not be
opposed here also? How? Under what conditions? And what (if any) conclusions should we draw from Venuti's
book regarding technical translation? Are Venuti's comments applicable only to the highest of high culture, the
most elite of elite literature? Can (or should) so-called utilitarian translations ever be sites of cultural
emergence? Is technical translation Venuti's masscult supplement, to put it in Derridean terms, whose exclusion
makes it possible (and thus also problematic) to define the elitist main set? If so, it may be necessary for Venuti,
at some infinitely deferrable point in time, to tackle the question of technical translation and its possible role in a
dissident politics of foreignizing translation.
I don't want to wax self-righteous about this attitude, however, because I am guilty of it myself; in fact, a lot of
my criticisms of Venuti's elitism in what follows are as much self-criticisms as anything else, attempts to explore
my own complicity in the tendencies that bother me in Venuti. But I see in Venuti's work very little willingness
to inhabit the scorned subject position of the lower-class Other, whether by actually translating technical and
other despised utilitarian texts himself or by exploring that position imaginativelyby theorizing technical
translation, for example, as

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precisely that area where translators are most hegemonically controlled by the domesticating institution.
Not that it's easy: feeling guilty about my own elitism, my own preference for the heady problems raised by the
translation of lyric poetry and other difficult texts, in The Translator's Turn I worked hard to theorize less
glamorous forms of translation as well, including pedagogical, commercial, and technical translation (which I
had been doing for fifteen years before my first literary translation was published)and still several reviewers
read right through those attempts to my not-so-subliminal preference for literary translation and high-falutin
theory, calling the whole book a theory of literary translation. Some of the theorists I currently admire most,
especially Anthony Pym, have been working to bridge the theoretical gaps between literary translators who earn
a regular salary teaching at universities and translate on the side, for the love of it, and free-lance or corporate
translators who must translate to live; these theorists are typically academics who do not love academia and are
constantly torn between the easy but often narrow and petty life of the university teacher and the more nomadic
but insecure life of the free-lance translator.
Academic Discourse
But judging from the rhetoric of his book, and of his work in generalwhich is rhetorically very much of a
pieceVenuti seems to have very little ambivalence about the academy, or about his social role as a privileged
literary translator and translation theorist. This rhetorical stance is problematic in at least two ways: it is, as I've
been saying, implicitly elitist, aimed at a small group of scholars; and it is also, even more problematically,
complicit in the very fluency Venuti attacks. For as both a speaker and a writer Venuti is remarkably fluent, and
unconflictedly devoted to fluency. In his introduction to Rethinking Translation, for example, he attacked the
American Literary Translators Association for insisting that presenters at the annual conference not read their
papers, calling it a deprofessionalization of translation studiesa shock to me, because I had always sort of
assumed that no one really liked listening to read papers, and only read papers at conferences themselves (as
opposed to "just talking" them) out of a craven fear of sounding stupid. ALTA's policy was always one of the
things that I liked best about the organization; it's a policy that I've always adhered to anyway, preferring to
address the people present and the issues currently on the table rather than read something I wrote weeks or even
months ago, even if that means stumbling and stammering and hunting for the right words. But when Larry and I
both

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spoke in the same session at the MLA one year, he commented over coffee afterward that he doesn't usually like
nonread papers, but mine was good: he did, in other words, I suppose still does, truly believe in the academic
ritual of reading papers.
But for me, in his terms, not reading conference papers is a foreignizing move: in my ears all read papers sound
pretty much alike, smoothly monologic, academically fluent, so univocal and monotonous that I have a very hard
time listening, paying attention, staying alert. The verbal current flows over me, soothing me, lulling me to
sleep. The only thing that occasionally breaks the monotony is when the presenter interrupts her or his reading
to comment marginally, introducing a little metadiscourse ("What I'm trying to do here is . . ."), adding a second
voice to the monotony. Some academic presenters read much too fastthey're nervous, or they're afraid they won't
have enough time, so they rush through. This can be kind of interesting, too, though not in terms of
contentmostly in terms of spectacle. But Larry isn't like that. He has a very strong, deep, measured voice, a radio
announcer's voice, a voice full of masculine authority, and when he reads a paper it sounds extremely fluent. His
whole being resonates with authority: not just the manifest fact that he is an experienced translator who clearly
knows what translators do and why and how they feel while they're doing it; nor just the fact, equally manifest in
his discourse, that he is a thoroughly reliable scholar who always researches his claims meticulously; but also
the calm fluency of his discourse, whether read aloud or spoken spontaneously: the impression that he doesn't
have to hunt for words, even esoteric wordswords just trip off his tongue, one after the other, in reassuring
periodic sentences. So do the individual stages of his argument. He gives the impression of always reasoning
syllogistically, never overstating his case, never fudging a premise, never even constructing his argument
anticlimactically, letting a strong discussion collapse into a weak conclusion.
This is, I know, a strange (I would want Venuti to say "foreignizing") tack to take in an essay, one that is
probably making you a little uneasy. I'm supposed to be writing about his book, and instead I'm talking about his
oratorical behavior. (I want to get back to his writing in a moment.) It's probably also not clear what I'm trying
to say here: I am describing him as a successful academic orator, someone whose public speaking meets all
implicit standards for academic success; but I seem to be using it against him. What I'm trying to do, in fact, is
work out my vague sense that there is a serious conflict between Venuti's theory and his theorizing, between his
antifluency resistance to hegemonic discursive norms for translation and his fluent nonresistance to hegemonic
norms for academic writing.

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Shouldn't someone opposed to a hegemonic fluency in one discursive realm be at least suspicious of his own
hegemonic fluency in another?
As I say, he also writes fluentlyso fluently as virtually to smooth over his polemics in favor of foreignism and
the left-leaning regimen of cultural/political resistance that he attaches to it. Academics are traditionally not
supposed to write polemically, because polemics imply interest, bias, hence distortion; even as those norms
begin to erode, as academic writing (at least in some disciplines) becomes at once more personal and more
political, the rhetorical ideal mandates letting the evidence speak for itself, never becoming demagogic. And
Venuti never does. He has been waging this battle against fluency for over a decade, now, and he never allows
himself the slightest rhetorical heat, the slightest public sign that he is angry or frustrated or fed up. His writing
remains as implacably and inexorably fluid or fluent as a freight ship in the middle of its channel.
Historicism
Venuti says early on in his book that he plans to historicize translation, especially the hegemonic practice of
fluent translation, along Foucauldian lines: "Genealogy is a form of historical representation that depicts, not a
continuous progression from a unified origin, an inevitable development in which the past fixes the meaning of
the present, but a discontinuous succession of division and hierarchy, domination and exclusion, which
destabilize the seeming unity of the present by constituting a past with plural, heterogeneous meanings" (39).
And it is true that Venuti has built some discontinuities into his historical narrative; certainly after the second
chapter the narrative is not seamless. Part of the problem, however, is that Venuti does seem to want to make a
more or less traditional historicist argument, to the effect that norms of translational fluency were introduced into
Anglo-American culture at some determinate point in the past (early seventeenth century), subsequently became
established as the only acceptable approach to foreign texts, and continue to dominate the field todaynot a
particularly destabilized or heterogenized image of the present.
An even bigger problem is that Venuti's historicizing discourse is so fluent that it is extremely difficult to
remember his intended heterogeneity. The book is argumentatively counterhegemonic, tracing the suppression of
dissident voices under the dominant regime of fluency, but rhetorically quite hegemonic, undermining dissident
claims by suppressing its own centrifugal impulses, its own polyvocity, its own stammers and stutters and lost
trains of thought.

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At one point Venuti cites Deleuze and Guattari approvingly on major and minor languages, calling Ugo
Tarchetti's literary project "a minor utilization of a major language" (160). If Venuti's foreignizing project is in
Deleuze and Guattari's terms a minoritarian one, an exploration and resistant exploitation of the marginalized or
minoritized ethos of nonfluent translation, then it might well be characterized as the exact opposite of
Tarchetti's: a major utilization of a minor language, a majoritarian plea for minoritarian translation. Francis
Newman and William Morris do archaic renditions and get forgotten as minor talents, but Matthew Arnold calls
for fluent translations and wins eternal fame as a major theorist of translation. Fake archaism, as Deleuze and
Guattari would say, is a minoritarian device for "send[ing] the major language racing" (105). But Venuti is too
much the major(itarian) theorist to celebrate marginality, as Deleuze and Guattari do; he wants foreignism to be
majoritarian.
Or does he? I guess I don't really know. Maybe it's just that (what I take to be) his majoritarian fluency makes it
sound as if he does. He says throughout that he wants to transform foreignism, which has long been an elitist
channel for the rejection of dominant populist discourses, into a form of multicultural or "ethnodeviant"
resistance to ethnocentrism; but his own discourse remains so hegemonic, so majoritarian, so academically fluent
that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the elitism of previous foreignizers doesn't really bother him that
much. Just how "radical" or "oppositional'' a subject position does he want to inhabit? Proletarian, feminine,
subaltern? Popular, populist, lay? Crazy, delirious, schizzed? How much hegemonic authority does he want to
retain while adopting this "resistant" or oppositional position?
Beyond Academic Discourse
I certainly have a personal stake in this, as much of my academic writing since the mid-eighties has constituted
an assault on the hegemonic reductionismwhat Venuti would call the fluencyof academic discourse, which
universalizes truth by depersonalizing voice and syllogizing argument. I started by writing dialogues and
epistolary pieces and Wittgensteinian numbered notes, and at first my experiments remained tame enough to be
publishable. But in 1985the year my dissertation was published, the year that, sick of reading my own arrogant
elitist discourse in page proof, I began to rebel against academic fluencyI wrote ten different experimental pieces
and only the first four or five were published. The others had moved beyond the pale. For the next few years I
kept pushing and pushing, writing stranger and stranger things that were

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still academic but never "fluent" (and never published)fragments of my verbal imagination that kept spinning out
of control, that I wanted to keep spinning out of control, precisely in order to escape the deadening straitjacket of
discursive regulation, hegemonic fluency. By the fall of 1987 I decided I had gone far enoughand gone
unpublished long enoughto have discovered what I wanted to know about myself as an academic and about the
social and cultural institution that gave me my spending money and a good deal of my identity. And so I set
about trying to reassimilate my "academic" voice to the norms of academic writing, and that semester wrote The
Translator's Turn, which didn't appear until late 1990, three years later. I even used a taxonomywhich, even
ringed round as it was there by self-undermining metacommentary, would have been unthinkable for me a year
or two beforeand of course was praised by academic translation theorists for the taxonomic chapters, which they
called "the most valuable part of the book,'' while being lambasted (at least by theorists; translators loved it) for
my slangy, conversational style and my radically mixed registers, which I thought of as a kind of discursive
nomadism: never stay in one place rhetorically for more than a page or two lest the mental straitjacket of "truth"
slip into place. In fact, the book as published was much more controlled, much more academicmuch more
"fluent''than the book I wrote, which I had toned down twice in response to negative criticisms from otherwise
favorable referees, and which the copy editor had further brought into line with traditional academic discourse.
With this history behind me, then, Venuti's massively fluent assault on fluency arouses all my suspicions. Is it
possible that the congruence between the fluency of his academic discourse and the fluency of the translations he
attacks is all in my heador that the congruence is there but somehow tremendously irrelevant? Could I be
exaggerating the significance of what I take to be Venuti's uncritical complicity in the very thing he attacks? Is
there some plausible explanation that will allow him to retain both his desired image as a rebel and his dignity
and authority as a privileged academic translator and theorist?
Blindness and Hypocrisy
I don't know. I have no desire to dismiss his work, or even to dislike or disrespect it; I think it is enormously
important and admire it greatly. But I remain troubled in it by what seems like either a debilitating blindness or a
damning hypocrisyand I wish I knew what to make of it. Is he really, deep down, an academic elitist who likes
foreignism because it has long been the method of choice among cultural elitesbecause it

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excludes the hoi polloi who buy their translations (if at all) in the literature section at Waldenbooksand who
dresses his elitism up as a resistant or dissident challenge to authority from below rather than from above, from
the populace or the masses rather than from the intellectual and artistic elite, only because rebellion from above
is implicitly fascist?
Or, alternatively, is his commitment to foreignism actually weaker than he claims? His translations of Tarchetti
all through the dissidence chapter (4) seem only sporadically foreignizing to me (but then maybe I'm not quite
clear on what foreignism is, exactly?): there is no modernist freeplay of signifiers, a Derridean (non)concept that
Venuti associates with foreignism; there are no popular or folk forms; there is no "violent disruption of domestic
values that challenges cultural forms of domination" (14647); there is certainly no "social delirium which
proliferates psychological states and confounds temporal and spatial coordinates" (155). In fact, Venuti's
translations read pretty fluently to me. There is the occasional foreignizing moment, as when Tarchetti says of
French books in Italy that ''la loro speculazione si tuttor rivolta alla diffusione di romanzi osceni," and Venuti
translates: "their investment is always aimed at the circulation of obscene novels" (157). Is this enough to render
a translation foreignizing, the use of a word like ''investment" for "speculazione"a word that doesn't quite work
idiomatically in English? I suppose it would be; but why are there so few of these moments in Venuti's ample
translations from Tarchetti? Wouldn't this be the perfect place to showcase a foreignizing translation method?
Certainly Venuti indulges in no radical in-your-face foreignizing, no aggressively minoritarian foreignizing,
whether through strict literalism or delirium or archaism or regional dialect or mixed registers or whatever
elseand why not? Because it would have been inappropriate in a scholarly book? Because Venuti is leery of
committing the imitative fallacy? Or because he has a rhetorical commitment to fluency that tends to override
his theoretical commitment to nonfluency?
Fluency Reified
At the same time, while I'm busy hurling Venuti's accusations of fluency back at him, my reader-response
sympathies make me wonder whether there even is such a thing as fluencywhether fluency isn't just a reification
of someone's response, a reification that may only work for that one reader. Maybe for other readers Venuti's
academic discourse, including that in his translations from Tarchetti, isn't fluent? He tells a couple of personal
anecdotes in the book; could some readers construe that as a foreignizing breach of academic decorum? He
writes in his sixth chapter that "trans-

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parency occurs only when the translation reads fluently, when there are no awkward phrasings, unidiomatic
constructions or confused meanings, when clear syntactical connections and consistent pronouns create
intelligibility for the reader" (287)but for what reader? Syntactic connections that seem clear to me often confuse
my students, who sometimes take a passage's meaning for the exact opposite of what I see. Do we have to say
that clear syntactical connections only create intelligibility (and thus by definition are to be regarded as clear) for
an ideal reader, a normal or normative readersomeone, in fact, who looks uncannily like me (or Venuti, or
whoever is doing the reifying)?
Because Venuti needs to distinguish "fluent" from "nonfluent" translations in some stable way (and of course he
isn't alone in thisthis reification is at least as old as Western rationalism, indeed is a key to rationalist
hegemony), he needs to reify black marks on white paper as agents that impose their meanings, their
intelligibility, even their "readings,'' on readers conceived as the passive recipients or recorders of those effects:
"when the translation reads fluently," ''when clear syntactical connections . . . create intelligibility for the reader"
(287). I wonder: would Venuti's concept of fluency survive a rigorous reader-response critique? And what would
survive? Let me try to answer that question in two takes, the first following the more individualistic or
idiosyncratic lines laid down by Norman Holland and David Bleich and others, the second moving past that into
a more socially oriented reader-response theory.
(a) Clearly, if radically individualistic reader-response theorists like Holland and Bleich are right, fluency is a
reified fiction and Venuti's claims about it depend on the (repressed) construction of an ideal reader not unlike
himself. Whatever is fluent for Venuti, whatever flows in his mind's ear, is essentialized as fluent, periodnot
only fluent for everyone but fluent in itself. A text that Venuti or some other hegemonic academic reader is
willing to call fluent (because that's how it feels) is treated as if "its" fluency were an intrinsic characteristic, a
property of the text. If there is someone else, even one person (and a fortiori if there are thousands, even
millions), who finds the text nonfluent, difficult, strange, odd, foreign, that person is simply not a good
readerlacks the requisite education or reading skills to discern the intrinsic fluency of the text, which is there,
always, just waiting to be perceived. Undo those repressions a little and it becomes evident that these "bad"
readers are "bad" because they deviate from the implied reader-ideal; undo them a little more and it becomes
evident that those readers' inadequacy stems from their deviance from the reifier him- or herself. Keep on
undoing the repressions that motor this reification, as Holland and Bleich and others do, and you will end up
insisting that it is impossible,

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essentially speaking, to domesticate or foreignize a translation, because domesticity and foreignism, or fluency
and nonfluency, or invisibility and visibility, are reader-generated effects that the translator cannot reliably or
predictably control. I said that Venuti's own translations of Tarchetti sound fluent to me; Venuti presumably
intended them to be read differently, as examples of foreignism, but like all authors (indeed, like all utterers) he
is incapable of controlling the way I interpret his words. Someone else may agree with Venuti and call those
translations foreignizing; as the author of this book I can't control the way you read Venuti, or the way you read
me.
What can we salvage from Venuti's theory through this approach? To put it in the terms of The Translator's
Turn, domestication and foreignism are turns the translator makes away from the source-language text toward
the target-language reader, with no guarantee that the reader will follow the turn, or read it as the translator
intended. Domestication and foreignism are the translator's heuristics, useful as ways of organizing or
prestructuring a turning; they are not (or shouldn't be, and ultimately can't be, at least without a repressive
naturalization of reificatory fictions) standards for judging the relative success or failure of the target-language
text.
(b) But this individualistic approach ignores the extent to which the users of a specific language are regulated by
hegemonic forces within the language community, shaped or programmed in such a way as to take reifications
for realityin this case to take reader response for intrinsic textual property. This is the collective control of
language that I called "ideosomatics" in The Translator's Turnand it is indicative of Venuti's attitude toward such
a perspective, I think, that in his review of The Translator's Turn he called it "mystical biologism." I presented it
specifically as a highly politicized form of social psychology, a way of exploring the collective regulation of
individual responses to language and the ideological repression and naturalization of that regulation so that
language, any text, seems to be the active party and the human respondent or interpreter its passive recipient. But
because I claimed that ideology is stored in each individual body (where else could it be stored and still have an
impact on behavior?), Venuti derogated it as "biologism"; because I showed how ideosomatics is channeled
intuitively, subliminally, he called it ''mystical.''
In any case, whether we theorize it somatically or otherwise, this social psychology casts a rather different light
on the reification of response as fluency or domestication than the individualistic reader-response approach I
outlined above. It should be obvious, for example, that Venuti's implied (or repressed) ideal reader is modeled
not simply on himself but

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on an entire social class of readers: educated readers, readers who have been trained, hegemonically, to read in
certain ways, readers whose responses to specific texts are their own, certainly, but only under the aegis of
various regulatory forces in society that want them to read in that way, and to reify their responses as textual
properties. A text that an educated reader like Venuti calls fluent "is" fluent, therefore, not intrinsically, but
ideologically: it is constructed as fluent by an elite group that has been programmed to read and articulate in
specific ways. And anyone who is unable or unwilling to read in those ways is classed as an inferior reader: not
merely different, as the pluralistic ethos of liberalism would have us believe, but worse. The implied ideal reader
that lurks subliminally in Venuti's reifications is hegemonically elitist, dedicated to collectively regulated
responses that are by (social) definition superior to those of people who fail to read as he does.
There is an added wrinkle here, in that in his theory and practice of foreignism Venuti claims to be combating
capitalism. As he conceives the social situation, there are two conflicting forces at work: dominant capitalist
mass culture that would impose hegemonic norms of fluency on everyone, especially all translators, and resistant
anticapitalist high culture, which would fight back with various forms of foreignism. This seems at odds with my
suggestion that Venuti is regulated by the same hegemonic forces that he resistsbut it's not. The complicity I see
and the resistance he stresses are both there, but work on different levels. He may disagree with capitalist
hegemony over the proper extension or use of fluency; but he agrees implicitly with that hegemony over the
nature and existence of fluency. His book is a concerted attempt to argue that what hegemonic forces in society
call "fluent" translations are not necessarily (the only) good or valuable ones; but he never interrogates the
hegemonic construction of fluency. In his view, what hegemonic forces coach him to reify as fluent is fluent.
What those forces coach him to reify as awkward or "bad writing" or "translationese" he revalorizes as
"foreignizing"but he does not challenge the reification, only the relative social value of its by-products (fluent
and nonfluent texts). ''Bad'' translations have been redefined as "good" translations, but they still have the same
textual properties they were subliminally (ideosomatically) assigned by the hegemonic forces Venuti wants to
resist.
Would this be clearer in a diagram? Let's see:
Hegemony
1. reification
2. fluency ideal
3. fluent writing

Counterhegemony
idiosyncratic response
other (or no) ideals
nonfluent writing

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On each level, here, a counterhegemonic impulse is split off from a hegemonic response and discarded, and the
hegemonic response that remains is carried down to the next level, where the splitting and discarding begins
again:
1. Readers are trained to reify their responses to texts as the intrinsic properties of those texts, and those who fail
or refuse to do so (our students, for example) are called "bad" readers.
2. Readers trained to reify responses as certain specific textual properties, to reify texts in hegemonic ways, use
the ideal of fluency as a yardstick by which to measure the relative success or failure of a text, whereas other
readers either go on using a whole variety of other yardsticks (as when a nonfluent text is preferred to more
fluent ones because it confirms its readers' prejudices) or operate largely without standards, reading any old
thing that comes along, any old way.
3. Texts that are reified as fluent are published and praised; those that are reified as nonfluent are not published
or, if they are, attacked as awkward or stilted, or as bad translations.
At each level it is also possible, of course, to intervene counterhegemonically, inhabiting the scorned and
discarded pole of the dualism and seeking to revalorize it positively. This is where it becomes clear how Venuti
can thematize his own hegemonic reifications as counterhegemonic: he is resisting hegemony on a very low
level, accepting the top two levels and only beginning to challenge dominant norms in the third. Thus:
1. Reader-response theorists (especially of this second, more politically oriented stripe) might be taken to be
intervening counterhegemonically on the right side of the first level, resisting reification (as my theory of
ideosomatics did) by identifying it as a power fiction imposed on readers from above, and calling (as my theory
of idiosomatics did) for a general recognition of the unregulated variety of reader response.
2. My experimentation with nontraditional academic discourses might be taken to be intervening
counterhegemonically on the right side of the second level, resisting the fluency ideal by exploring various
alternatives (counternorms) to universalized and depersonalized voice, such as the fragmentation and openendedness of thought and conversation. And, finally:
3. Venuti's campaign for foreignism might be taken to be intervening counterhegemonically on the right side of
the third level, accepting

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the hegemonic division of texts into fluent and nonfluent but resisting the hierarchy of values that derogates the
latter in favor of the formercalling instead for a recognition of the latter (or at least specific instances of it) as
foreignizing.
What might be salvaged from Venuti's theory in this latter reader-response approach might be a deidealization of
fluent texts as the first step in a larger attack on the hegemonic regulation of reading (and translating). One of
the reasons I am continually drawn to Venuti's work despite my reservations is that I do believe his
interventionist politics are sincere, and necessary; my reservations come from my nagging sense that they don't
go far enough, and remain blind to their own complicity in what they attack.
The Elitism of Theory
But as I say, I raise these troubling issues not in order to diminish or dismiss Venuti's achievement but to
address a problematic that I feel in my own work as wellwhich may be quite simply that to theorize is by
definition to adopt a superior position in regard to the people and the issues one is theorizing. Maybe all
theorists are necessarily elitists: we claim to know what practitioners are doing better than they do
themselveseven when we count ourselves among them. The Translator's Turn was both theoretically and
rhetorically a far more populist/anti-elitist book than The Translator's Invisibilitybut I too am powerfully drawn
to various alienating and foreignizing techniques that enable me to demonstrate my discursive power over
hegemonic norms, and took great pleasure in confining what Venuti calls translational fluency to two tiny
sections, one on metonymy, the other on introversion and extroversion. Everything else in part two of that book,
the tropes and the versions, was a radical exfoliation of what Venuti was already calling foreignism (though I
didn't know it at the time)foreignism not in the narrow sense of literalism, closely following the contours of the
source-language text, but in the broad sense, articulated in this new book more fully than ever before, of getting
in the reader's face, enhancing the oddness and alienness and difficulty of a translation in order to thwart
hegemonic attempts to assimilate it to a faceless bureaucratic pablum.
The thorny question remains: Where does the translator or translation theorist get off assuming that he or she
knows whose face needs to be gotten into? Much as I cherish my own rebelliousness, much as I like to
thematize my own interventionist ethos in terms of that rebelliousness, it is difficult to escape the awareness that
intervention implies a position

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or attitude of moral superiority from which both to intervene and to justify the necessity of that intervention.
And despite the solidarity I (want to) feel with the oppressed, I feel silly trying to portray myself, a successful,
white, middle-class American male with a Ph.D., as some kind of honorary postcolonial subject. I don't know
what to do about this, except to live with the discomfort it causes and to be as aware as possible of the
debilitating contradictions in my own position; certainly the alternative offered me by hegemonic society,
becoming Matthew Arnold (say, E. D. Hirsch), is not a viable one.
And I suppose that what troubles me most about Larry Venuti's work, finally, is that he seems less troubled by
those contradictions than I ama personal confession that probably, according to the norms of academic fluency,
has the effect of vitiating my claims. But then those claims were vitiated by my own doubts long before I failed
to articulate them with proper academic rigor and decorum. As I hope I've made clear (but how will I ever
know?), my aim here has not been to build an airtight case against Larry Venuti, whom I like personally and
admire professionally, but to muddy some waters whose clarity has been artificially maintained with
chemicalsto undo some theoretical repressions in order to explore some of the concealed and conflicting
determinants of our theorizing about translation today.

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Ten
Foreignism and the Phantom Limb
Foreignism and Excluded Middles
"Es ist daher," Walter Benjamin writes in "Die Aufgabe des bersetzers," ''vor allem im Zeitalter ihrer
Entstehung, das hchste Lob einer bersetzung nicht, sich wie ein Original ihrer Sprache zu lesen" (1963,
166)or, as Harry Zohn translates that, problematically (and I want to return to explore its problems in a moment),
"Therefore it is not the highest praise of a translation, particularly in the age of its origin, to say that it reads as if
it had originally been written in that language" (Benjamin 1982, 79).
Now Benjamin is not exactly a foreignist or abusist like Berman and Venuti and Lewis; he plays for much
higher stakes than the ethical growth Berman favors, the dissidence Venuti calls for, or Lewis's poststructuralist
complexity. He is, in fact, far too mystical and messianic for their tastes, even if they all make passing reference
or submerged allusion to him, as a kind of honorary precursor who had the right idea but then went off the deep
end with it. Berman wants the translator to grow into a mature cosmopolitan understanding of and tolerance for
difference; Venuti wants the translator to join in the pitched battle against late capitalism; Lewis wants the
translator to be as smart as, and pass on to other translators the reputation for being as smart as, Jacques Derrida.
Benjamin wants the translator to save the world.
But here in his opening statement Benjamin does seem to be at least an ally of the foreignists: a good translation
isn't necessarily one that lends itself to being mistaken for an original target-language work. This is the
proposition I want to start with here, in order to map out a more positive response to the foreignist movement
than I was able to muster in chapters 8 and 9.

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Specifically, I want to address the new complexity of Larry Venuti's take on foreignism and assimilative
translation in The Trandator's Invisibility, where he is willing to admit that even foreignizing translation is
assimilative, because all translation assimilates source-language texts to a target-language culture. He still wants
to claim that foreignizing translations are less assimilative, or perhaps only less harmfully so, than fluent
translations, but as I suggested in chapter 9, he remains rather vague on just how this works. It has something to
do with throwing up obstacles to a target-language reader's easy assimilation of a foreign text, but as Venuti
never stops to consider the social psychology of reader response, it is hard to say just what kind of
communicative engagement is involved. Still, this understanding that all translation is by nature assimilative is
an important step toward recovering the middles excluded by the traditional non distributio medii, according to
which good and bad translations are those which either (depending on your point of view, mainstream or
foreignist) assimilate or refuse to assimilate foreign texts to target-language cultural values. 24
Venuti also now accepts a much wider range of strange-sounding translations as foreignizing, no longer merely
those that retain traces of the specific foreignness of the source-language text. Now included within the
foreignist project are all manner of modernist and postmodernist experiments that break the normative illusion of
reality, especially translations that refuse to hide the fact that they are translations, indeed, that celebrate that
fact, whether by mixing campy archaic and foreign-sounding words and phrases with a modern slangy targetlanguage register that could not possibly have been written by the original author, or through the use of "social
delirium which proliferates psychological states and confounds temporal and spatial coordinates" (1994, 155).
What Venuti still isn't ready to do, however, is to explore how all this workshow it works hermeneutically, I
suppose, from within the interpretive act that makes a given text come alive (or not) for an individual reader.
Hermeneutics is not, in any case, Venuti's metier; he is much more comfortable with large-scale social and
political trends, which he is willing to trace in meticulous detail through archival research. I think it is fair to say
that archival research into large-scale historical trends is not my metier (though I've done it, with a good deal of
resistance), and hermeneutics is; so perhaps the best thing for me to do here will be to join forces with Venuti
instead of carping at him, to bring my hermeneutical viewpoint to bear on his (and my own) preference for
strange translations that nevertheless somehow work in the target language (at least for some readers) and try to
figure out just how they work when they do and why some readers reject them.

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So let me agree with that the interesting textual "middles" that he once excluded but has now begun to theorize
as foreignizing are all in fact assimilative, all appropriativethey do appropriate foreign "properties," make them
feel like the target culture's own, for how can a translator do anything but assimilate?but that they do so without
reducing the texts to easy transparency or fluency. In fact, these middles feel natural or intuitively right to targetlanguage readers while not eschewing the linguistic roughnesses that an earlier Venuti claimed, in Rethinking
Translation, all such translations eschew: ''They [do not] pursue linear syntax, univocal meaning or controlled
ambiguity, current usage, linguistic consistency, conversational rhythms; they [do not] eschew unidiomatic
constructions, polysemy, archaism, jargon, abrupt shifts in tone or diction, pronounced rhythmic regularity or
sound repetitionsany textual effect, any play of the signifier, which calls attention to the materiality of language,
to words as words, their opacity, their resistance to empathic response and interpretive mastery" (1992, 4). Many
good translations, Venuti and I now agree, revel in all those things he once claimed assimilative translations
weed out but they also read as if they had originally been written in the target language. How is this possible?
Foreignizing Target-Language Originals
In the first place, many texts that were originally written in the target language revel in those things, too. This is
the simplest objection to the polarization of familiarity and strangeness that translation theorists both hegemonic
and counterhegemonic have perpetrated, and thus a good place to startthough it will only lead us to more
complicated problems, and thus more interesting formulations. I grew up with e. e. cummings's poetry and feel
quite comfortable with the superficial strangeness of
pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not.
or
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.
In The Translator's Invisibility Venuti singles out Ezra Pound as a foreignizing translator, because his
translations flouted rules of poetic

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decorum established for English verse; but note that even Pound's original poetry has a strangeness that feels
eerily right in English:
Hang it all, Robert Browning,
there can be but the one "Sordello."
But Sordello, and my Sordello?
Lo Sordels si fo di Mantovana.
So-shu churned in the sea.
Here we have the "current usages" and "conversational rhythms" that Venuti earlier associated exclusively with
translational transparency, but they are usages and rhythms that collapse quickly into what Jean-Jacques
Lecercle (1990) calls the "violence of language," the nonsensical "remainder'' that is typical of ordinary speech
but can never be reduced to the tidy syntactic or semantic patterns of formal linguistics. "But Sordello, and my
Sordello?''what does that mean? I don't know, but my ignorance doesn't bother me; it feels right. Thena
foreiguizing touch that almost makes this passage sound like a "bad" translationwe go into Provenal, Sordello's
language (an actual foreign language in an English poem!), which I don't understand; but I've lived and traveled
abroad enough not to be too bothered by that either. Finally, perhaps associationally, like the uncannily natural
progression of a dream or a Monty Python sketch, we shift to So-shu churning in the sea, which I need a
footnote to tell me refers to Chuang-Tzu, but why Pound gives us the Japanese transliteration of the Chinese
name, and what churning in the sea has to do with anything, I have no idea.
This is the kind of foreign strangeness that the German romantics and their recent avatars want translators to
produce in the target languagebut it is from a poem originally written in English, which moreover sounds
strangely familiar or domestic to at least one target-language reader (who was, to be sure, raised on modernist
poetry). What happens, then, when a poem is not originally written in Englishis written, say, in Provenal by
Arnaut Danielbut when translated into English sounds as if it had originally been written in English, and also
sounds strange, and strangely familiar?
Benjamin Foreignized
To begin to formulate a hermeneutical explanation of this strangely assimilative middle ground, let's glance back
at that quote from Benjamin that I began with, and Harry Zohn's rendering of it. Zohn's translation of Benjamin
is universally despised by postromantic Germanists because it

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is so assimilative and thus so un-Benjaminian; Zohn calmly ignores Benjamin's own strictures, so that his
translation of Benjamin's text into English reads as if it had "originally been written in that language" (79). What
Benjamin would almost certainly want, what his foreignist followers demand is not slavish literalism, but some
feel of the strangeness of the German text in the English, some sense of the flow of Benjamin's ideas in German
without radical assimilation to English syntax. In the sentence I began by quoting, for example, Zohn's most
significant syntactic assimilation is the resequencing of the main clause so as to bring the "not" up to where it
seems most natural in English: "it is not the highest praise of a translation." Benjamin sets it up differently: ''Es
ist daher, vor allem im Zeitalter ihrer Entstehung, das hchste Lob einer bersetzung nicht, sich wie ein Original
ihrer Sprache zu lesen'' (166), which sounds a bit like cummings's "pity this busy monster, manunkind, / not," or,
as I would prefer, like Wayne and Garth's now-famous negation on Wayne's World, the original Saturday Night
Live sketch and the two explosively popular movies: "It is therefore, before all in the time period of its origin,
the highest praise of a translationNOT!that it reads like an original of its language."
But notice what I've done here: rather than fetishizing strangeness or foreignness as an awkward or difficult
obstacle to easy English appropriation, I've assimilated Benjamin's elitist postromantic German text to an
extremely anti-elitist masscult American text, a text that typically gives us the "un-English" NOT! after a chipper
parody of elitist academic discourse. This ruins the high seriousness of foreignism as it has long been conceived,
of course (though not, significantly enough, foreignism as it is most recently conceived by Larry Venuti); the
interesting problem that it poses for the theory and practice of foreignism is that, serious or not, it is a perfect
example of the kind of fidelity to foreign syntax that the foreignists have tended to favor. Does a foreignizing
translation have to be serious, respectful, and worshipful to count? Historically, probably so; foreignism, along
with its precursor literalism, began as a channel of worship for quasi-sacred texts, Greek classics for the
Romans, the spiritual writings for the medieval church, Greek classics again for the German romantics. But must
it be in principle as well?
Another issue altogether is whether Wayne and Garth's NOT! qualifies as un-English, as "foreign." Could it
usefully be thought of as itself a foreignizing translation of German academic discourse? It does probably still
feel alien, syntactically malformed, therefore (potentially) foreiguizing, to many native speakers of
Englishespecially those who don't watch Saturday Night Live, who don't like or don't approve of that kind of
humor, who would find Wayne and Garth's breezy populist anti-academicism

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repellent. Because I never miss an SNL if I can help it, and have taken my kids to see both movies, and use the
Wayne-and-Garth NOT! all the time in everyday speech, it feels very English to me. Once again, a readerresponse approach to foreignism throws a good many wrenches into the essentialist works. Do we have to say
that Wayne and Garth's NOT! is foreignizing for readers A, B, and C but is not foreignizing for readers X, Y,
and Z? Or would we rather cling to some vestige of essentialism by insisting that readers A, B, and C are better
(more representative, more educated, more sensitive) readers than X, Y, and Z, so that in its stable
transcendental essence Wayne and Garth's not! is foreignizing?
Proprioception and the Phantom Limb
The excluded middle between static strangeness and static familiarity that I am working toward, here, is a
dynamic sliding between strangeness and familiarity, a becoming-familiar that yet retains an air of alterityan
appropriation that I want to compare to a physiological sense called proprioception, that sense that makes us feel
our body as our own. This connection occurred to me recently while reading Oliver Sacks's 1985 book The Man
Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a series of wonderful case histories that attempt to explore what it must feel
like to be plaguedor, in many cases, blessedwith various neurological losses and excesses, transports and
simplifications. Sacks tells the story of Christina, for example, who suffered damage to her proprioceptive fibers
and couldn't feel her own body:
The sense of the body, I told her, is given by three things: vision, balance organs (the vestibular system),
and proprioceptionwhich she'd lost. Normally all of these worked together. If one failed, the others could
compensate, or substituteto a degree. In particular, I told of my patient Mr. MacGregor, who, unable to
employ his balance organs, used his eyes instead. . . . And of patients with neurosyphilis, tabes dorsalis,
who had similar symptoms, but confined to the legsand how they too had to compensate by use of their
eyes. . . . And how, if one asked such a patient to move his legs, he was apt to say: "Sure, Doc, as soon as
I find them."
Christina listened closely, with a sort of desperate attention.
"What I must do then," she said slowly, "is use vision, use my eyes, in every situation where I usedwhat do
you call it?proprioception before. I've already noticed," she added, musingly, "that I may 'lose' my arms. I
think they're one place, and I find they're another. This 'proprioception' is like the eyes of the body. And if
it goes, as it's gone with me, it's like the body's

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blind. My body can't 'see' itself if it's lost its eyes, right? So I have to watch itbe its eyes. Right?" (47)
I had that experience once myself, briefly: in for a cystoscopy, I was given a spinal block and a curtain was
rigged at my waist, so I couldn't see what was being done to me. When the operation was over, I watched over
the curtain as a nurse lifted a leg across my field of vision from left to center, then lowered it beneath the top of
the curtain. I panicked: whose leg is that? It took me a moment to realize that it was my ownthat I couldn't feel
it and therefore didn't recognize it as attached to me. Sacks tells many such stories, like the one about the man
who awoke horrified to find a strange leg in bed with him, threw it out on the floor, and was even more horrified
to find himself flying after itbecause it was attached to him!
Where all this begins to connect up with translation, though, is in Sacks's sixth chapter, on prosthetics and the
strange proprioceptive phenomenon of the "phantom"which Sacks defines as "a persistent image of memory of
part of the body, usually a limb, for months or years after its loss" (66)and the striking fact that, as Sacks quotes
Michael Kremer as saying, "no amputee with an artificial lower limb can walk on it satisfactorily until the bodyimage, in other words the phantom, is incorporated into it'' (67). If we take this, provisionally, as a metaphor for
translation, the translation would be the prosthetic devicean artificial, mechanical contrivance designed to
replace a textual limb "lost" through the target-language reader's inability to read a text in the original
languagethat only comes to feel real, native, strong enough to "walk on" or live through, when a proprioceptive
phantom is incorporated into it.
This would constitute a tentative explanation of how a foreign text can be appropriated strangely into the target
language: what makes any text feel "at home" or "one's own" in any language is not the mere fact that it was
written (originally or otherwise) in that language, nor the mere fact (or illusion) that it was written in the kind of
reductively and unproblematically fluent or transparent idiom that normative linguists like to reify as ordinary
languagebut the incorporation into it of a proprioceptive phantom, some nexus of felt experience that charges the
text, any text, with the feel of reality, of "one's-ownness," of proprioception. A text that is charged with that felt
experienceby individual readers, by groups of readers, by whole cultureswill feel real whether it is an original or
a translation, whether it is domesticated or foreignized, whether it is easy or difficult to read. A text that is not
charged with that felt experience will be like my leg above the curtain, like Christina's body: a dead thing, a
foreign object.

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The advantage of thinking about appropriation along these lines is that it shifts our conceptual center of gravity
from the intrinsic properties of texts to the reader's active construction of meaninga shift similar in import and
ideological history to the one Sacks himself models from the traditional neurological thematization of the patient
as an object to be prodded and tested and diagnosed in terms of objective deficits, to the empathic construction
of the patient as a complex experiencing subject. In the reificatory intellectual traditions of the West, a
phenomenon only becomes real when it can be thematized as inert, a thing: a text to be analyzed in terms of its
forms, its structures, its properties; a patient to be diagnosed in terms of its (not her or his) symptomatologies, its
syndromes, its deficits. 25
Still, if thinking of a translation as a prosthetic device that must be infused with a proprioceptive experiential
phantom solves some problems, it raises far more. For one thing, it seems to perpetuate the old hegemonic
conception of the translation as an artificial substitute for the original as real thingand in fact only seems to
supplement that conception with a mystified illusion of reality that is manipulated through art or science, like the
real-seeming prosthetic arms in science fiction movies like The Return of the Jedi or Terminator 2, so real that
we're shocked when we see they're prosthetics. For another, even if we stick closely to the neurological event
and see the phantom not as artifice but as a body image generated by our proprioceptive senseno less real than
the sense of our limbs that we have before they're amputated (or anesthetized)how exactly would that work with
translation? If a translation becomes "real" by having a phantom incorporated into itwhich would be a process
sort of like Pinocchio becoming a real boy?whose phantom is it, and who does the incorporating?
Let's consider the possibilities. Suppose the translation is a dead thing, black marks on the page, that has to be
"brought to life" by a reader, infused with proprioceptive meaning by a real person. It would then make an
enormous difference for our understanding of translation as prosthetic and as phantom limb if the real person
bringing the inert marks to life were (a) the author, (b) the translator, or (c) the target-language reader.
Author's Phantom
From the author's point of view first, then: here we have to imagine a person who has written something that
isn't yet "enough" in the "original," is somehow significantly "absent" or, to stay with the leg analogy,
inadequate for "walking on"; and who has another language that somehow wants to overpower or supersede the
original. This might be the case with Samuel Beckett writing in Frenchwouldn't his original have an

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English phantom? English was his native language, French was a foreign language that he wrote in originally in
order to break the unconscious (somatic) hold his native language had on him; wouldn't Waiting for Godot then
have "become real," even before he wrote it, by having En attendant Godot's English phantom incorporated into
it?
When I was living in Finland I was once asked to write an introduction to a collection of student essays in
Finnish and complied with a piece called "Hyv lukija!"or, in the phantom title that my native English instantly
generates (even when I'm not writing for readers who have no Finnish), "Dear Reader." When the collection
came out, I read through my piece, which had been lightly edited, and discovered that in the editing process a
certain construction had been rendered ambiguous, so that it could easily be read to mean the opposite of what I
intended. I suppose you might say that the editor had a phantom text that he or she needed to incorporate into
mine. Be that as it may, a year later a similar collection was brought out in Swedish, and the editors of that later
collection decided to include my introduction in Swedish translation. I was sent a draft of the translation for
approval; because I have almost no Swedish, my inclination would ordinarily have been to sign off on it sight
unseen, but something, some phantom, wouldn't let me. I knew already how susceptible that one edited
construction was to misreading; I knew, to put that differently, that in that one place (that I knew of; there must
have been countless others), due to the ambiguity introduced by the editor, the Swedish translator would have
been faced, in a sense, with two phantom texts, the one I wrote and the one the editor wrote. That's not quite it,
but it's almost it; I suppose the competing phantoms that I imagined the translator facing were both my phantom,
my sense of the conflicting interpretive constructs the translator might put on the passage, a sense growing out
of my engagement with the passage when it first appeared in print and tried to figure out how the editor could
have done such a thing. In any case, I checked that one spot carefully, despite my almost total ignorance of
Swedish, using my German and what little I'd learned about the differences between Swedish and Germanand it
seemed to me that the Swedish translator had translated the other phantom, the editor's phantom, not mine (but
remember that all this was my phantom as the reader of my own text!). So I took it to my wife, who reads
Swedish, and checked it with her; she agreed, and helped me construct a new translation for that one passage
that fit my phantom better, and I sent that off to the editor of the volume with a note explaining what I wanted,
which was for the. translator to redo the passage not exactly as my wife and I suggested (as neither of us is good
enough at Swedish to dictate a translation), but to take our retranslation as a signpost to an alternative textual
phantom and translate accordingly.

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A more recent experience, which is still mostly in my head (my proprioceptive sense), involves the possible
translation of my book The Translator's Turn into French, a language that I know about as well as I do Swedish.
A week before this writing I received a postcard from Robin Orr Bodkin in France, saying that he was
translating sample passages from it to show to French publishers, hoping to convince one of them to publish it.
My ignorance of French makes it difficult for me to imagine what the translation will be like, what French
readers will see in it; and I find that as I try to imagine it, the phantom French readers that haunt my imagination
keep turning into Finns! This is almost certainly tied not only to my fourteen years in Finland and fluency in
Finnish, but also to the fact that I cannibalized The Translator's Turn from an earlier book that proved
unpublishable, a bilingual book in English and Finnish called "The Tropics of Translation/Kntmisen
kntpiirit." I wrote it first in English, then translated it into Finnish, with the intention of publishing it in both
languages, face face; but as I did the Finnish translation, I found that my different conception of my Finnish
audience kept pulling the Finnish text away from the English, kept "turning" it in interesting new directions, and
I willingly followed it, eventually trying to work my way back to the English, but sometimes only after eight or
ten pages of "new" or "divergent" writing. For me it was a way of exploring, and of demonstrating, the practical
significance of the translator's ''turns" that I was theorizing in the texta way of practicing what I preached. But
nobody would publish it: the Finnish was too exotic for Anglophone publishers, and the book as a whole was too
unscholarly for Fennophone (academic) publishers (and too scholarly for Finnish trade publishers). I remember
thinking then that, given the existence of books like Derrida's Spurs (1978b), I would have had no difficulty
publishing it in the United States if only the other language had been French. How ironic, then, that I should
cannibalize the English sections for The Translator's Turn, get it published, and then have it translated into
Frenchin effect making that phantom English-French bilingual book come true! Even more ironic that the
English-French book was, and remains, a very faint phantom, almost a will-o'-the-wisp; in fact, the French
translation will be impossible for me to walk on; it'll probably feel more like Derrida's leg than mine, ''Des tours
du translateur." 26 Meanwhile the strong phantom, the one that feels like an amputated leg that should still be
there, with the painful hangnail that wasn't taken care of before the leg was cut offthe English-Finnish
bookshows no sign of taking on prosthetic reality.27

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Translator's Phantom
Now suppose the operative textual phantom is the translator's, a target-language phantom for a book experienced
as one's own in the source language. Here the prosthetic/phantom analogy seems to break down, because for the
translator (as for the author who never imagined her or his work in another language), nothing's been amputated.
If anything, it's an additive process, like fitting a patient with a prosthetic device he or she has never experienced
as necessary, or even possible, and trying to convince her or him that it's essential. But no, that would be the
translator-as-doctor; what about the translator-as-amputee? What limb has the translator lost that s/he feels as a
phantom and wants to infuse into the prosthetic target-language text?
I don't know. What I do know is that when I pick up a book of Finnish poems, say Paavo Haavikko's Sillat
(1978), I can't read in the poems without starting to translate them in my mind; and that when a poem resists my
efforts to translate it, when the pressure of translation begins to make it feel flat or banal, cheap or superficial, I
lose interest and turn the page. In translating I make the poem mine, assimilate it to my own experience, my
proprioceptive sense of myself in the world, a process that involves a continual expansion of that proprioceptive
sense through immersion in the other. I "reject" a poetic limb and turn the page not because it's alienthe
alienness of these poems, an uncannily familiar alienness, like a voice to me out of a dream, is what makes them
feel so alive to mebut because its alienness feels unreal, contrived, merely clever, unfelt. But then I stumble onto
a poem like this one, and I feel a receptive shiver go through me, a feeling that I know this poem, or it knows
me:
Pimeys odottaa. Vieras odottaa.
Kartoittamattomien ulottuvaisuuksien merell
maailmana maailmojen veroisena
haaksirikkoudun muita maailmoja vastaan.
Mustat vaunut tulevat. Seudut kukkivat sumuun.
Minuun Jumalat vajoavat. Minuun hiljaisuudet vaikenevat.
The dark waits. The stranger waits.
On an undimensioned sea, a world to reckon with,
I am shipwrecked against worlds.
The black chariots come. The fields push flowers into the fog.
The gods plunge into me. Silences sleep with me.

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Looking back at this translation with the critic's analytical eye, I find much to pick at. Vieras is both "stranger"
and "guest." Kartoittamattomien ulottuvaisuuksien merell is "on a/the sea of uncharted dimensions," not "on an
undimensioned sea.'' Maailmana maailmojen veroisena is "as a world equal to worlds'' (I'm a world, and I'm
equal to, or a match for, other worlds). Vaunut could be "carts" as well as "chariots." Seudut kukkivat sumuun is
"regions blossom into the fog." Minuun Jumalat vajoavat is "into me (the) Gods sink"as into mud, or quicksand.
Minuun hiljaisuudet vaikenevat is difficult, because we have no intransitive verb in English like "to silent,"
meaning "to be/fall silent," but a rough translation might go something like "into me (the) silences fall silent."
But looking back over those analytical landscapes, they feel like my dead leg hovering over the surgical curtain.
If anything they feel less alien than my translation, more cautious: a sea of uncharted dimensions could be
charted, the egalitarianism of worlds sounds like grade-school citizenship, the regions look to my mind's eye like
colored squares on a map, the kind of map that you have to learn to chart in order to become a good citizen. I
don't like the Gods-capital-G, and although the idea of gods-small-g sinking rather than plunging into me tugs at
me, feels good, though different, the necessity of rendering both hiljaisuus and vaikeneminen by "silence"
renders that last sentence utterly banal unless I do something drastic, like render vaieta as "sleep."
In fact, looking back over the translation not through an analytical lens but through the proprioceptive feel of my
phantom, sleep or sleepiness begins to dominate it: sleep, an image I slipped or sank into unconsciously at the
end, looking for an alternative to vaieta, now feels like the key to the whole poem. It's a poem, I now suspect,
about falling asleep, or about dying as falling asleep, a sailing into an undimensioned sea where the dark and the
stranger wait, where black chariots come and gods plunge into me (I'm sinking; they're plungingI really do have
to insist on that "plunge" now), where my dead or sleeping body pushes up flowers into an undimensioned fog
where I am shipwrecked against worlds. The one thing that still bothers me is "a world to reckon with," because
it seems to imply mathematical or other mental calculations, as if the foggy undimensioned world were either a
palpable force that I could outwit ("a world to deal with in some deliberate way") or a calculus to apply to other
problems ("a world to calculate with"). But then, working through a phantom rather than an abstract calculus, I
don't feel compelled to understand everything, or to reduce everything to a nice tidy consistency; it doesn,t even
bother me if my phantom has a calculus in it.
But is this working from or through a phantom only true of literary translators? Specifically, is it only true of
literary translators who choose

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their own texts to translate, and are at liberty, as I have been with the Finnish poems I've been translating for a
collection of contemporary Finnish lyric poetry I'm calling "Turnings" (stored on-line at
http://www.olemiss.edu/~djr/turn-tc.html), to reject poems that feel wrong, that are too easy to appropriate? I
don't think so. When I did Huojuva talo ("Tottering House"), I could accept or reject the commission as a whole,
but I couldn't very well skip over parts that seemed stupid to me; I had to do something with all of it. As we will
see in greater detail in chapter 11, it is an extremely strange play in Finnish, steeped in archaic, unidiomatic,
often grotesque expression, and as I started to translate it, without planning or reading ahead, I found myself
mimicking that strangeness by sticking closer to the Finnish syntax and idioms than I ever had with a
translationdoing what Benjamin and his postromantic followers insist the translator should always do. At the
same time, however, I couldn't do it without appropriating. the original's alterity to my own sense of the
grotesque, the weird, in Englishwhich may in fact have been the phantom I needed to do the translation, weird
plays and movies I've seen in English, Waiting for Godot and Night on Earth, weird books I've read and written,
weird things I've said and had said to me. What would stop me as I translated, typically, wasn't a weird passage,
but a flat one, an "ordinary" one, which felt all the weirder in context, like a sociopath pretending to be a decent
citizen. Then I'd have to sit there, uneasy, almost quivering with the need to shift or expand the phantom I'd been
working from and the difficulty of doing so, until I'd unconsciously made whatever adjustments in that
proprioceptive sense and felt I could go on. 28
And isn't this a fairly typical experience among translators? I think it must be: we all carry around with us a kind
of translation automatism, a nervous tic that sets us to translating the texts that come across our desk, a kind of
dim phantom that drives us to keep at this work that is so ill paid and unrecognized; and we all work easily on
some texts, with difficulty on others, but even in easy ones we will occasionally come across a spot that stops us
dead. These moments are traditionally theorized as a mental blockage of some sort, an information deprivation:
we need a certain word or phrase and can't think of it, so we plow through dictionaries and thesauri in search of
it. And that's all true, up to a point; it's just that I can't shake the intuitive sense that something else is going on
while I'm ransacking my reference library, some kind of front self is flipping through dictionaries while a back
self is quietly panicking, "What'll I do? What'll I do?" and trying to put itself in character for the trouble spot.
It's like those panicky moments everyone has upon waking in a strange bed, or even in the same old bed, or any
place or time of the day, even when teaching a class or giving a talk at a prestigious conferencethat

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you don't know who you are, where you are, what you're doing there, what you just said. Who is that person in
bed with me? Oh yeah, my spouse. Who are those people looking up at me? Oh yeah, my students. You
suddenly lose your proprioceptive sense and experience total disorientationfortunately, for most of us, only
momentarily. Then you're back "in body." Then you can go on. And the same happens when I translateprobably
when you translate as wellexcept that there the disorientation is often stimulated by the original text. It shuts
down my target-language phantom, hits the off switch on my proprioceptive sense of the target-language text's
body, casts me physiologically adrift.
And it happens with all kinds of texts, not just literary ones. I won't go into detail with nonliterary examples;
there are, in any case, plenty of them in The Translator's Turn. We have to have textual phantoms when we
translate weather reports, business letters, technical documentation, scholarly articles, advertising copy, and the
like; and every text we translate, no matter how mundane, has the power to throw us off track, to make us stop
and shift or expand phantoms. If this weren't true, machine translation would be a huge unqualified success. The
only way machine translation works today is when computers are fed texts carefully preedited by humans to
facilitate the mechanical replication of stable, abstract calculiwhen computers are protected against the kinds of
proprioceptive breakdowns to which human beings are susceptible, and for which most of us have developed
coping strategies. (But see the conclusion for complications.)
Target-Language Reader's Phantom
And, finally, what about the target-language reader who appropriates the translation, makes it her or his "own"?
How does this work? Where does the phantom come from then? Think of the King James Bible, which has an
almost overpowering proprioceptive sense for English literature. In fact, without the King James Bible, modern
English literature wouldn't have a leg to stand on. George Steiner has explored this phenomenon at length in
After Babel, the process by which a translation is so thoroughly assimilated into a culture that it seems that it was
always there, that it was originary for the culturethat, say, God was an Elizabethan Englishman. What he didn't
explore was the ideological construction of the readerly phantom that keeps the King James Bible alive in and
for Anglophone culture: the hegemonic myelination of the proprioceptive fibers in millions of Bible readers' and
churchgoers' nervous systems through the sheer force of coerced and normative repetition. You have to go to
church, you have to read the Bible, you have to believe what you hear in church

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and read in the Bible, and what you hear and read is all formulated by the translators for King James, so that
what feels right in Anglophone Christianity, what feels like the body of your religious belief, is an ideological
program that runs inside your skull with numbing reliability"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," "and
forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us"even when you reject Christianity
intellectually, even when you haven't read the Bible for years, even when you dilute the King James with
Today's English Version or The New International Bible or Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch Version.
But then, what does happen when you retranslate the Bible into English? Do the new translations become
prosthetics, which only begin to feel realonly become good for walking ononce the King James phantom has
been incorporated into them? This is certainly true of the Revised Standard Version and its successors. Can
another phantom be incorporated into them instead (or in addition)a contemporary colloquial English phantom,
say? This would be Eugene Nida's explicit ideal for Today's English Versionbut how does that work? And what
does all this have to do with the deadening and revivifying of linguistic sensation, which I discussed at length in
the subversion section of The Translator's Turn (22331)? Is it like the patient Sacks describes, who has to "'wake
up' his phantom in the mornings: first he flexes the thigh-stump towards him, and then he slaps it sharply'like a
baby's bottom'several times. On the fifth or sixth slap, the phantom suddenly shoots forth, rekindled, fulgurated,
by the peripheral stimulus. Only then can he put on his prosthesis and walk" (67)?
Certainly the translation's "invisibility" as translation in the target culture is controlled by a well-established
ideological phantom of this sort, a group fantasy disseminated and inculcated by hegemonic forces in society that
want you to believe you're reading Homer, not Lattimore or Fitzgeraldor, a fortiori, the Bible, God's Word, not
some fallible translation committee's interpretation of the Bible. This is the phantom that governs the reviewing
of translations as if they were originally written in the target language, or as if the reviewer and her or his reader
were reading the work in the source languageas if translation didn't exist and didn't need to exist. It is the
phantom that governs courses in comparative literature that proceed as if the translation were the original work.
This is the phantom that the postromantic foreignizers attack, of course, and it is indeed a behemoth of startling
proportions; but as I see it, it does no good to blame the perpetuation of this phantom on assimilative translators,
who in many cases have to have access to that phantom to translate at all. The question, I'm suggesting, is not
whether you translate by recourse to a proprioceptive phantom; the question is whose

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phantom you're going to use, and how you're going to use it. The target-language text has to feel real, feel alive,
for the translator to write it; but the proprioceptive reality and life imparted by hegemonic forces in society are
quite different from those arising out of rebellious, deviant, idiosyncratic phantoms of the translator's
counterhegemonic experience. 29
But I'm digressing to the question of the translator's phantom limb. What of the target-language reader's
idiosyncratic phantoms? What, for examplejust to have somewhere to startof my love when I was about eighteen
for Hermann Hesse's novels in English, despite a German teacher's insistence that the translations were better
than the originalswhich in his opinion were crap? What of my Finnish students' love for John Steinbeck's novels
in Finnish, despite my insistence that the originals were crap? Parents, ministers, teachers, advertisers, hundreds
of other hegemonic forces in society attempt to drum normative phantoms into our headsHomer, Virgil, Dante,
Shakespeare, Goethe are great, Literature-capital-L is timeless, television and trash lit will make you stupid, and
so onbut it doesn't always take. Our experience always overflows the institutional channels constructed for its
proper use. Even the best role robots, the perfectly repressed little obedient boys and girls who obey all
authorities in everything they do, cannot contain and sustain the normative phantoms without residue, partly
because authorities conflict, generating disruptive cognitive dissonance, partly just because we are
neurologically, and thus humanly, far more complex than any system ever invented to simplify us.
This suggests, for one thing, that assimilative interpretive practices are not necessarily the worst thing a student
can bring to a foreign literary text. Shaped by an entire civilization's theocratic pressures to worship an
objectified Bible, literary critics transfer those pressures to their students in the secularized form of the demand
that they worship an objectified literary classic: that they see it purely through the eyes of the foreign culture in
the period it was written, and above all through the normative channel of authorial intention, and not assimilate
it to their own experience, not construct it as relevant to their own lives. As I mentioned in passing in chapter 8,
the romantic insistence on taking the reader over to the foreign author is part of an authoritarian pedagogical
regime designed to block students' (or generally readers') attempts to develop their own proprioceptive responses
to the texts they read. The foreign-language teacher becomes the authority in whom the foreign definitively
resides, and whom the educational institution hires to channel that foreignness to studentsostensibly because
hegemonic forces in society believe that exposure to foreign cultures is good for you. Larry Venuti's research
flatly denies this possibility, exposes it as a hypocritical sham: hegemonic forces in nationalist society

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are emphatically not interested in expanding students' minds through exposure to peripheral or centrifugal
impulses from outside the immediate sphere of national hegemony. More probably foreign-language teachers
are charged with this task because, as V. N. Votoshinov suggests, the alien word is a powerful tool of
authoritarian silencing, the imposition of a highly charged piece of alienation on any rebellious attempt to
experience things idiosyncratically. A student who is forcibly taken over to the foreign author is not in fact taken
over to a foreign author but to a fake-foreign authority, a pedagogical priest robed in pretend foreignism,
because pretend foreignism awakens mind-numbing awe and respectand the institution wants minds numbed and
respectful.
If you agree with Friedrich Schleiermacher that readers should be taken over to the foreign author and should
not haul the author over to them, you will have been rather appalled at my assimilation of Benjamin to Wayne's
World (as by much else in this chapter), even though, and this is the delicious irony about that example, I
assimilated Benjamin specifically by following his syntax in an un-English way. The thing is, I don't see how
we can see, except through our own eyes; how else we ever confront the world, except through our own bodies.
No matter how much we would like to be other people, no matter what spiritual, mystical, histrionic, or
translatorial disciplines we develop to enable us to project ourselves into the minds and the bodies of other
people, the bodymind through which we experience those other people remains our own.
So does this condemn us to solipsism? Only if we're determined to exclude from consideration the middles in
which we all live. No one can become another person, but neither can anyone remain purely himself or herself.
We are all partly made up of other people, other voices, other visceral responses to the situations in our lives;
we take other people into our own bodies constantly. We feel (something of) what they feel; their emotions and
opinions become our own, even, sometimes, when we wish we could protect ourselves against them, as when we
laugh at ethnic or sexist humor of which we disapprove, or when we cry with a person who we believe is faking
his or her distress,
The question is not, therefore, whether a translation I do is to be infused with my phantom limb or the
author'sor, when it is read, the target-language reader's. How can it not be all three? The question is rather how
the three phantoms are going to get along, squeezed into the same prosthesisand, like the outcome of a threelegged race, how fleetly the shared leg will allow the runner to run, how abjectly to limp, and so on.
A translation theorist friend of mine, telling me about her reservations with The Translator's Turn, told me
recently that she just couldn't go

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along with my claim that translators translate on intuition alone. 30 Students' intuitions are all too often flat-out
wrong, she said; and certainly a First World translator's intuitions will usually be wrong with a Third World
writer.
But for me the key issue there is whether there is such a thing as a "right" intuition; and if there is, who is to say
what it is (the question of the social power to control interpretation); and if there isn't, how translators are to
proceed responsibly. If you believe, as my friend obviously does, that there are right and wrong intuitions, you
will probably adopt a conventional teaching style that places all authority for determining intuitive rightness in
the teacher; that's straightforward enough. It is somewhat more problematic to assign interpretive authority in
the engagement between a First World translator and a Third World writer. Even if you posit an actual personal
dialogue between translator and writer (face to face, over the phone, by snail-mail or e-mail), and further posit a
Third World writer whose command of the target language is as good as the translator's, you still have to go on
and assume that the Third World writer knows exactly what he or she was attempting to do in the work as a
whole and in specific passages in particular, that there are no aspects of the source-language work that are
inaccessible to the author's articulable intuition, that the writer will never have to throw up her or his hands and
say, "Boy, I have no idea what I was getting at there!" Because even source-language writers can never be sure
their intuitions are "right" about their own work, the translator's task is less one of submission to another's right
intuitions, more one of working to create a dialogical phantom limb that is both inside and outside her or his own
body, both her or his own limb and powerfully shaped in dialogue with someone else.
What I am calling for here, then, is no great blooming mysticism of blind intuitive translation, cut off from all
skeptical or other analytical thought, but a willingness to start wherever you startas a student who doesn't always
understand the source-language text or the processes of translation all that well, as a person who didn't grow up
in the source-language culture and might well make mistakes about itand keep working on it. Your phantom
understanding of what I'm trying to say may be radically different from mine, but that doesn't necessarily mean
that I'm right and you're wrong and you had better get yourself under control and start conforming your phantom
to mine. It only means that there is a discrepancy between our phantoms, and that we are going to need to do
some work together if we are ever going to be even marginally satisfied with the outcome of our dialogue.
Students don't make random mistakes; their mistakes arise out of who they are, what experiences they have had,
and starting with that, starting with a student's experience, is going to be

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much more productive for the student's growth as a translator than the teacher's authoritarian solution of a
problem by pronouncing the student's intuition "right" or "wrong." How are student translators to develop the
intuitive ability to discover the problems and pitfalls in their own intuitionssay, when translating a Third World
text, or any textif their teachers train them to expect all correction to come from an authority figure outside
themselves? Clients, editors, and critics will provide them plenty of that, of course; but one only grows into the
translator's profession by learning to trust the intuitive process of finding and shaping interpretive phantoms
within oneselfeven if always in dialogue with others.
And why is this so hard for us to embrace? Why is translation theory so ravaged by fruitless battles over the best
kind of neutral instrumentalitytotal submission to the source-language author's transcendental designs on the
target-language reader, or total submission to the textures and flows of the author's verbalizationsthat we find it
almost impossible to theorize what's right in front of (let alone behind) our noses? What are the deep-seated
phantoms that drive theorists in one camp to vilify any translation that isn't flat and ordinary and perfectly
accessible to the General Reader with a fourth-grade education and theorists in another camp to vilify any
translation that isn't difficult and cumbersome and unpleasant to read?
And above all, what can we do about these phantoms that continue to dominate our debates? How can we poke
fun at them, parody them, say NOT! to them, thumb our noses (and whatever's in front of our noses) at themand
begin, gradually, to work past them?

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Eleven
(Dis)Abusing Translation
Philip E. Lewis,
"The Measure of Translation Effects"
Purifying Abuse
One of the most influential contributions to postromantic translation theory in the past decade or so is that
offered by Philip E. Lewis in the article he published in Joseph F. Graham's (1985) collection Difference in
Translationa piece he originally wrote in French for a 1980 colloquium at Cerisy-la-Salle, France, under the title
"Vers la traduction abusive." In Lewis's own English translation, "abusive" has disappeared from the title"The
Measure of Translation Effects"but not from the argument, and his insistence that we consider the abusive nature
of translation (or the need to translate certain texts abusively) has increasingly become a watchword of cuttingedge translation theory, most notably, perhaps, in two books by Larry Venuti, Rethinking Translation, where it is
cited three times, twice by Venuti himself (12, 22425), once by Sharon Willis (107), and The Translator's
Invisibility, with four citations (2324, 182, 291, 296).
Lewis takes the notion directly from Jacques Derrida's "Le retrait de la mtaphore": "Une 'bonne' traduction,"
Derrida says parenthetically, "doit toujours abuser," or, as Lewis translates, ''A 'good' translation must always
commit abuses" or "a good translation must always play tricks" (3940). From this Lewis proposes to
''extrapolate . . . a kind of abuse principle," in order specifically "to measure effects wrought by the translation of
Derrida's work," but also, more generally, to discuss the relational problematics of all translation (especially of
"difficult" or "abusive" texts). As a native speaker of English, Lewis is certainly aware that abuse is usually
considered a bad thing, a form of violence, physical or emotional, that men inflict on women, adults on children,
humans on animals and the environmentthat, to put it more generally, abuse is typically the inflicting of physical
or psychological damage on another living thing 31

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but he is at pains throughout the article to recuperate the word for translation theory through linguistic
deconstruction. Lewis suggests that "weak, servile translation" results from "a tendency to privilege what
Derrida calls, in 'La mythologie blanche,' the us-system, that is, the chain of values linking the usual, the useful,
and common linguistic usage" (40). This us-system informs the mainstream tradition of translation theory,
reductive, assimilative, commonsensical, and as such constitutes the enemy, the internalized and bureaucratized
mastery that Derrida and Lewis and other recent postromantic theorists resist through ab-use, a directionality
away from use:
To accredit the use-values is inevitably to opt for what domesticates or familiarizes a message at the
expense of whatever might upset or force or abuse language and thought, might seek after the unthought
or unthinkable in the unsaid or unsayable. On the other hand, the real possibility of translationthe
translatability that emerges in the movement of difference as a fundamental property of languagespoints to
a risk to be assumed: that of the strong, forceful translation that values experimentation, tampers with
usage, seeks to match the polyvalencies or plurivocities or expressive stresses of the original by producing
its own. (Lewis 1985, 41)
Abusive translation, for Lewis, respects the usages neither of the source-language text nor of the target
languagethough he is careful to insist that the translator not abuse just anything, but gravitate toward each "key
operator" or "decisive textual knot" that arises, those "specific nubs in the original . . . that stand out as clusters
of textual energy" (4243). He is counseling, in other words, not random abuse but a measured modulation of
both the source-language text and the target language so as to bring about significant shifts in meanings,
tonalizations, expectations, outcomes:
No doubt the project we are envisaging here is ultimately impossible: the translator's aim is to rearticulate
analogically the abuse that occurs in the original text, thus to take on the force, the resistance, the
densification, that this abuse occasions in its own habitat, yet, at the same time, also to displace,
remobilize, and extend this abuse in another milieu where, once again, it will have a dual functionon the
one hand, that of forcing the linguistic and conceptual system of which it is a dependent, and on the other
hand, of directing a critical thrust back toward the text that it translates and in relation to which it becomes
a kind of unsettling aftermath (it is as if the translation sought to occupy the original's already unsettled
home,

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and thereby, far from "domesticating" it, to turn it into a place still more foreign to itself). (43)
For translators who feel constrained by the tyranny of the us-system, "common usage," the way things are said
and done, the only correct way to translate this or that, the way you have to translate if you want to be published,
read, understoodand here I emphatically include myselfthis is a powerfully attractive formulation. It liberates
translators from the dual jail cells of fidelity to the source-language text and communication with the targetlanguage reader. Not that it cuts translators entirely adrift from texts and readers, let alone from addressing both
in significant ways; but especially with certain types of texts, difficult texts that themselves "abuse" sourcelanguage usage, like lyric poetry and deconstructive theory, it liberates the translator, as Lewis says, to
experiment, to tamper, to extend the creative act of writing "difficultly" or "abusively" into the target-language
text.
But there are also serious problems with Lewis's theory. One of these he engages himself: since he is mainly
concerned with translations of abusive texts like Derrida's, wouldn't an abusive translation of that sort of text,
especially one that returned abuse for abuse, actually be conforming to source-language usage rather than
deviating from it, and thus be a contradiction in terms, a kind of inverted Cretan liar paradox? "If you can abuse
only by respecting and thereby upholding the very usages that are contested," Lewis asks, "if the aggressive
translator merely falls into a classic form of complicity, whereby, for example, deviation serves to ground and
sustain the norm, then why all the fuss about abuse?" (4344). Lewis notes that translation is so much more
complex an undertaking than these questions presume that this "complicity" is really far less of a problem than it
logically seems; in practice the difficulties, the aporias, the "operators of undecidability" (44), and also the
potential for abuse will be mapped differently in the source language and the target language, so that even a
determinedly complicitous abusive translation of Derrida will invariably fall short of or exceed Derrida's own
abuse. But Lewis also outlines a hierarchy of sorts, with three rungs:
1. at the bottom the weakest sort of translation, which seeks to restore or naturalize in the target language
abusive turns in the source language, so that the target language text conforms to standard target-language
usage, and becomes what Venuti (1994) calls "invisible" or "domesticated";
2. in the middle a stronger sort that seeks to reproduce in the target language the author's abuses of the source
language, producing a strange or foreignized or visible text that manifestly abuses the target

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language but stands in a problematically complicitous relation to the source language text; and
3. at the top the strongest and most forceful kind of translation, what we might call (with an uneasy glance over
our shoulders at Derrida) abusive translation proper, which introduces its own target-language abuses into the
abusive source-language text, generating a text that abuses both the source-language text and the target-language
linguistic system.
And that seems to solve that problem, especially in a theoretical tradition that has always favored three-step
hierarchies: sense-for-sense, word-for-word, and free (the hierarchy that Lewis's formulation most clearly
restates, or, as he would prefer to say, remobilizes); grammatical, transformative, mythical (Novalis); prosaic,
parodistic, interlinear (Goethe).
The problem that bothers me more in Lewis's formulation, however, is its implicitly normative glorification of
violence. It's not just that abuse usually means hitting or hurting someone (usually someone weaker) and Lewis
wants to "ab-use" or deviate from that usage by defining abuse linguistically, etymologically, as a deviation from
usage; it's also that all the eulogistic terms in Lewis's essay are aligned with strength and domination, all the
dyslogistic terms with weakness and submission. He seems to want to idealize hegemonic violence against the
weak out of his essay, but it creeps right back in (or never left in the first place) in the assumption that strong,
forceful translation is abusive and weak, servile translation is nonabusive. It doesn't take much of a paraphrase
of the passage that both Venuti and Willis quote, for example to underscore the violence it idealizes:
The abusive parent's aim is to rearticulate analogically the abuse that occurred in his or her childhood
home, thus to take on the force, the resistance, the densification, that this abuse occasions in its own
habitat, yet, at the same time, also to displace, remobilize, and extend this abuse in another milieu where,
once again, it will have a dual functionon the one hand, that of forcing the familial system of which it is a
dependent, and on the other hand, of directing a critical thrust back toward the context that it replicates and
in relation to which it becomes a kind of unsettling aftermath (it is as if the abuse sought to occupy the
parent's parents' already unsettled home, and thereby, far from "domesticating" it, to turn it into a place
still more foreign to itself).
Does this project become more attractive, even rhetorically, when the target of the abuse is not a child but a
text?
In The Translator's Invisibility Lawrence Venuti says of an abusive or foreignizing translation of Catullus that he
is praising by the seventeenth-

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century English translator John Nott that "its abusiveness (even if homophobic by late-twentieth-century
standards) conveyed Catullus's Roman assumption that a male who submitted to anal and oral
intercoursewhether willingly or notwas humiliated whereas, 'the penetrator himself was neither demeaned nor
disgraced' . . ." (Venuti 1994, 88). Am I the only one who finds the collocation "abusiveness (even if
homophobic)" bizarre? Maybe it's only bizarre by late-twentieth-century standards? For Catullusat least
according to one late-twentieth-century commentatorforced or unforced anal or oral sex between two males was
humiliating or abusive to the penetrated, not to the penetrator; or, to take only the most extreme part of that
cultural norm, anal rape was only considered abusive for the abused, not the abuser. Surprise, surprise. The
rapist, the penetrator, is neither demeaned nor disgracednor abused. Only the rape victim is. 32 The only real
surprise comes when Venuti, who is ostensibly on the side of the downtrodden in all this, the oppressed, the
victims of sexism and colonialism and so on, insists that the dissident translator resist hegemonic norms by
perpetuating that abuse in English translationthough only, of course, in purified (textualized, hence
transcendentalized) form.
There are any number of tricky questions here. One is whether (and although Lewis and Venuti never raise the
issue, they both tacitly seem to assume that this is in fact the case) abuse is not simply so endemic to patriarchy
as to be unavoidable. If so, what (if anything) should we do about it? Try not think about it (the liberal
solution)? Hope that if you don't talk about it, don't even think about it, it'll go away? Or simply accept the
situation and learn to live with it, for example, by euphemizing it, metaphorizing it, purifying it? I am suggesting
that this is at least partly Lewis's and Venuti's solution, even if calling it that would almost certainly make both
profoundly uneasy. Orwhat seems to me the truly dissident solution, given Lewis's and Venuti's apparent
assumptions about abuseshould we be extremely selective about whom we abuse, choose our victims carefully?
For example, should we attempt to turn the abuse back against the abuser? If, for example, we decide that
Catullus (backed by his whole society) is abusive toward the penetratees of willing or forced male-male sex,
perhaps we should go ahead and translate abusively, but only in order to abuse the abuser(s), to raise
contemporary readers' discomfort levels so as also to raise their awareness about the abuse being perpetrated in
(and through) the textperhaps ultimately to disabuse them of their veneration for an abusive classic?
And this raises another difficult question: in an abusive translation as Lewis and Venuti imagine it, who is the
abused? The source-language author, text, culture? The target-language reader, text, culture? Both, or

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some combination of the various aspects of the two? Lewis says both, but isn't quite clear on exactly how that
works. How is the abuse channeled? How does it hit its mark? What social and psychological effects does it
have on its victims and its perpetrators?
If, on the other hand, we believe or hope that abuse may ultimately be avoidable, do we then simply act as if it
already were, as if we were already free of the normative abusive ideologies that brutalize us? Or must we enter
into a difficult transformative process aimed at uncovering the sources and the channels of our own abusiveness
and eradicating them?
In Lewis's essay, to a large extent in Venuti's discussions as well, the concept of abuse remains too abstract to do
much with. It lacks contextual details, textures, channels, social situations, and human agents. It is an abstract
potentiality in language "itself," language pulled away (abstracted or ab-used) from actual speech situations,
which are conceived as enemy territory, the locus of the us-system of ordinary usage. The problem with this
demonization of usage, of course, is that it implicitly reduces all usage to ordinariness and thus makes it
impossible (and undesirable) to explore abuse too as a form of usage, something people do to each other in real
social situations. First usage is idealized as ordinary; then all usage that falls outside that ideally circumscribed
category is called something else, "ab-usage," a significant deviation from usage. Wonderfully enough, this
allows the theorist to naturalize abuse philosophically by denaturalizing it socially. Abuse, which is perfectly
ordinary in patriarchal usage, both linguistic and behavioralsee, for example,Jean-Jacques Lecercle's The
Violence of Language, not to mention a generation of feminist analyses of physical and emotional abuse in the
family and in culture at largeis reconceived as unordinary and therefore deviant from that usage, therefore
recuperable as a philosophical operation that is implicitly parasitic on ordinary usage but explicitly superior to it.
Ordinary usage is conceptualized restrictively to exclude deviance, abusiveness, precisely in order to flip the
hierarchy and privilege the excluded categoryin a desocialized realm where abuse has no real victims, only
virtual ones, and thus no pain, no trauma, no dynasties of wounding in which the pain inflicted on one generation
is passed on to the next.
What I want to do in the rest of this essay is to explore the ordinariness of abuse, the usualness of abuse, in the
context of a play I translated several years agoa play about abuse, about domestic violence, a man who batters
and generally terrorizes his wife and children, which I translated in a manner that Lewis and Venuti would
almost certainly call abusive. What I hope to be able to achieve by looking fairly closely at this play and its
many contexts is a social exfoliation of the desocialized concept of abusive translationfirst in terms of my actual
process of translation; then

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in terms of the action dramatized in the play; finally in terms of our chances of escaping or transforming the
culture of abuse.
Tottering House
In the summer of 1992 Wendy Knox, a Finnish-American theater producer and director at the Frank Theatre in
Minneapolis, asked me to translate a Finnish play called Huojuva talo ("Tottering House")which was actually a
stage adaptation done in 1983 for the Lappeenranta City Theater in Finland by Maaria Koskiluoma, from Maria
Jotuni's 1936 novel of the same name. Wendy had seen the play performed at the Oslo Theater Festival in 1984,
in Finnish, a language she had heard spoken in childhood by her mother and so could follow somewhat, and was
so taken by it that she spent the next several years trying to get funding to commission a translation. I was so
intrigued by the text that I agreed to do it for free, for the time being, and possibly to be paid later, if she landed
a grant to cover my fee (she didthough considerably less than either of us had hoped). I did the translation
quickly, in about a week, working at breakneck speed, rendering Jotuni's strange Finnish more "foreignly" than I
had ever translated before, sticking closely to her flat, prosaic non sequiturs without trying to heighten them or
otherwise naturalize them into English, following her word order whenever it seemed possible without turning
the English into gibberish, not looking for English equivalents of Finnish idioms but clumping along more or
less word by word. For example, I rendered "Rouva se on antiikkikapine jo" (Koskiluoma 1983, 71), literally
"Missus it (or she) is antique-contraption already," as "The missus is already so old-fashioned,'' a type of
translation I used to warn my students against in Finland: in English we don't address people in the third person,
so ''The missus is" should be "You are"; jo, "already," is merely an intensifier and should not be translated at all
in that sentence. A good translation (though not the kind that Derrida says always commits abuses) would run
something like "You're so old-fashioned, ma'am!"
And why did I translate like this, abusively, foreignizing? I didn't have a carefully articulated rationale, but it
seemed to me instinctively that I had to have some way of rendering the translation strange, odd, twisted, not
necessarily in precisely the same way that the original was strange and odd and twistedand in fact I never did
manage to put my finger on how Jotuni (and Koskiluoma) had achieved that effect in the first place, so how
could I imitate or reproduce it?but with whatever means I had at my disposal. And hobbling my feet, as Dryden
says the literalist or metaphrast invariably does, seemed as good a possibility as any. Jotuni's novel and
Koskiluoma's stage adaptation of it were both striking in their

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refusal to moralize against the play's villain, Eero Markku, a successful journalist who batters and generally
terrorizes his wife, Lea; there is no voice of shock, of moral outrage, either in the narrator or in the characters
(except, ironically enough, Eero himselfhis outrage directed against Lea and all other ordinary mortals who don't
understand geniuses like him). Everything is flat, laconic, deadpan. Also slightly archaicJotuni wrote in the
1930s, and the play's dialogue reflects thatand possibly tinged just slightly with the eastern Finnish dialect of
Savo, where Jotuni grew up. And yet the flatness of the dialogue is almost incandescent. If I could hobble my
feet by translating as literally as I could, while yet working hard to make every word and every phrase come
alive, feel vibrant on the tongue, no matter how awkward or stilted, maybe that would work well enough. And
by and large I think it dida critic for the Minneapolis Journal, Mike Steele, called the translation "stilted and
overripe," not, say, stilted and dry, stilted and dusty, stilted and tedious. Stilted and overripe was exactly the
idea: strange, but uneasily alive.
Not that my rendition was all that literal. It felt literal to me as I was doing it, probably because I generally feel
more comfortable adapting texts to the target language, and my willingness to foreignize even a little felt odd,
alien to me. In fact the translation as I did it at first was already quite assimilative, and when Wendy picked at a
few passages that grated on her ears, things that sounded too strange in English, that didn't make sense or fit the
context or character, or perhaps were just rhythmically problematicrough spots that almost invariably boiled
down to literalismthe two of us working together, over her dining room table or over the phone, almost
invariably wound up assimilating them to usual English. A longer passage shows this clearly, especially when
set alongside a radically literal version:
(Lea kntyy Aulikseen pin. Auliksen takaa tulee Ukki.)
Lea: Ajoiko Jumala ne pois, ihmiset, paratiisista, ajoiko?
Ukki: Ajoi.
Lea: Miksi Jumala ne pois ajoi? He ottivat vain yhden omenan.
Ukki: He tulivat tietmn hyvn ja pahan.
Lea: Eik saa tiet hyv, eik saa tiet pahaa?
Ukki: Ei saa tehd pahaa.
(Ukki menee jlleen Auliksen taakse ja sit tiet nkymttmiin.)
Eero: Miss on raja oikean ja vrn vlill?
Aulis: Sen helposti tiet. Suora viiva on kaunis viiva.
Eero: Mahdoton viiva. Elmn pitisi opettaa sinua. Minp noidun sinut

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onnettomaan avioliittoon, josta sin eroat ja rikot pyhat muodot. Tahi ett teet tyhmyyksi, ett maasta
kohoaa itse demonien ruhtinatar ja sokaisee sinut.
Aulis: Katsokaa, noin han noituu aina. Noidupas minut onnelliseen avioliittoon niin saan kokeilla.
(Koskiluoma 4344)
A radically literal version might have gone something like this:
(Lea turns Aulis-to toward. Aulis's from-behind comes Grandfather.)
Lea: Drove God they away, people, paradise-from, drove?
Grandfather: Drove.
Lea: Why God they away drove? They took only one apple.
Grandfather: They came to-know good and evil.
Lea: No may know good, no may know evil?
Grandfather; No may do evil.
(Grandfather goes again Aulis 's to-behind and that way invisibles-into.)
Eero: Where is boundary good's and evil's between?
Aulis: That easily (one-)knows. Straight line is beautiful line.
Eero: Impossible line. Life should teach you. I bewitch you to-unhappy marriage, from-which you divorce
and break holy forms. Or that you do stupidities, that from-earth rises herself demons' princess and blinds
you.
Aulis: Look, thus he bewitches always. Bewitch me to-happy marriage so (I)can try.
Now here's what I did:
(Lea turns toward Aulis. Grandfather appears behind Aulis.)
Lea: Did God drive them out, people, from paradise, did he?
Grandfather: He did.
Lea: Why did God drive them out? They only took one apple.
Grandfather: They came to know good and evil.
Lea: Is it wrong to know good, is it wrong to know evil?
Grandfather: It is wrong to do evil.
(Grandfather moves behind Aulis and in this way becomes invisible.)
Eero: Where is the line between right and wrong?
Aulis: That's easy. A straight line is a beautiful line.
Eero: An impossible line. Life should teach you. I curse you, and predict for you an unhappy marriage that
will end in divorce and smash

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the holy forms. Or you will do foolish things, the princess of the demons herself will arise from the earth
and blind you.
Aulis: Look at this, this is how he always curses me. Give me a happy marriage so I can try it.
This is stilted, clearly. Certainly overripe. Mike Steele was right. But then the original feels stilted and overripe
to me too. Mindful of theater directors' eternal complaint that academics who translate plays typically have no
ear, no sense of what the words they write are going to sound like on stage, or feel like in an actor's mouth, I
worried about thisspecially in this, the first drama translation I had ever done especially for an actual production.
Surely I shouldn't deliberately make my translation sound like the translated plays directors always complain
about? There was never any question for me of writing what Larry Venuti calls "fluent" or "invisible" dialogue,
because Wendy had specifically told me that she planned to stylize the production, that she wasn't interested in
naturalistic theater; but there are lots of ways to stylize dialogue, and I could very well have done something like
this:
Lea: So did Adam and Eve get tossed out of the garden?
Grandfather: Yeah.
Lea: What for? They only took a crummy apple.
Grandfather: They came to know good and evil.
Lea: Who knew it was gonna be such a capital offense to know good?
Grandfather: It was a capital offense to do evil.
(Grandfather moves behind Aulis and in this way becomes invisible.)
Eero: So who can tell the difference between right and wrong?
Aulis: Simple: a straight line's a beautiful line.
Eero: Yeah, well it's also an impossible line. Loosen up, Jesus Christ man, you gotta roll with the punches.
I can just see you marrying some god awful bimbo and duking it out in the society pages with her then
going through this painful and utterly public divorce and dragging your prissy-ass name in the mud. Or
you'll do something so fucking stupid some cut-rate goddess straight from Central Casting will fly in on
wires and gouge your fucking eyes out.
Aulis: Listen to the shit I'm always taking off him. Just give me one good shot at a happy marriage and I'll
give it a whirl.
All three of these translations are probably abusive in Lewis's sense, the first. (the radical literal one) because it
abuses standard English, the second (the one that was eventually staged) because it abuses colloquial idiomatic
Englishor perhaps only what naturalistic directors take to be

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colloquial idiomatic Englishand the third because it abuses the foreignness of the Finnish text, the feel it has of
another time and place. Any one of the three could have been used successfully, probably, in a highly stylized
production, the first in an in-your-face avant-garde antitheatrical mode (I hear it done in a deadpan monotone,
almost robotically), the third in an exaggerated David Mamet style that said, "Listen to us do this fake modern
lingo, we're actors reciting dialogue and we know it." The second translation, which I sent to Wendy shortly
after receiving the original Finnish text, was only one of a potentially infinite number of "abusive" stylizations
of the play.
And Wendy was initially skeptical, though she mentioned her reservations only in passing, in the midst of great
excitement at finally seeing the play in English. Over the phone I said I had done the translation very quickly,
and roughly, and was willing to work with her to make it feel right in the actors' mouths; she said yeah, we
probably had a lot of work ahead of us to make it work. Because I had never translated for the theater before,
and hadn't acted in plays since elementary school, I felt a little diffident about touting the viability of my
translation, which was stilted (precisely what one expects from academic translators, right?) but which I secretly
suspected would probably feel just fine in actors' mouths. But I thought, never mind: I'll hold back now and wait
until Wendy has a read-through; then we'll see. If she hates it then and wants me to redo it, fine; I translated it in
a week, no big deal, I'll just do it over differently. Or she can rewrite it to fit her actors herself. Whatever.
Maybe they'll even like it.
I flew up to Minneapolis the next April to do some research on Finnish immigrants, and while I was there
Wendy got nine actors together for a read-through. It was an exciting moment for me, hearing my words spoken
by professional actors for the first time ever; and in her introductory remarks Wendy set me up as a kind of
savior, swooping in to do this translation practically for free when nearly a decade of grant applications had
produced no results. And the actors started readingand they loved it! They were moved by it, disturbed by it, it
made them shudder and it made them laugh; and at the end of the two-hour read-through they all said how
wonderful the translation was, how it felt like an exquisite period piece, and so on. I basked in the glow, of
course. Wendy felt it too: the translation really worked. There were a dozen problem spots, of course, individual
words and phrases, which we went over in detail later, studying the Finnish original and my translation and
considering rhythm and idiomaticity and stylization and everything else; but they were, Wendy said, minor
things, easily enough fixed. The translation did not need to be redone, or even substantially revisedonly touched
up here and there.

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The play was performed about a year after that read-through, from March 18 to April 9, 1994, in the Southern
Theater in the West Bank theater district in Minneapolis. About halfway through the run, from March 31 to
April 3, Wendy flew me up to watch four consecutive performances. Because the play's topic, domestic
violence, was highly pertinent and potentially traumatic for viewers, she also organized postshow panel
discussions, with panelists from local women's shelters, psychotherapists, court advocates, and so on describing
their impressions of how the play touched on their personal and professional experiences with domestic violence
and eliciting audience response as well. Wendy asked if I'd like to be a panelist too, the nights I was there, and I
gladly volunteeredtranslating the play, I had identified strongly with Poju or Boy, the Markkus' son, who is
beaten by his father and coached in passive-aggressive codependency by his mother, and would be happy to talk
about that as well as the process of translation.
The first night I was there, I sat through the show in a good deal of discomfort, so worried about my
translationthose are my words they're saying up there! what if they sound stupid?that I had a hard time enjoying
what was really a stunning production. I was finally swept up by the acting, ended the first act in tears, after Lea
suffers a miscarriage brought on by Eero's violence, then relaxed somewhat and let the second act work on me.
One of the most striking things about the production, in fact, was that it was fairly radically foreignized. Wendy
had coached the actors to give roughly Finnish pronunciations to the Finnish names: some managed to roll the
"r" in Eero (e:ro), some didn't (saying "arrow"), but nobody rhymed it with ''hero"; Aulis sometimes sounded
like Elvis, Evert like Everett, but even through these slips one could hear the actors struggling with foreign
pronunciations, retaining a deliberate awkwardness that fit the production perfectly. She kept the references to
Finnish marksthough at one point Eero handed Lea a fistful of U.S. dollars, and in the first performance that I
saw Nancy Gormley as Lea's mother slipped and referred to francs instead of marks. The "Finnish" paper in
which Eero had Aulis read his article was, oddly enough, Izvestia, and there was a pile of other Izvestias on his
desk as well (also a few copies of The Old Times in Gothic script). Wendy had chosen for her background music
several Finnish songs sung in English and several non-Finnish songs (Brahms's ''Lullaby," "Silent Night,"
"Fairest Lord Jesus") sung in Finnish ("Brahmsin kehtolaulu," "Jouluy, juhlay," and "Maa on niin kaunis").
The latter two were sung in unison by the whole cast; the first, along with a Finnish hymn sung in Finnish
("Joutuu ilta kaunis"), was sung live (but offstage)

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by Cynthia Hechter, the actress who played Lea's friend Esteran American who had had to learn the Finnish
words syllabically, so that the songs felt foreign to both the American and the Finnish viewer. As Brahms's
"Lullaby" began, for example, I thought at first that Wendy had found a Finnish singer to make the tape for her,
but the sound of the Finnish was just slightly off, eerily off, as if sung by a native speaker in a bad dream:
"Levon hetki nyt lyy-o, jo joutuvi yy-o." 33 The two hymns sung in English, ''I Turn My Eyes Up to Heav'n
Above" ("M silmt luon yls taivaaseen'') and "Praise to Thee Our Gracious Lord" ("Herraa hyv kiittk")
were Finnish hymns that Wendy had found in English translation in a collection of favorite Finnish-American
hymns. Several pieces of Finnish dance music were also played without words. As usual, Wendy did everything
in her power to block facile assimilation of the play to slick American cultural values; the "foreignism" of the
production in this sense was aligned with the stylized, expressionistic acting, the gestural automatisms assigned
to each actor, the strange stitches and tucks taken in each actor's costumeand the "stilted but overripe"
translation. Everything was designed to look and feel just slightly off, wrong, twisted.
After the show we panelists, six or seven of us, walked up front to the chairs a stage hand had set up for us, sat
down, and were introduced by Wendy, who asked us each to make a brief statement to get the discussion going
with those members of the audience who remained to talk.
And sitting there, stage left, waiting for my turn to speak, listening to all the clinicians to my left talk about their
experiences with domestic violence, I felt disturbing patterns locking into place.
I was the only man up front. All the other speakers were women, most of them battered women who had devoted
their lives to working with other battered women. I was also the only man in the chain of auteurs who had
brought the play to the Minneapolis stage. Maria Jotuni, who wrote the original novel (based, her grandson
speculates, on her own personal experience with her husband Viljo Tarkiainen, a famous literary critic), was a
woman. Maaria Koskiluoma, who adapted the novel for the Finnish stage in 1983, was a woman. Eija-Elina
Bergholm, who directed that production (which was a huge sensation in Finland, won numerous prizes in
Finland and in Oslo, ran for a full year, and later was adapted for television, where it again won prizes), was a
woman. Wendy Knox, whose pet project this American production had been from the start, was a woman. I was
a man.
And as the women to my left talked about the playmy English words, based on the work of a succession of
womenin terms of survivors and abusers, the female heroes of their stories and the male monsters that the
women somehow had to overcome, another realization hit me: I'm the

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abuser. Symbolically, at least, on this stage, I represented Eero Markku, the abusive husband in the play.
And almost the exact instant I realized this, a handful of the actors emerged from the dressing rooms and joined
us, some up front, others in the audienceand who should come sit next to me but Matt Guidry, the actor who
played Eero. Now there were two men up front in an expanding company of women (three or four actresses
pulled up chairs and sat next to Matt on the other side), two men, the abusive translator and the abusive actor
(though we are both, I told myself a little nervously, a little defensively, and without great conviction, sweet,
decent men in real life).
When my turn to speak came, I mentioned some of this, my symbolic role as abuser both as panelist and as
translatorbut I didn't expand on that latter, the abusive translator, as I figured the crowd (composed that night
largely of women from two local shelters) wasn't particularly interested in this rather fine point of translation
theory. Still, Lewis's notion of abusive fidelity was very much on my mind throughout the discussion.
For one thing, I had first read Lewis's article around the same time as I did the Jotuni translation, in the early fall
of 1992 (I can't remember which came first, the translation or the article). I had bought the Graham collection
when it appeared, in 1985, but for many years, while I was working on The Translator's Turn, I had focused
most of my attention on the Derrida piece in it, "Des tours de Babel." It wasn't, in fact, until I read Venuti's
Rethinking Translation and kept seeing references to Lewis's term that I went back to the Graham book and read
the article. My first thought was that it was an interesting spin on what I'd called irony in The Translator's Turn
(17275), a malicious fidelity to a badly written text, the attempt to make the translation as shoddy as the original
(my example was scholarly and technical translation, where the source-language author doesn't usually think of
him/herself as a writer at all, and doesn't often write very well). In a larger sense, all of the translation models I
discussed in part two of the book, with the obvious exception of the normative models discussed under
"Metonymy" in chapter 3 and "Introversion and Extroversion'' in chapter 4, were abusive, designed to transgress
the hegemonic norms of fidelity mandated by traditional theories of translation. Given the overall transgressive
and iconoclastic tenor of my book (and my personality), I had found Lewis's concept of abusive translation quite
attractive.
But now, having watched the enactment of Eero Markku's "abusive fidelity" to his wife, Lea, sitting next to the
actor who played him, I was flooded with second thoughts. Lea, played by Annie Piper, opens the play with a
highly stylized soliloquy about (and partly to) the man she will

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someday marry, a speech soaked in the patriarchal myth of happy marriage as the fulfillment of every woman's
dreams. The play is set up to devastate that myth utterly. But from Annie's first words, the speech had grated on
my ears: my words, which I (in a manner of speaking) had put in an abuse victim's mouth, were all wrong. Why?
Whose fault? Mine? Annie's? Wendy's? Was it because I had translated too literally? Was my translation too
stilted, too overripe, too stylized, too strange-sounding? As the other actors came on and began saying their
lines, I began to relax, partly because the stylized lines sounded all right in their mouths; what was going on?
Virginia Burke in particular, as Lea's sister Toini, a flighty, careless young woman who by the end is revealed
(at least as I read the play) as the only healthy person in the whole piece, does the weird English perfectly. Not
only her mouth but her whole body automatizes her lines, like a wind-up toy, an acting style that Wendy favors
and has used to great effect in other plays. Does this mean that the success or failure of specific linesmy
words!is not so much a function of the relative abusiveness of my translation as it is of acting styles, perhaps
acting competence? Was it (as I increasingly felt as I watched the play for the second and third and fourth time)
Annie Piper's particular acting style that set my teeth on edge? Or is that just a way of blaming my abuse on the
victim, as Eero (played by the guy sitting next to me up front, in the panel discussion on abuse) does so
effectively with Lea?
But there was more to the problem than this. In the original Finnish production, all of the actors had stylized
their lines, acting expressionistically rather than realistically; there had, for example, been no actual violence in
the original production, nothing that even looked as if Eero were striking Lea, but a collection of symbolic
gestures meant to signify violence. Wendy, feeling that this approach might suck the life out of the drama, might
provide viewers no identificatory inroad into the play, had shifted gears a little and done Lea (and partly Eero as
well) naturalistically, as a focus of audience identification, everyone else expressionistically, like a kind of
stylized Greek chorus around the lead couple. And so Annie, under direction from Wendy, had deliberately
naturalized the "stilted and overripe" dialogue of my translation, trying to make it sound realistic, trying to fit it
into a register that she could imagine herself using in ordinary lifethe half-hearted naturalism in her voice
fighting the stylized foreignism of the dialogue. This was a big part of the problem: Wendy had told me to
stylize the translation, but in production she decided to make Lea naturalistic, and I wasn't there to rewrite her
lines in a more naturalistic mode. The surreal automatisms of her lines, especially the broken-record repetitions
and the eschatological conversations she has about death and paradise with her parents and grandfather who
aren't

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physically presenteverything that Maaria Koskiluoma wrote into a dramaturgical adaptation that was meant to be
utterly stylizeddon't work in Lea's character, which Wendy wants to make almost Strindbergian or
Bergmanesque, so Annie tries to find a tonalization that might justify them in real life:
Lea: Ei sellaista saa ajatella . . . sellaista saa ajatella . . . saa ajatella . . . ajatella.
Lea: You mustn't think such things . . . think such things . . . such things . . . things. 34
Sitting in the audience, I wanted to rewrite her lines, to make them grittier, giving them the realistic rough edges
that my more stylized foreignism lacked and Annie's acting style couldn't produce. I also wanted to make the
other characters' lines more caricaturish, more grotesquely expressionistic. Maria Asp, for example, plays the
maid Hilja brilliantly along the lines of Lea's exasperated description, "pretentious, enunciating her words as in a
poetry recital, with clipped grace""teeskentelee . . . Lausuu sanatkin kuin lausuntakilpailussa. Tsmllisesti,
pingotetun sirosti" (56). But there are several spots in her part that I felt didn't give her enough to work with.
She's such a wonderful actress that she pulled it off, made it work, but it's hard to stylize "clipped grace'' in a
line like "He's afraid the baby will bother him'' ("Arvelee, ett lapsi hiritsee" [59]). So in the third or fourth
performance I watched I imagined myself sitting in rehearsals a month earlier, rewriting dialogue, making that
"He is concerned that the infant will disturb his rest." Would that have been more "abusive" than the line I
wrote, the line that Maria Asp spoke? Maybe not. But then, maybe we don't really know what abusive
translation is, yet. Let's back up and take a different tack.
"Tottering House" as an Allegory of Abusive Translation
I suggest that one way of contextualizing abusive translation would be to read it through "Tottering House," to
read the play allegorically as "about" abusive fidelity. In this reading, which I adumbrated a moment ago when
Matt Guidry came to sit next to me onstage, the abuser Eero is, represents allegorically, the abusive translator.
This may seem like an abusive allegory, an allegory designed to abuse Lewis and Venuti, but bear with me; the
issue is considerably more complex than it seems at first blush. Lea, Eero's wife, is his primary victim; Poju, his
son, is his secondary victim. Because Lea is the woman he marries and promises fidelity to, it seems reasonable,
if only by way of getting started, to allegorize her as the source culture/author/text. Equally simplistic, but
heuristically useful

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here at the beginning of my allegorizing, would be an equation between Poju and the target
culture/reader/textthat other milieu onto which, as Lewis says, the abusive translator displaces his violence.
But as soon as we return to Lewis's formulation to check that displacement, the complications begin to
proliferate: "The translator's aim," Lewis wrote, "is to rearticulate analogically the abuse that occurs in the
original text, thus to take on the force, the resistance, the densification, that this abuse occasions in its own
habitat, yet, at the same time, also to displace, remobilize, and extend this abuse in another milieu" (43). If Lea
is the original text, then Eero's abuse of her and their son must be seen as prompted by her abuse of someone
else, "the abuse that occurs in the original text,'' which the abusive translator is then "to rearticulate
analogically''and this makes it difficult to allegorize Eero's battering of Lea. Is Lea to be at once the source and
the target of abuse? (That would be a theory that Eero, or any abuser, would feel comfortable with.) Lea is not
convincing as an abuser; if Lewis's theory requires the abusive translator to be remobilizing the source author's
abuse, therefore, Lea will have to be something other than the source author.
It may be preferable, therefore, to unpack the source culture/author/text cluster that I'm reading through Lea: to
take the source culture and the source author and the source text (possibly also the source-text reader) as
separate entities, each with its role to play in this allegorical drama. Lea is portrayed in the play as the daughter
of dysfunctional parents, a weak, passive, alcoholic father and a passive-aggressive but also physically abusive
mother who blames all her ills on her husband: "Jos minulla olisi ollut kunnon mies, niin kyll minunkin oloni
olisivat toiset" (Koskiluoma 1983)"If I'd had a good man, things would have been different," and "Jos olisi joku,
joka hnet tappaisi, sata markkaa min hnelle antaisin" (37)"If I could find someone to murder him I'd pay him
a hundred marks." The mother's lessons for the daughter are wrapped tightly in double binds:
Lea: Jos min otan miehen, ja hnet itse valitsen, min en hnt aina moiti. Pit tutkia mies, ennen kuin
hnet ottaa.
iti: Tutkihan sin sitten.
Lea: Tutkin.
iti: Ja tyydy tutkittuasi.
Lea: Tyydyn. Jos min miehen otan, olkoon juoppo, lykn minua ja viekn kaiken autuuteni, niin en
min nt pstisi.
iti: Sin opetat. Toivonpa, ett saisit miehen sellaisen, ett huonoutesi nkisit.

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Lea: If I take a husband, and choose him myself, I won't nag at him all the time. You have to check a man
out before you marry him.
Mother: Well do it then.
Lea: I will.
Mother: And once you've checked him out, be satisfied.
Lea: I will. If I take a husband, he can be a drunk and beat me and blight my life and still I won't make a
sound.
Mother: [Literally:] You teach. I wish you'd get a man such that your badness you would see.
Emulating her father's passive acquiescence to her mother's abuse, Lea throws her willingness to suffer silently
in her abusively suffering mother's face, who advises her in return to "be satisfied" with the man she chooses: to
do precisely what she herself could never do, precisely what Lea is most inclined to do anyway, to thematize
silent suffering as "satisfaction." That last line of the mother, which I rendered literally so as not to unpack its
ambiguity too soon, is especially rich in double binds: sin opetat, ''you (will) teach," implies a direct object,
which doesn't need to be spelled out in Finnish; in this case the implicit direct object is either minua, "me,'' or
hnt, "him." If it's the former, the implication seems to be that the mother resents the unmarried Lea trying to
teach her all about marriage, thus "Thanks for teaching me" (a line Lea will actually say to Eero later, in
response to emotional battering), or "Listen to the little teacher," or something equally sarcastic about Lea's
presuming to teach something she knows so little about. If it's the latter, the implication would be that Lea will
teach her husband; but here the possibilities really begin to multiply. Does the mother really think Lea will teach
him, train him, school him, civilize him, as wives are expected to do in bourgeois patriarchy? That would be in
direct contradiction to the instruction "be satisfied," but contradiction is what double binds are made of. The
irony becomes even richer if we assume Lea's mother believes that her daughter will never be successful in
teaching a man through silent suffering, thus:
Lea: I won't make a sound.
Mother: That'll teach him.
The rest of that line, "Toivonpa, ett saisit miehen sellaisen, ett huonoutesi nkisit," I misread for the
production: my eye skipped that last t in nkisit, making it mean not "you would see" but "he would see"; the
translation used in. the production was "I just wish you'd find a man who'd see how bad you are." The reason for
my mistake isn't hard to find, because the sentence makes better grammatical sense the way I read it: the kind of

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man who will see your flaws, your inadequacies. With the second-person t, the sentence turns the man Lea will
someday marry into a kind of mirror in which she sees her own flaws, which is fine except that the syntax is
then awkward (nothing new in this play): I wish that you would get the kind of man that you would see your
badness. So in this case (probably others as well) I unconsciously domesticated the Finnish text, assimilated it to
my target-language sense of what it had to mean to make sense in English, and translated accordingly, abusing
the original by mistaking its meaning (not the sense of abusive translation Lewis and Venuti mean).
Most important for an allegory of abusive translation, however, is the fact that both renderings, with and without
the t, reflect the mother's abuse of her daughter, which seems to be predicated on something like the following
web of assumptions: (a) other people (as opposed to the perfected speaking self) are severely flawed, and (b)
should be wracked by a debilitating sense of their imperfections; (c) any attempt another person makes
(especially someone perceived as an inferior) to deny or displace that debilitating sense is pride, a dangerous
attitude that must be eradicated instantly; (d) the best weapon against pride is abuse, which is designed to
debilitate and thus to restore the proper state of affairs; (e) the proper context for abusive debilitation is the
family, (f) especially when channeled from positions of dominance to positions of subordination (parents to
children, husbands to wives, but also, in Lea's mother's case, strong women to weak, passive men). In presuming
to teach her mother (or possibly even her husband), Lea is acting pridefully and must be abused; her mother has
done her best to smash that pride all through Lea's childhood, but now Lea is on the verge of adulthood and
nearly beyond her mother's reach, so the mother hopes her daughter will find a husband who will continue the
all-important process of smashing pride through abuse. And, of course, Lea does: Eero abuses her and cuts her
off from her mother, whose blaming and double-binding comment on all this is: "Sin totutat hnet huonoille
tavoille tuolla tavalla liiaksi kieltytymll" (48)"You're letting him develop bad habits by denying yourself so
much." Lea can't win. But then, no one can, not even Eero, whose largely successful attempts to spread his
misery around never successfully alleviate that misery, and who ends in suicide.
So let us say that in an allegory of translation the abusive culture based on the universalization and naturalization
of the abusive assumptions I listed above stands for the source culture, which produces the source author,
represented symbolically in this play by Lea's parents. And Lea would then be the source text? Possibly. Then
"the abuse that occurs in the original text" that Lewis wants the abusive translator to rearticulate analogically
would not be any specific abusiveness that Lea perpetrates

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but rather the traces of her abusive upbringing in her passive-aggressive codependency, in her willingness to
suffer abuse at her husband's hands. The source author channels the abusiveness of her or his society into and
through the source text, a "child" onto whom she or he transfers all the doubly bound anger and fear with which
she or he has been saturated by the source culture, a simulacrum of her or his own abusiveness which she or he
unleashes onto the source culture as living proof of the success of her or his abusive training.
Then the "transfer (ence)" involved in abusive translation would entail a reinscription or remobilization of those
traces in the target text, creating a new textwhich I am associating allegorically with Poju, the battered sonthat is
"raised" or ''reared" or created in an analogous or transferential atmosphere of abuse and so carries into the
target culture the traces of the original abuse.
But this still ignores the agency of the abuser, the abusive translator who transfers or remobilizes the abuse
in(to) the target culture not merely because it's a living but also because it's the only way she or he knows how
to live:
Eero: Minulla, minulla ei ollut jouluja, ei joulukuusia eikp itikn. iti minut jttino ja jttkn.
Lahjaksi olen saanut hnelta kymmenen markkaa ja senkin pyytmll. Niinp min en mys anna mitn.
En kenellekn, se on sanottu. Kyll ne rakkaudet tiedetn, keinotekoista juttua.
Lea: Mik on keinotekoista?
Eero: Rakkaudet. Ei sinun tarvitse vetistell siksi.
Lea: Enhntoki. (Knt selkns. Eero tarttuu hnt olkaphns, knt hnt ja ojentaa pient
pakettia.)
Lea: Mit sin nyt tyhj. Kiitos sinulle, armas poika.
Eero: Avaa nyt lahjapakettisi.
Lea: Kultasepn tavaraa?
Eero: Avaa.
Lea: Rakas, kultainen olento, minulla ei ole mitn, ja sin, sin . . .
(Kreest paljastuu pieni rasia. Lea avaa sen. Tyhji visiittikortteja.)
Eero: Hahahaaaa.
Lea: Hyvi nmkin. Hyvin tarpeellisia.
Eero: Hahaa. lk usko, ett ne ovat sinulle. Min ostin ne itselleni, aina niit tarvitsen.
Lea: Olisin ollut pahoillani, jos sin olisit tuhlannut rahaa. Palion menee muutenkin. (Kvelee pois ja
palaa mukanaan kaksi keitetty kananmunaa lautasella.) Otahan.

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Eero: Kaksi? Hemmetti miten sin tuhlaat. (Heitt munat lattialle.) Ei meill ole varaa kaikkien munia
syd. (Katsoo betken munia lattialla, linnoittautuu sitten kirjoituspytns taakse. Joulumusiikki nousee.
iti tulee nkyvksi).
iti: Sin totutat hnet huonoille tavoille tuolla tavalla liiaksi kieltytymll. (4748)
Eero: I, I never had Christmases, no Christmas trees, not even a mother. Mother left meand who needs her.
Her gift to me was ten marks, and that only when I asked her for it. So I never give anything either. Not to
anyone, period. We all know what love is, sheer illusion.
Lea: What's illusion?
Eero: Love. No need to cry over it.
Lea: Iguess not. (Turns her back. Eero takes her by the shoulders, turns her to face him and holds out a
tiny package.)
Lea: You didn't need to. Thank you, sweetheart.
Eero: Open your present.
Lea: From the jeweler's?
Eero: Open it.
Lea: You dear sweet thing, I have nothing for you, and you, you . . .
(Lea removes the paper and finds a small box, opens it. Blank calling cards.)
Eero: Ha ha haaaa.
Lea: No, these are good, we need these.
Eero: Ha haa. I didn't buy them for you. I bought them for myself, I always need them.
Lea: I would have been disappointed if you'd wasted your money. We spend enough as it is. (Walks
offstage and returns with two boiled eggs on a plate.) Here.
Eero: Two? You're so damned wasteful. (Throws the eggs on the floor.) We can't all afford to eat eggs.
(Looks at the eggs on the floor for a moment, then entrenches himself behind his desk. The Christmas
music swells. Mother becomes visible.)
Mother: You're letting him develop bad habits by denying yourself so much.
Eero has decreed that they will not celebrate Christmas, supposedly on ideological grounds"Turha, pakanallinen
tapa kokojoulu," "Vapaa, valistunut henki ei sellaiseen alennu" (47)"Christmas is just a useless pagan custom,"
''A free, enlightened spirit never stoops to such," but actually, as we discover at the beginning of the long
passage I quoted, because he never had anything nice or enjoyable as a boy, no Christmases,

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no Christmas trees, no love. And it is characteristic of the doubly bound abusive culture in which he was raised
that the dark, murky enslavement that that culture considers normal and seeks to reproduce in every one of its
members is idealized as freedom and enlightenment. Love is illusion, giving presents is a "useless pagan
custom" (besides, he never gives anyone anything). But when Lea buys a little tree and a slice of ham for himhe
claims they only have enough money for one of them, guess who, to eat well ("We can't all afford to eat eggs"),
so she lives off bread and drippingsand cries at his insistence that love is illusion, he gives her a present after all.
In accordance with his instructions she has bought him nothing and is trying to force her spirit into the
emotional strait-jacket he requires, but then he surprises her with a gift, which looks as if he had bought it at the
jeweler'sand she melts, hoping that he really does love her after all, that the abusive ascesis he has forced on her
will gradually dissipate, that everything is going to be all right. But she opens the package to find the blank
calling cards, he laughs nastily at her disappointment, and when she tries to put a good face on it he gloats that
he didn't buy them for her, he bought them for himself.
And this is only their first Christmas, six months into their marriage. Things go downhill from there. Soon after
this incident Eero apologizes for losing his temper, reassures her that he loves her, offers to take her downtown
to look at the big Christmas tree there; but it is not long before he stops apologizing, stops trying to reassure her
about his character:
Lea: Eero, sin olet juonut.
Eero: Minun juonnistani ei kannata puhua.
Lea: Sinhn olet raittiusmies.
Eero: Ent sitten?
Lea: Sin olet alkanut viipy iltaisin.
Eero: Epiletko jotakin?
Lea: En epile.
Eero: Min sanon, jos epilet minua, min en kunnioita sinua. Minun tapani on se. Minua loukkaa se kun
saan huomautuksia.
Lea: Ei tarvitse huutaa.
Eero: Jos sin et moralisoisi, sinun luonasi olisi hyv olla. Sin viet minulta tukesi sill tavoin. Sinun pit
luottaa minuun, sill tavalla sin autat minua eteenpin.
Lea: Min luotan.
Eero: Minun persoonallisuuteni rajat eivat kai ole tavalliset. Min tahtoisin tehd pahaa. Minp kerron
sinulle kaiken. Min teen pahaajoskus tahallani. Noin virassakin. Kun pitisi kiitt, minp kki
muutankin svy ja moitin. Joskus taas ptan lyd rehellisesti asian maahan ja

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kki sotkenkin ja etsin olemattomat hyvt puolet. Mits siit sanot?


Lea: Se on vaarallista.
Eero: Mutta katsopas, enhn min olekaan mikn totuuksienjulistaja. Min tahtoisin tehd pahaa. Sin et
sit ymmrr. Min pakotan toiset katsomaan omalla tavallani. Helvetin piina. Jos min tahdon, min
ammun itseni. Olen sit useasti ajatellut, koska olen niin paha. Sinustakin. Sin et pid minusta en.
Lea: Onko tm hetki sopiva rakkaudentunnustukselle?
Eero: Min olen tavallani epmukava, mit? Min luulen, ett moni nero on samanlainen. (53)
Lea: Eero, you've been drinking.
Eero: There's nothing to say about my drinking.
Lea: You're a temperance activist.
Eero: So what?
Lea: You've begun staying out late.
Eero: Do you suspect something?
Lea: No.
Eero: I'm telling you, if you suspect me, I won't respect you. That's the way I am. Reprimands offend me.
Lea: No need to shout.
Eero: If you wouldn't moralize, I'd feel better around you. That's how you withhold your support from me.
You must trust me, that's the best way to help me get ahead.
Lea: I do trust you.
Eero: I suppose my personality doesn't fall within the usual bounds. I want to do had things. I'll tell you
everything. Sometimes I do bad things on purpose. At work, too. When I should be thanking someone, I
change my tone of voice and blame him. Sometimes I decide to be honest and chuck a thing in the dirt, but
then I suddenly get mixed up and start finding all kinds of nonexistent good sides to it. What do you say
about that?
Lea: It's dangerous.
Eero: But see, I'm no prophet of truth. I want to do bad things. You don't understand it. I force others to
see things my way. Hellish torment. If I decide to, I'll shoot myself. I've thought about it often, because
I'm so evil. You think so, too. You don't like me any more.
Lea: Is this a good time for declarations of love?
Eero: I'm difficult, aren't I, in my own way. I think probably many geniuses are that way.

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Yes, he's difficult. Also insecure, needy, emotionally dependent on Leaand terrified of his own neediness, his
dependence, which prompts him to defend against it through abuse, physical and emotional abuse of the one
woman who sees his fears and suffers the brunt of his violence, his wife. He also flees her into the arms of other
women, as he began to hint in that passage I quoted above ("Do you suspect something?"). He begins their
marriage (of course) with melodramatic declarations of eternal fidelity
Eero: Tm mies, huomaa, on kmpel talonpoika. Monta virhett teen. Mutta uskollinen sinulle olen. En
pet sinua, sen vannon. (43)
Eero: For remember that I am but an awkward peasant. I will make many mistakes. But I will be faithful
to you. I'll never cheat, that I swear to you.
but it is not long before he is sleeping with their maids, probably with other women as well (the maids are all
Lea finds out about). For the most part, he lies, claiming innocence and insisting defensively that Lea's
suspicions are her problem, not his; but at one point, speaking hypothetically but still rather revealingly, he sets
up an incredibly double-binding justification for infidelity:
Eero: Pelktk ett petn sinua?
Lea: Min luotan sinuun.
Eero: Jos min pettisin sinua, merkitsisi se vain sit, ett min arvioin sinut niin korkealle, etten tahdo
sinun tuomiotasi kuulla, otapas se huomioon. Jos min en vaivautuisi pettmn, niin min vheksyisin
sinua, otapas se huomioon. Minun ei olisi pitnyt koskaan tunnustaa sinulle mitn.
Lea: Ethn sin ole mitn tunnustanut.
Eero: Kun min puhun avomielisesti, niin se vie minulta itseluottamuksen. Min eln kuin alennustilassa
edesssi.
Lea: Enhn min ole vaarallinen.
Eero: Min annan elmyksilleni sen arvon, mink tahdon. Ne eivt sinuun kuulu. Kun olen luullut, ett ne
kuuluvat, olen tehnyt pahimman virheen.
Lea: Etp sit virhett ole tehnyt. (64)
Eero: Are you afraid I'll cheat on you?
Lea: I trust you.

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Eero: If I cheated on you, it would only mean that I have so much respect for you that I couldn't bear to he
judged by you, remember that. If I didn't bother cheating on you, I would be undervaluing you, remember
that. I never should have confessed anything to you.
Lea: You never did.
Eero: When I speak openly, it robs me of my self-confidence. I am humiliated before you.
Lea: I'm not dangerous.
Eero: I give my experiences whatever value I wish. They're none of your business. If I've ever thought
they did I made the worst mistake of my life.
Lea: That's a mistake you've never made.
In an allegorical reading, this exchange clearly points to the translator's abusive fidelity as theorized by Lewis
and Venuti: "If I cheated on you, if I rendered you abusively, it would only mean that I have so much respect for
you that I couldn't bear to be judged by you," which is to say that abuse is the highest form of respect. Infidelity
is the highest form of fidelity. "If I didn't bother cheating on you, I would be undervaluing you, remember that":
precisely the argument that Lewis makes about abusive translation. Fidelity is a "weak, servile" (Lewis 1985)
approach to a text or a partner, a "slave morality" (Nietzsche) clung to by the unwashed masses, by boring
common uncultured people who privilege, as Lewis says, ''what Derrida calls, in 'La mythologie blanche,' the
us-system, that is, the chain of values linking the usual, the useful, and common linguistic usage" (40). The
''strong, forceful" translator, to paraphrase Eero, "gives his experiences whatever value he wishes. They're none
of the source author's business." Or as Eero explains to Lea:
Eero: Min vihaan ihmist koko sydmestni.
Lea: Sin puhut julkisuudessa toisin.
Eero: Puhun heidn kieltns. Se on eptoivoista valhetta. lhmiset, mit sin tiedt ihmisest. Ihmisell on
haluja, joista sinun tapaisellasi ei ole aavistustakaan. Hnen sisimpns ktkeytyy halu murhata. Peto on
ihminen, peto. Siksi ihmist pit ksitell kataluudella ja viekkaudella. Ja jos ei auta, on ase, ase.
Lea: Sinhn olet rauhan mies.
Eero: Estk se minua olemasta ihmistutkija? Min olen kansanvaellusajan ja kaaoksen mies. Minussa
asuu suuri muodostamaton henki. Tulisipa sota ja sekasorron ajat, min huudattaisin itseni keisariksi.
Lea: Miksi puhut noin?
Eero: Miehen pitisi olla orja, kotiorja, tmn lauman elttj, mutta se ei riit, vaaditaan viel, ett mies
ei saisi ollenkaan el en, sen pitisi olla kone, elatuskone vain, ja yksin kotia varten.

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Lea: Mit sinulta viel puuttuu? Vapautta?


Eero: Idiootti. Min sanon, ett oli suuri erehdys koko avioliitto. (6364)
Eero: I hate humanity with all my heart.
Lea: That's not what you say in public.
Eero: I speak their language. It's a desperate lie. Humanity, what do you know about it? A human being
has wants that your type can't even imagine. Deep down he wants to murder. Humans are beasts, I mean it,
beasts. That's why they have to be handled with cunning and deceit. And if that doesn't work, with a gun.
Lea: You're a pacifist.
Eero: Does that mean I can't be a student of human nature? I'm a man of the great migrations, a man of
chaos. I harbor within me a spirit of formlessness. If a time of anarchy and war would only come, I'd have
myself hailed Caesar.
Lea: Why do you talk that way?
Eero: They expect a man to be a slave, a house slave, supporter of the herd, but that's not enough, now
they expect him to stop living, to be a machine, a support-machine, dedicated to the home.
Lea: What do you still lack? Freedom?
Eero: Idiot. I'm saying the whole marriage was a mistake. 35
This is typical grandiose self-dramatization, of course"a man of the great migrations, a man of chaos" who
harbors "a spirit of formlessness"but it is not mere rhetoric. Eero may only vent his violent impulses on his wife,
not on all humanity; but Lea has no reason to doubt the reality of those impulses. (And in any case he makes it
crystal clear to her that his genocidal ranting about "all humanity" is just a slightly exaggerated way of saying
that "the whole marriage was a mistake.'') He pounds her with his fists, strangles her, holds her head under water
till she begins to run out of air, and, at the end of act 1, turns a hug into a viselike squeeze that breaks her ribs
and causes her to miscarry.
And in each case he portrays his abuse as her fault; she drives him to it by suspecting him, by not trusting him,
by reprimanding him, by looking at him fearfully. In Freudian terms one would say that he is making a
transference onto her of both his mother's abusiveness (the mother's attempts to smash his refusals to be
smashed by her abuse) and his own badness, the evil little boy that his parents created through their attempts to
destroy it. By her very existence, and especially the fact that she's a woman and a mother, Lea reminds him of
his mother, and that awakens all his anxieties, so he reacts as his parents did when he awakened their anxieties,
by striking out at the trigger. Beating Lea, Eero is beating both his mother and himself. His abuse is aimed
simultaneously at defending

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his beleaguered sense of self against a mother who threatens to engulf him and at smashing the little-boy self
that caused his mother (and father, presumably, though we never hear about him in the play) so much anxiety.
36
However, in the allegorical reading I'm setting up the source author is not the originary source of the abuse, and
thus not to blame for it. This is, in other words, not a case of blaming the victim, blaming a woman for a man's
violence. Like Lea's parents, Eero's parents are mere vehicles of abuse, not its inventors, its authors, its
originators. The source author channels the source culture's abuse. The target author or translator channels the
target culture's abuse. There is no reason for an author or parent to create an abusive text or child unless that
author was himself or herself first abused. Abuse is systemic and dynastic, passed on from generation to
generation in a complex economy of self-defense and displaced revenge, protecting the self from abuse and
simultaneously transferring the abuse to a surrogate victim, who becomes the next generation's abuser.
What this gives us allegorically, then, is a pair of distinct but intimately intertwined streams or dynasties of
abuse, associated in the vehicle of my allegory with Lea and Eero, the wife and husband, the woman and man,
and in its tenor with the source and target cultures. Abuse, in this perspective, is not (merely) individualistic
violence visited by one person on another, but a systemic violence that is compulsively passed on from one
person to anothera "gift," to put it cynically in terms of Eero's Christmas gift to Lea, that keeps on giving (and
taking away).
This suggests at least three complications for my allegorical correspondences: (a) Following Eero, that the
abusive translator too must be understood as a carrier or channeler of abuse; (b) following Lea, that the various
forms of fidelity, no matter how submissive, must be understood systemically not as an alternative to abuse but
as a dynamic link in the chain of abuse (a codependency); and (c) following Poju, that target texts/
readers/cultures are not mere victims of abuse but themselves future or potential abusers as well.
(a) Abused by his parentswhom we never see in the play, and hear very little aboutEero abuses his wife and his
son. This suggests allegorically that the abusive translator displaces the source text's abuse onto the target text,
as Lewis said: "the translator's aim is to rearticulate analogically the abuse that occurs in the original text, thus to
take on the force, the resistance, the densification, that this abuse occasions in its own habitat, yet, at the same
time, also to displace, remobilize, and extend this abuse in another milieu" (43). It also suggests that the
translator is conditioned by the target culture to desire this displacement, remobilization,

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and extension, and conditioned not only to desire it and to do it but to naturalize it as well, to treat it as so
natural, so obvious, so mundane a part of "the translator's aim" as not to be worthy of notice, let alone comment.
That's just what the translator does.
For this to be possible, of course, the abusive translator must have been conditioned to abuse by the target
cultureor, in the vehicle of the allegory, Eero must have been conditioned to abuse by his parents (they by theirs,
etc.)and must thus be perceived (and judged, if at all) not alone, but against this systemic cultural backdrop. This
is a mistake I made in The Translator's Turn, treating various forms of abusive translation (which I didn't call by
that name; there it was synecdoche, irony, metalepsis, subversion, aversion, perversion, etc.) as life-style
decisions, as it were, things individual translators just sort of decided to try on their own, to make a point, or
because they felt like it. The dynastic model of abusanalysis, if you'll permit the coinage, insists that abuse has
no individual origin: it flows through individuals like a virus or a parasite, using them as the medium of its
dissemination.
One conclusion that we might want to draw from this is that interlingual abuse is preceded and conditioned by
intralingual abuse: the abusive translator is shaped for his or her task by target-cultural abuse. True, this may not
invariably be so; in a bilingual and bicultural family, for example, interlingual and intralingual abuse would
presumably be channeled concurrently. But because small children are normatively constructed as
speakers/abusers of a given language in that language, through that language, it seems fair to say that
intralingual abuse is at least logically prior to interlingual abuse.
(In this sense we should expect the three points I'm enumerating here, a-b-c, batterer-enabler-child, to come full
circle, the batterer learning to batter by being abused as a child. More of this in a moment, under c.)
My initial response to Huojuva talo, for example, was conditioned by my exposure to "strange" (abusive?) texts
in English, such as Waiting for Godot, Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, and so on. I probably wouldn't even
have accepted the translation job Wendy offered, with only the vaguest promise of pay, if she hadn't described
the play as weird, warped, grotesque, and her planned production as equally weird and warpedand if I hadn't
been predisposed to prefer that sort of text over more submissive or faithful (nonabusive) ones. I hadn't even
seen the script at that point, but I projected onto it my past (largely positive) experiences of strange writing in
English (intralingual abuse), and decided that I wanted to do the translation (interlingual abuse) whether I got
paid for it or not.
And how far back did my positive experiences of strange writing in English go? Probably as far back as literacy.
I remember loving a book of

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puzzles and riddles and nonsense rhymes when I was about six or seven, loving it so intensely, in fact, that I can
still recite from memory today many of the things I read in it as a small child:
One bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys stood up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
Came and shot the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man, he saw it too.
And before that: my father's bad puns, my mother's love of made-up words such as "nackapoochy" for napkin,
all the silly word and tone games my brothers and I played when we were small. This is the aspect of language
that Jean Jacques Lecercle calls the "remainder" repressed by linguists; one of the reasons I've never felt
comfortable around linguists is that for me this is the most interesting part of language. Jill Levine's book The
Subversive Scribe, discussed in chapter 6, is among other things a celebration of this ''abusive" language as
wellof how her childish love for linguistic silliness helped create her as the translator of various strange Latin
American writers like Severo Sarduy and G. Cabrera Infante. Conclusion: abusive translators are made, not
born; they are shaped first by an abusive target culture, later perhaps (sometimes simultaneously) by an abusive
source culture. They are vehicles of a culture of abuse, even when, in a given family dynamic, they seem to be
the originary source of abuse.
(b) Lea's long-suffering fidelity to Eero suggests some disturbing perspectives on translational fidelity as well.
The established view in translation studies is that submissive fidelity to the source text is normal and normative,
and abusive (in)fidelity is quite simply not translation; in this view my claim in (a) above, that the translator is
conditioned to desire, carry out, and naturalize the remobilization of source-text abuse in the target language, is
flat-out untrue. The translator is conditioned to desire, carry out, and naturalize not abuse but the stable transfer
of source-language meaning to the target language. But Lea's case, allegorized, suggests that the stable transfer
of source-language meaning to the target language is a remobilization of abusejust an idealized or euphemized
one.
Part of this shift is built into the very dramatic and rhetorical structure of the play. Like Lea in the play, the play
itself as a dramatic adaptation of Jotuni's novel enacts a movement from silence to articulation (many of

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the novel's interior monologues are spoken aloud in the play, Lea's "dangerous" thoughts are increasingly voiced
to her abuser's face) that encodes fidelity as control: the play "speaks" the novel faithfully in very much the
same mode as Lea "speaks" Eero, vocalizing the repressed or the hidden, but always in the repressor's or hider's
best interests. Note, for example, in this next passage how Lea articulates Eero's own submerged healthy or good
(nonabusive, perhaps even submissivehe does give in to Lea here) impulses, convincing him not to kill her not
because her life is so valuable but because it's dangerous for him:
(Lea ker lapset syliin, pyrhtelee niiden kanssa, asettelee sitten nukkekaappiasetelmaan. Eeron
typydlle on syttynyt valo. Eero on tullut. Eero on kumartuneena valon yli, kirjoittaa jotakin siin. Lea
menee Eeron luo.)
Lea: Mit sin kirjoitit sken, nyt minulle.
Eero: Mit se sinulle kuuluu.
Lea: (tunnistaa vekselin) Tytyyk meidn tehd vekseleit?
Eero: Niin kuin ei olisi ennen tehty.
Lea: Miksi sin valoa vasten kirjoitit? Kenen nime sin kirjoitit?
Eero: Jos et ole vaiti, min 1yn sinua.
Lea: Ly, min tahdon tiet sen.
Eero: No, miksi en sanoisi. Se oli Auliksen nimi. Minulla on siihen lupa.
Lea: Se ei ole totta. Sin et saa. Sin vrennt hnen nimens.
Eero: Ole nyt vaiti. Min olen tehnyt sen ennenkin.
Lea: Onko Aulis tiennyt?
Eero: Mitenk ei olisi tiennyt? On hn maksanutkin. Mit hnelle merkitsee jokin viisi tai kymmenen
tuhatta?
Lea: Eero, min kielln sinua.
Eero: Ja min kielln sinua sotkeutumasta asioihini.
(Eero riuhtaisee Leaa ksivarsista niin, ett Lea lennht nukkekaappia vasten. Syntyy ni kuin vaijeri
kiristyisi liikaa. Eero riuhtaisee Lean pystyyn, vnt hnt ksist ja kuristaa sitten kurkusta.
Nukkekaappiin on syttynyt valo, se huojuu edestakaisin. Ehk sit nyt voisi kohdata paikallinen
sadekuuro.)
Lea: l kurista, tule jrkiisi. (Eero hellitt ja tuijottaa Leaa niin kuin unesta hernnyt, katsoo kuin
miettisi.) Ei niin, Eero, ei en. Ei tll tavoin. Itsesi thden. Tm on vaarallista.
Eero: Tiedn sen.
Lea: Sinulta irtosi takista nappi. Min ompelen sen kiinni.
Eero: Kaikki sin net. (Riisuu takkinsa.)

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Lea: Tm ei ky pins. Anna pois se vekseli.


Eero: En anna.
Lea: Min soitan Aulikselle. Ly minua, mutta l harjoita vrennyst.
Eero: Kuule, l puhuttele minua tuossa nilajissa, se on vaarallista. Min varoitan sinua, pysy minun
asioistani erillsi.
Lea: Ymmrrn. Mutta on asioita, joissa minun mahdolliset etuni eivt saa olla esteen. Tss on kysymys
sinusta ja asioista, jotka ovat meidn ylpuolellamme.
Eero: Helvetti. (Ottaa vekselin ja repii sen.) Tuossa on. (7071 )
(Lea takes the children into her arms, spins around with them, arranges them in the doll closet. A light
has appeared at Eero's desk. Eero is back. Eero is bent over the light, writing something. Lea goes to
Eero.)
Lea: What were you just writing, show me.
Eero: None of your business.
Lea: (recognizes the promissory note) Do we have to borrow money?
Eero: As if we hadn't before.
Lea: What were you writing under the light? Whose name was that?
Eero: Shut up or I'll hit you.
Lea: Hit me then. I want to know.
Eero: Why shouldn't I tell you? It's Aulis's name. I have his permission.
Lea: I don't believe it, you mustn't. You're forging his name.
Eero: Stop it. I've done it before.
Lea: Does Aulis know?
Eero: How could he not know? He's paid, too. What does five or ten thousand mean to him?
Lea: Eero, I won't let you do it.
Eero: I won't let you interfere in my business.
(Eero yanks on Lea's arm so that she goes careening into the doll closet. There is a noise like a cable
being pulled too taut. Eero pulls her to her feet, twists her arms and then chokes her. A light has come on
in the doll closet, it sways back and forth. Maybe a local rain shower could hit it now.)
Lea: Don't strangle me, come to your senses. (Eero loosens his grip and stares at Lea as if waking from
sleep, looks at her thoughtfully.) That's right, Eero, no more. Not like this. For your own sake. This is
dangerous.
Eero: I know it.
Lea: A button came off your coat. I'll sew it back on.
Eero: You notice everything. (Takes off his coat.)
Lea: This won't do. Give the promissory note away.
Eero: I won't.

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Lea: I'll call Aulis. Hit me, but don't forge other people's signatures.
Eero: Listen, don't take that tone with me, it's dangerous. I'm warning you, stay out of my affairs.
Lea: I understand. But there are things that shouldn't be affected by what's in my best interest. This is
about you and matters that are above us both.
Eero: Oh hell. (Takes the note and tears it up.) There.
Like many battered spouses, Lea knows that her abuser is most tractable after he has battered her, and so
encourages him to get right to itnot only to get it over with, but to skip straight to the phase in which he is most
susceptible to her control. By voicing faithfully not her own needs and desires but his, his best interests, she
finds a surreptitious channel for the 'satisfying of those very needs and desires that she seems to deny. In fact, by
urging him first to abuse her, she sets the stage for his postabuse obedience, because to abuse a victim who
encourages abuse is to obey her. Obey me in what you want and you will find it harder to disobey me in what I
want. An abuse codependent's dependency or addiction is not, in other words, to abuse, but to the minimal
control that submission to abuse yields. Everyone needs to feel at least partially in control of her or his life; total
control-deprivation leads rapidly to madness. And so an abuse victim survives the abuse both physically and
emotionally by developing surreptitious channels of control that are not always very effective and involve
enormous amounts of humiliation and pain and suffering, but that do nevertheless make it possible (and even,
ultimately, perversely attractive, even necessary) to stay with the abuser.
The obvious allegorical corollary to this is that the translator, too, has traditionally been relegated to positions of
minimal control, idealized not as a fully competent and creative human being capable of making intelligent and
independent choices but as a transfer-machine, a dead thing, an object, an instrument (like a window). In a
striking parallel Eero uses Lea to edit his articles but (especially in the novel) grows angry with her and stops
asking for her help when she begins to show signs of being good at the work, when she begins suggesting ways
of improving his writing. Because many humans, especially as Western thought comes increasingly to
emphasize the uniqueness of each individual (soul), experience this instrumentalization as abusive, as an assault
on their full humanity, translators who have consented to the "abuse" of being a source-language author's
"faithful interpreter" have typically managed to find ways of converting fidelity into a manipulative
codependency, a subtle channel of control disguised as neutral instrumentality:

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He couldn't possibly mean this; I'll correct his error silently and go on . . .
Surely he meant this part to be consistent with the rest of the piece, and would want me to fix it up for
him . . .
He always says that I understand him better than he understands himself anyway . . .
Note, though, what I've done: I've switched the allegorical identifications between Eero and Lea, associating the
translator with the faithful wife and the source text/author with the abusive husband. This brings to mind Lori
Chamberlain's remarks on the ideological engenderment of Western thought about translation, in which the
translation is only imaged as a woman if it is beautiful but faithless and the translator is imaged as a woman only
if subservient. In the abusive interpersonal dynamic between the batterer and the codependent victim, the former
is normatively male and the latter female; in the abusive intertextual dynamic between the author and the
translator, the latter is normatively male only when abusive ("strong" and "forceful," in Lewis's terms) and
normatively female only when submissively faithful ("weak" and "servile'').
The interchangeability implicit in the codependency suggests also, of course, that each harbors a bit of the other:
the abusive translator a terror of his own neediness and vulnerability, against which he defends with abuse; the
submissively faithful translator a need to retain some control in a dehumanizing situation, which she finds
through "correcting" the author's inconsistencies. Each develops strategies for not becoming the other: the
abusive translator projects his repressed vulnerability onto the source text and resolves to rise above it through
sovereign strength and force (my translation will be so explosively brilliant that nobody will even understand it,
let alone be able to condemn it as a failure); the submissively faithful translator projects her repressed need for
stability and consistency and control onto the source text and resolves to find it there even when it is lacking (in
my translation the author will become better than he ever was in the original, become in fact more fully himself,
less undermined by passing lapses and human failures).
The conclusion toward which these observations inexorably lead, of course, is that all translation is abusiveor at
least caught up in a web of abuse. Actual physical or emotional abuse in the world of relationships, the sort of
"strong, forceful" translation that Lewis theorizes as abusive in his article, is in this sense only one expression of
abusiveness, one way in which the violence inherent in the system is channeled. "Weak, servile" translation,
fidelity as it has been idealized by sixteen hundred years of hegemonic translation theory, is conditioned by
abusefor how else would it become weak and servile except by being conditioned to servility, and

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how else would it become slavish except by being enslaved?and reflects that abusive history in its repressive
attempts to avoid the appearance of perpetrating it, passing it on.
(c) Who is the victim of abusive translation? Cui malo? Who suffers? This question is almost invariably begged
by theorists of abusive translation, probably because it's a hard one to pin down. Does the source-language
author suffer? This is the usual answer, especially in warnings against mistranslation, bad translation, other
traditional abuses: the source-language author deserves the very best translation she or he can get, it would be
unfair to inflict your idiosyncratic interpretation on the author, who has no way of fighting back, and so on. But
it is hard to imagine scenarios in which the source-language author does actually suffer. Perhaps at a conference,
where the source-language author reads a target-language version of her or his paperand the translation is so
abusive that the author is humiliated? People jeer, laugh, or just sit there in stony silence: is the source-language
author then a victim of translation abuse?
What people usually mean when they say that the source-language author suffers from bad translations is that
his or her reputation sufferswhat Michel Foucault calls the author-function suffers, the "author" not as person
but as social construct. And sometimes a living author identifies so strongly with that author-function that any
blow to it is felt as a blow to the person. A student of mine in Finland once did a study of the American
translation of Vin Linna's Tuntematon sotilas ("The Unknown Soldier") and found that about a third of the
book had been omitted, paragraphs had been moved around, new characters had been invented, old characters
were made to say things that were not in the Finnish original, and so forth. After he wrote up his findings for
me, he sent Linna a copy of his paper, and Linna immediately initiated legal proceedings to sue the translator
and to block further publication of the translation. Surely in this case one might say that the source-language
author was a victim of translation abuse as well?
Then again, in what sense is it meaningful to say that Homer suffers from an abusive translation of the Iliad or
the Odyssey? How does Shakespeare suffer when his plays (translated intra- or interlingually) are modernized or
made to serve topical political interests? We like to say, walking out of a particularly abusive production, that
Shakespeare is rolling in his grave; is there any sense in which that is true?
It seems to me that the primary (perhaps only) sufferer in these cases is not the source-language author but some
target-language reader or viewer who feels compelled to identify with that authorsomeone, perhaps, Who has
read the work in the original and cherishes it so deeply as to find all translations of it abusive; someone who
takes the author to be

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a kind of spiritual forebear, a mentor, a model, an internalized simulacrum of the self, which feels diminished
whenever the author is demeaned. Matthew Arnold defending Homer against an abusive translation by Francis
Newman is perhaps actually defending not Homer (who is not only nearly three millennia in his grave but
possibly a legendary or genetic figure, no real person at all) but an idealized self-image, a ''plain but noble"
Matthew Arnold projected back into the mists of antiquity.
And the allegorical reading I've been setting up of Tottering House suggests that abusive translation is
definitively directed not at abusers but at surrogate victims, target-language readers rather than source-language
authorsthat abuse is most characteristically not avenged on its perpetrator but passed on to a new generation, a
group innocent of violence but conditioned to it, created as potential future abusers, by the abuse. This is most
clearly evident in Eero's battering of his son Poju (or Boy) : 37
Eero: Seisotko sin siin itisi vartioimassa? Sinustahan oikea naisten sankari tuleekin. Sin viettelet
vie1 tyttj. Muista silloin issi.
Poju: En muistele. Minusta ei tule sinun tapaistasi.
Lea: Poju!
(Eero ly Pojua. )
Poju: Ly viel, niin iti psee vhemmll. (Eero ly uudestaan.) Kiusaaja.
Lea: Jt.
Poju: Anna sen lyd. Ninhn is tekee, oikea is.
Eero: Ulos, ulos, pois heti.
Poju: Ihmispeto.
Lea: Eero, tule jrkiisi.
Poju: Anna hnen tapella, eihn hn muuta kunnolleen osaakaan.
Lea: Minun sydmeni revitte.
(Hakkaaminen jatkuu, Pojukin alkaa vastata, mutta hn hvi: hnen nenstn alkaa valua verta. Se
riitt Eerolle. Toisaalta nkyy, ettei Eero en kauan voi kyd turvallisesti Pojun kimppuun; ensi
kerralla hn hviisi.)
Eero: Sinun kasvattisi. En ikin anna anteeksi.
(Eero menee typytns luo, hvitt jonkin paperin.) (8283)
Eero: Are you standing there guarding your mother? What a ladies' hero you'll be. You'll be out seducing
girls soon. When you do, remember your father.
Boy: I won't. I'm not going to be like you.
Lea: Boy!

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(Eero hits Boy.)


Boy: Hit me again, make it easier on mother. (Eero hits him again.) Tormentor.
Lea: Leave it alone.
Boy: Let him hit me. That's what a father does, a real father.
Eero: Out, Out, get out this instant.
Boy: Monster.
Lea: Eero, get ahold of yourself.
Boy: Let him fight, he's no good at anything else.
Lea: You're tearing up my heart.
(The fighting continues, Boy starts giving as good as he gets, but he loses, his nose starts bleeding, and
that's enough for Eero. On the other hand it's clear that Eero won't be able to beat up on Boy safely much
longer; next time he will lose.)
Eero: You made him like this. I'll never forgive you.
(Eero goes to his desk, loses a paper.)
"I'm not going to be like you," Poju tells his father, but when the fighting startsdeliberately provoked by Pojuhe
fights back and almost wins. Poju is already like his father. In the very act of calling his father a "tormentor,"
Poju becomes himself a tormentor.
But how can we apply this to translation? Philip Lewis tacitly portrays abusive translation as a victimless crime:
the translator simply perpetrates abuse by deviating from normal usage. Or if there is a victim, it is an abstract
one: language, or a text. And maybe he's right. Maybe there is no human victim; maybe the reason he is so
casual with the term "abuse" is that no one suffers, no one is victimized. Maybe this whole abusanalysis of
translation I've been developing is predicated on a false analogy between translation abuse, which is abstract,
linguistic, philosophical, and therefore victimless, and physical and emotional abuse, whose physical and
emotional ravages we see all around us. Maybe, to put it bluntly, I'm blowing this all out of proportion.
Then again, what about the ethical imperative that runs like a scarlet thread all through the foreignist literature
from Schleiermacher to the present: that target-language readers are indolent, comfort-loving creatures who
must be forcefully dragged out of their narrow lives into the broader world of foreign cultures? Weak, servile
translations only reinforce the weakness and servility already systematically instilled in these readers by an
assimilative, ethnocentric culture that panders to their slothful, infantile needs; what they need is a rude wake-up
call from the

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outside, a healthy dose of foreignized translations, abusive translations that will slap them around a little. There
is almost a Spartan asceticism lurking behind these ethical imperatives, a military sense that target-language
readers' flabby cultural bodies need to be firmed up in a boot camp of the mind, where a foreignized sourcelanguage author as drill sergeant will tone up their muscles, discipline their wants and needs, organize their
lives.
And like Eero's conflicted feelings about his "mamma's boy" son Poju, there seems to be in these theorists a
sense that the mass of target-language readers are at once slackers who are beneath their contempt and potential
followers, imitators, finally peers. To put that differently, foreignists seem to want both to drive target-language
readers away and to bring them closerto use their abuse both as dismissals and as encouragements, both to block
and to inspire emulation. 38 A target-language reader who feels sufficiently insulted, even (though this is harder
to imagine) traumatized or destroyed, by an abusive translation (or translation theory) may discover that the only
ray of light in a dark world is the abuser, the source of contempt that is also, by extension, the source of new
possibilities, higher aims, nobler pursuits. The abuser abuses me not because he is a frightened little person who
can't deal with his fear, but because he knows my potential, knows what all I could be if only I would surrender
to his disciplinary regimen, and learn to become more like him. Maybe I too can learn to like difficult foreign
texts! Maybe I too can open myself up to the foreign, the different, the alien, the difficultand in so doing become
a better person, more perceptive, more sensitive to subtle nuances, more willing to enter into an unfamiliar
situation.
Lest it seem as though I am simply heaping abuse on abusists like Lewis and Venuti, however, let us not forget
the ways in which submissive codependency too, traditional fidelity, is grounded in abuse. Lea too, the play's
"faithful interpreter," abuses her son Poju in and by the very process of attempting to defend and protect him
against Eero's abuse. In this passage Eero has just beaten Poju with a crowbar and the boy has had a seizure:
Poju: iti.
Lea: No, lapsi, nuku nyt, iti istuu tss koko ajan, koko ajan, koko ajan. Ei mitn ht. (Jatkaa potilaan
hoivaamista. Poju kohottautuu istumaan.) No, Poju. Tytyy oppia vaikenemaan, elk niin? Ajatella voi,
mutta tytyy vaieta.
Poju: Niin, iti.
Lea: Tuleeko sinun kylm?
Poju: Ei.

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Lea: Ja katsos, Poju, me emme muistele tt pahalla, emmehn?


Poju: Niin.
Lea: Me opimme anteeksi antamaan.
Poju: Ei. Kun hnen ktens sattuu minun kteeni, niin minua puistattaa, ja min ajattelen krmett
sisiliskoa.
Lea: Olet paha.
Poju: Min taidan olla paha. Min halveksin hnt.
Lea: Etk osaa edes vaieta?
Poju: Ja valehdella? Te tahdotte, ett minun pit oppia valehtelemaan. En rupea.
Lea: Se ei ole valhetta.
Poju: On se.
Lea: Katsos, minun isni sanoi minulle, ett "mielenmalttia". Ymmrrthn sen, ett pikku siskot, Pia ja
Tytti tarvitsevat iti.
Poju: Tarvitsevat. Ja minkin tarvitsen.
Lea: Niin, Poju siis ymmrt. Sin olet pieni viel, eik sinun tarvitse nit kokonaan ymmrt. Mutta
sin teet palvelusta jo sill, ettet hykk mielesssikn.
Poju: Niin.
Lea; Ett sin pidtyt, et sotkeudu meidn isojen asioihin, sill se vahingoittaisi minua. Nyt is luulee, ett
min yllytn sinua, ja se on paha. Is tuntee, ett ymprill on vihollislauma, ja niinhn ei ole. Me
rakastamme hnt. Hn on meidn. Me odotamme, ett hn ymmrt sen. Tulee aika, jolloin me
kuulumme yhteen niin kuin oikea perhe.
Poju: Tuleeko varmasfi se aika?
Lea: Iso poikani, mit varten puhua niin paljon.
Poju: iti, minulle voit puhua. Kenellek sin sitten puhuisit. Ja min ymmrrn. Kaikki mit te isn
kanssa puhelette, min ymmrrn.
Lea: Mitp niiss on ymmrtmist.
Poju: Sin luulet, ett lapsi ei ymmrr. Sin olet varmaan unohtanut, mit itse lapsena ajattelit.
Lea: Kultaseni. (7273)
Boy: Mommy.
Lea: There, child, sleep now, mommy will stay right here, right here, right here. Everything will be all
right. (Keeps caring for her patient. Boy sits up.) There, Boy. You have to learn to hold your tongue, don't
you? You can think, but you must hold your tongue.
Boy: Yes, mommy.
Lea: Are you cold?
Boy: No.

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Lea: And remember, Boy, we won't bear a grudge over this, will we?
Boy: No.
Lea: We have to learn to forgive.
Boy: No. When his hand touches my hand, I shudder, and think of snakes and lizards.
Lea: You're evil.
Boy: I must be evil. I despise him.
Lea: Can't you even hold your tongue?
Boy: And lie? You want me to learn to lie. I won't.
Lea: It's not a lie.
Boy: Yes it is.
Lea: Listen, my father said to me, "patience." You do understand that your little sisters, Pious and Girl,
need their mother?
Boy: They do. And I do too.
Lea: Yes, you do understand. You're still small and don't need to understand everything yet. But you'd
help me a lot by not even thinking bad thoughts about him.
Boy: Yes.
Lea: By holding back, by staying out of grownups' affairs, that way you won't hurt me. Now daddy thinks
I put you up to it, and that's bad. Daddy feels surrounded by enemies, and that's not true, is it. We love
him. He is ours. We'll wait for him to realize that. There will come a time when we'll belong together like
a real family.
Boy: Do you promise?
Lea: My big boy, why talk so much?
Boy: Mommy, you can talk to me. Who else can you talk to? And I understand. Everything you and daddy
talk about, I understand.
Lea: what is there to understand.
Boy: You think a child can't understand. You've probably forgotten what you thought when you were little.
Lea: Sweetheart.
"You have to learn to hold your tongue, don't you?" Lea says at first. "You can think, but you must hold your
tongue." Even that is problematic enough, as Poju himself points outholding his tongue means lyingbut Lea soon
realizes that even this isn't enough: "But you'd help me a lot by not even thinking bad thoughts about him." The
important thing is to ''position yourself correctly'' ("asettua oikein" [43] ), as Lea promises Eero she will do early
in their marriage: this is the lesson Lea knows that she must learn, and it is the lesson she strives to teach her
son. And for Lea the correct position is one from which it is possible to idealize the abuser and his abuse, with
as much sincerity, or at least the feel of sincerity, or at

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the very least the appearance of sincerity, as one can muster. "We won't bear a grudge over this, will we?"
Weyou and I, the mother who has already learned to position herself correctly and the son who is still shy of that
goalwill not feel the anger that surges inside of us, for that anger is dangerous, literally life-threatening. It must
be squelched. "Daddy feels surrounded by enemies, and that's not true, is it. We love him. He is ours. We'll wait
for him to realize that." That's why he treats us like this: not because he is evil, nor because we are, but because
he hasn't learned to trust yet. He's sick, and must get betterand we must not only wait for him to get better but
help create a healthy atmosphere conducive to his cure, one in which he doesn't feel surrounded by enemies. The
double bind here is obvious: we didn't make him the way he is, but he stays the way he is because we aren't
more understanding, more loving, more tolerant of his actions, which is to say we did help make him the way he
is, and go on contributing to his sickness by not surrendering utterly to his abuse. We are at once the cause, the
target, and the only possible cure for his sickness. If we could only stop resisting him, stop looking accusingly
or fearfully at him, he would see that we love him and stop abusing us.
And barring that, of course, we will at least have learned not to feel abused. What Lea thus teaches Poju to do,
of courseor tries to teach him to do, without much successis to idealize abuse as no abuse at all. If you position
yourself correctly, if you learn not to react to abuse with anger, you can learn to see abuse as love, as welldeserved discipline, as anything but the violent assault on your humanity that it is. In the same way translators
too have been taught to idealize their subservient instrumentality with respect to the source-language author as a
nonabusive situation, to enable the abuse by respecting or glorifying itand what they teach their children, targetlanguage readers, is the same codependent respect for source-language classics. In this sense a traditional
faithful (sense-for-sense, domesticating, nonabusive) translation is the translator's enabling pipeline through to
target-language readers, the channel of her or his codependency: It is the pedagogical channel through which she
or he teaches them to idealize their abusers, not only the classics but the target-language cultural authorities
(especially teachers) who promote them. 39
Beyond Abuse
But are things really as bad as I've been suggesting? The portrait I've painted here is pretty bleak: Philip Lewis
takes a passing remark of Derrida's and turns it into a useful heuristic for the translation of difficult texts; I blow
that up into an indictment not only of all translation but of all social interaction, all of it steeped in the dynamics
of abuse. Every

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translator has been conditioned to abuse by an abusive society and, depending upon the specific convergence of
abusive forces in the past and present not only of the translator but of the source-language author and targetlanguage culture as well, expresses that conditioning through either abusive (in)fidelity or submissive fidelity; in
either case abusiveness is passed on to another generation of readers. Is this a realistic, or even in any way
useful, picture of translation in society today?
It is and it isn't. I suggest that the abusiveness I've been exploring is not so much endemic to translation, an
intrinsic property of translation proper, as it is what Wilhelm Reich would have called a group fantasy, a mass
psychosis, programmed into all or most of us by a society that does idealize abuse, in the sense both of
glorifying and of naturalizing and repressing it. If this is true, the dynastic web of abusive translation or
translation-as-abuse is only real insofar as we all go on believing in it; but as Reich insists, that makes it very
real indeed, because we do so patently believe in it and act it out in our daily personal and professional lives.
There is an intensity to discussions of translation, a needy and anxious edge, that speaks worlds about the
impulses that lie repressed just under the surface. Just what those impulses are, of course, it is difficult to sayand
my attempts to flesh them out have been largely speculative, and partly divergent in their speculative directions
as well. In The Translator's Turn I imaged those impulses as theological, as driven by medieval Christian
doctrine; in Translation and Taboo I traced them back to ancient taboos on touching sacred texts; here I have
been identifying them with a dynastic web of abusive double binds. All of these models seem to work,
tentatively, as explanations for specific areas of the theory and practice of translation; all of them have forced
me to bring to consciousness specific practices that need explanation. But all of them remain heuristicsnot
objective representations of the truth.
The question that exercises me most, howeverand that seems hardest to answeris whether there is any escape
from these impulses. I see only two escapes; but then maybe I just don't see far enoughfar enough past dualistic
solutions. Either this whole dynastic web of abuse is an illusion, a mere allegorical construct that I didn't exactly
invent but have here blown all out of proportion, through my allegorization of Tottering House, and it will
vanish like smoke once we stop thinking translation through the play; or, if it is real, expanding groups of
authors, translators, and readers will (have to) begin to liberate themselves and the social contexts and acts of
translation from that web of abuse.
That first alternative could probably be fairly characterized as the liberal solution: don't think about it and it will
go away. It is in fact a solution

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that I find myself powerfully drawn to. Who is hurt when I translate? It seems almost absurd to speak of
translation as abuse, especially widespread and all-pervasive abuse, abuse that damages everyone it touches. I
play around with a poem, like the Haavikko I discussed in chapter l0, shift "fall silent" to "fall asleep"and now
all of a sudden I'm an abuser? Hah!
This is almost certainly the mind-set against which Lewis and his foreignist followers are reacting in their
insistence on discussing translation in terms of abuse: mainstream thinkers about translation may cling to their
euphemisms, may be addicted to their idealizations of a fundamentally violent process in the repressive terms of
equivalence, fidelity, and so on, but we call a spade a spade. If this is in fact so, of course, my insistence on
expanding their discussion of abuse through the Finnish play will have made these thinkers a little uneasy,
because my argument is patently an attempt to extend the scope of their attack on euphemism so as to apply to
their own discussions: they talk about abuse, but they are determined to portray abuse as a linguistic event that
either has no victims or else victimizes abstract things like texts and languages for which we need feel (or need
we?) no sympathy. The abusists will have heartily welcomed my suggestion that domestication or translational
fidelity is just as grounded in abuse, in a codependent defense against abuse, as is foreignism or infidelity; they
will have been much less happy with my insistence that the abusive fidelity that they celebrate is analogous to,
indeed is part of the culture of, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. And it may be necessary for them to
"draw the line somewhere," to protest that it is possible to advocate translational abuse without becoming
complicitous in a larger abusive culturewithout, for example, condoning (let alone celebrating) wife-battering or
child abuse. But it is hard to imagine a convincing argument for this line that does not merely fall back into the
prevailing euphemism. "Translation is nonabusive abuse. Translation is violence without violence." Uh-huh,
sure.
If we are going to talk about abusive translation at all, it seems to me, we are going to have to consider the full
implications of the subject. We are going to have to admit that translation too is steeped in a culture of violence,
that translation perpetuates and in some cases even glorifies that violence. It will do no good to protest that you
didn't mean abuse that way. The mere mention of abuse (or conquest, or invasion, or captivity, an uneasy trope
for translation since Jerome) lets the cat out of the bag. We can repress the violence perpetrated by translation,
we can idealize it as fidelity, until someone cries out, "But the emperor's wearing no clothes!" Then the
repressions come crashing down. Then the violence becomes apparent, and it becomes (almost) impossible to
return to the lost state

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of repression. Then it requires a determined self-delusion to go back to believing in the purity or innocence of
translation, the purity not only of the translator but of the source-language author and the target-language reader
as well.
Which leaves us with the possibility of liberation: individual and collective liberation from the culture of abuse,
the healing of abusive dynasties in our individual bodies and in the body politic as well. This utopian alternative
seems impossible, even unimaginable; but as Fredric Jameson argues at the end of The Political Unconscious,
without a utopian or positive hermeneutic to guide our moral approach to the unpleasantness we find (and
analyze) all around us, negative hermeneutics (like this chapter so far) conduce to fatalism, quietism, despair.
And while that may be all right with some people, I'm enough of a utopian thinker to want to fix the problem
rather than just understanding itven though I have no illusions about the realism of that desire, about my ability
even to imagine, let alone successfully engineer, mass liberation from the culture of translation-as-abuse.
Still, one tries. And I think that one possible avenue of exploration might be through the concept of the three
seals that I developed in The Translator's Turn (3435), a concept that may enable us to map the argument so far
in such a way as to point forward toward a still amorphous liberatory future.
In the first seal, there is no abuse; or if there is, it's not translation, has nothing to do with translation, is
something else altogether. Maybe some people abuse texts, authors, readers, "translate" abusively, add things or
subtract things or put some vicious personal slant on the text, but no decent, ethical translator would ever do
such a thing, so there is no reason for serious translators or translation theorists to give such practices another
thoughtnot even to deny it (which is not denial) (or repression).
Philip Lewis broke through that seal by making a persuasive case for the importance of abuse within translation;
but he remained blocked by the second seal, which says that if you translate abusively, it's just you,just your
idiosomatic reaction to a difficult text that implicitly or explicitly presents itself as abusive. Maybe it's a personal
challenge for you, rising above the sea of mediocrity around you that keeps most translators enslaved to ordinary
usage, flexing your muscles, identifying and operating on those "specific nubs in the original . . . that stand out
as clusters of textual energy" (4243), and thereby finding your own individual path to strength and force in your
work.
Unconsciously, however, Lewis's rhetoric points him past the second seal to the third, according to which all
such responses to texts are

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ideosomatic, collectively regulated acts that are only superficially subject to individual choice. Where, after all,
does Lewis's association of abuse with strength and force come from, except from a hegemonic ideology that
idealizes and naturalizes violence and domination? In my deconstruction of Lewis's rhetoric, in my
allegorization of "Tottering House," I have essentially been mapping out the ideological or ideosomatic space
blocked by the third seal, the area in which we are all controlled by our social environments, all programmed to
be, and not to see that we are, and least of all to see that we have been programmed to be, the sick, repressed,
self-regulated monsters that social hegemony needs us to be.
The question that lies before us, then, is: what lies beyond the third seal? From our position within the culture of
abuse, this is almost unimaginable, like a person blind from birth trying to imagine what the world looks like.
Chances are, however, liberation would proceed through the phases undergone by abuse survivors who work
through their traumas to emotional health:
1. Discovery of the abuse, often through the surfacing of repressed memories;
2. rage at the abuser and his or her enablers (the mother who refused to see what was going on, for example);
3. various forms of symbolic revenge (imagined or dramatized murders, beatings, humiliations, imagined or real
lawsuits aimed at bringing the abuser to that symbolic retribution called "justice") directed at the abuser(s) rather
than at a succession of surrogate victims;
4. various kinds of therapeutic body-work provoked and guided by this rage and these symbolic enactments;
5. the discovery that your own fearful vulnerable child self is lovable precisely because it is so pathetic, so hurt,
that the abuser's hatred of that child self doesn't need to be translated and eternally retranslated into self-hatred;
6. the shocking discovery that the abuser himself or herself was (and if not dead, still is) fearful and vulnerable
as well, that you are joined to your abuser by a commonality of fear and pain;
7. the ability to forgive the abuser, even to love the scared little child inside him or her;
8. and finally, the breaking down of the protective walls that keep you isolated from a hostile world, an opening
up to trust and love for other people, a willingness to enter into relationships without fear or mistrust or the
withholding of self, because you know that you can no longer be destroyed emotionally as you were as a child.

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How these phases "translate" into translation, I'm not sure. By analogy with the therapeutic process outlined
above it's fairly easy to guess at the transformation that individual translators might undergo in their approach to
a text, much harder to envision the larger social transformation that is needed to break the dynasties of abuse that
will go on conditioning source-language authors to write abusively and target-language readers to read abusively
long after individual translators have escaped the abusive web. The individual process might go something like
this:
1. the discovery of abuse, by reading theories of abusive translation like Lewis's or this one, by reading
intelligent and honest accounts of that process of self-discovery like Jill Levine's Subversive Scribe or through
the sudden self-realization that seems to explode out of nowhere when trapped in a bad situation and desiring an
out;
2. the exploration of that abuse, and of your own complicity in it, again through readingin feminist and
postcolonial studies of translation, for example, like those by Lori Chamberlain, Miriam Daz-Diocaretz, Eric
Cheyfitz, and Tejaswini Niranjanaor through an attentive engagement with the full disheartening complexity of
your own practice (and the attitudes that underlie it) as a translator;
3. working through the conflicted emotions that vie for ascendancy in this process: the desire to get back at your
abusers (for example, through abusive translations, which may in fact be useful steps along the way); the desire
to be fair and not publicly denounce your abusers (which may relegate revenge to various forms of symbolic
actions, for example, bad or vengeful or abusive translations that are not published, not sent out, etc.); and the
increasing ability and willingness to forgive and even love your abusers, even if you go on hating the abuse; and
finally,
4. the ability to pick and choose among translation jobs, and translation methods, only taking on those jobs that
enable you to translate with love and trust, even if (and this is the interesting possibility that needs considerably
more exploration) your love and trust for the source-language text requires that you expose its abusiveness and
thus disabuse and empower target-language readers. 40
This is the thing: it may be possible (and this is sheer speculation, offered in the hope that someone can pick up
the argument where I'm leaving off) that there are forms of what Lewis calls "abusive" translation that are
actually "disabusive," translations that reveal abusive strategies in texts without wholesale dogmatic
condemnations or dismissals, and thus engage target-language readers too in the process of working through

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their abusive conditioning through their reading of an abusive text. This might be envisioned as a kind of
homeopathic abuse, the translator's willingness to give readers the source-language text's abuse in controlled
doses, with full awareness of what is being done, in order that they might learn to recognize and combat abuse in
their own and other people's interpretive and expressive activities.
But again, I'm not sure about this. The temptation is great to say "abuse is abuse, period," and condemn this
homeopathic approach too as just more of the same. And maybe it is. As I say, I have no full-fledged utopian
alternatives to the abusive regime I've been exploring, only some tentative and speculative suggestions for
further workwork, possibly, by you. In fact this chapter might even be described as itself a form of homeopathic
abuse, abusing the notion of abusive translation not in order to condemn or dismiss Lewis and Venuti, even less
to condemn or dismiss translation tout court, but to instill in my readersyoua desire to go on working to make
things better. If there is ever to be even a small-scale liberation from the culture of abuse, it will not, cannot,
come from a single person; it has to come from ever-expanding groups, working together to improve our shared
conditions for living.

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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CONCLUSION
NEURAL NETWORKS, SYNCHRONICITY, AND FREEDOM
Machine Translation
In my preface I promised, or warned, that the sample of the new centrifugal approaches to translation presented
here would be my own, quixotic and idiosyncratic, situated in my intellectual world. And however you feel
about the book, whether you decide that my warning was right or wrong, chances are you will base your
decision not on my inclusions but on my exclusions: it would be hard to argue that the work I included was in
any way peripheral to translation studies in the 1980s and 1990s, but depending on what you think I left out you
may well insist that the center or core of the new work that I showcased is only one spur or vein of that core.
I say this because I recently returned home from Mexico, where among other things I spoke at a conference in
Tlaxcala on technical translation, and it occurs to me that technical translation is not at all represented in the
new trends I have explored here. I missed a discussion of technical translation in Venuti; I used an example from
my own technical translation in my treatment of Pym; but according to the portrait I have painted here, no one is
doing exciting new work on technical translation. Is that true? Almost certainly not. A lot of the papers I heard
at the conference in Tlaxcala were more of the same old thing, technical translation is object-oriented, technical
translation requires efficient terminology management, and so on; but one scholar advanced the quite striking
Kantian thesis that the object world with which technical translation so obviously deals is an imaginative
construct that the translator must learn to project intuitively and with personal and variable intensity. What other
exciting new trends are being explored in the study of technical translation today?

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Another trend that I have not yet mentioned is the study and development of machine translation (MT)a project
that is, of course, not particularly new (in fact I'm going to argue that it goes back sixteen hundred years, to the
early dogmatic consolidations of the Christian church), but that continues to attract some of the finest minds in
the artificial intelligence (AI) community today. I read recently in Multilingual Computing about a new highpowered MT system, developed by Carnegie Mellon University for Caterpillar, that claims to be able to bypass
the need for preand postediting through an interactive process that guides source-language authors to the
creation of a "constrained" or disambiguated source-language text that can be translated unproblematically by
the program. I must admit that I was not particularly impressed: the construction of a constrained source
language still sounds suspiciously like preediting to me, and the only reason postediting is not required is that
the target-language texts are technical documents that don't need to be paragons of stylistic felicity. Even so, the
creators of the system obviously felt a certain euphoria about the bold innovation of their approach, leading to
quite telling remarks about the quaint old days when there were still humans called "translators" who used to
translate texts the old-fashioned way, slowly and unreliably and at great cost, both to their employers and, in the
form of job-related stress and burnout, to themselves as well.
This fantasy of the "pastness" of human translation is, of course, pure science fictiona surprising genre to find in
a magazine like Multilingual Computing. The dream of "strong" MT, MT in the purest sense of a fully
computerized process with unedited, idiomatic source-language input and unedited, idiomatic target-language
output, continues to fuel the imaginations of MT researchers, even (perhaps especially) when they are most
resigned to the impossibility of their goal. But in practice, translating machines remain examples of ''weak" MT,
of computer-aided translation (CAT), with humans performing key editing functions: preediting and postediting
or, as in the Caterpillar system, writing the source-language text in a special ''constrained" form that the
computer can read reliably and without residue.
MT has occasioned heated debates among its various proponents and opponents, most of those debates revolving
around the dual issues of the feasibility and the morality of MT: will machines ever be able to translate as well
as humans, and if so, should we let them? In The Translator's Turn I took up a fairly pugilistic stance against
MT, doubting its feasibility and rather uneasily ridiculing its ostensible pretense of replacing human translators;
in Translation and Taboo I called MT the perfect actualization of the catatonic translator, burnout perfected and
transcendentalized so that it's possible to go on translating; in chapter

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10 of this book I passed over MT in silence, but hinted strongly that "prosthetic" translations only work through
the human body, through the proprioceptive system of a flesh-and-blood human being. So my loyalties in this
debate should be fairly clear.
Rather than hammering the same issues again here, however, I want to conclude this book by taking a somewhat
different tack: first suggesting that MT might in fact be possible, if researchers could shift paradigms from the
dominant Western one they have been following and embrace a new (in fact, rather old but neglected and now
resurgent) technology; then showing how this new technology, neural networks, only raises the old moral issues
in novel form. I want to argue on the one hand, in fact, that MT research has been grounded in a narrowly
prescriptive ideological tradition that has in effect guaranteed its failure, and on the other that breaking out of
that tradition poses certain disturbing problems for the entire project of mechanizing translation.
Specifically, it seems clear that the computational linguists who have participated in the quest for a reliable
machine translator over the last three or four decades have uncritically based their methodological paradigms on
a single Western intellectual tradition: the one running from Plato and Aristotle through Augustine and Aquinas
to the great system builders of the Renaissance and beyond, based on the rational and hierarchical application of
stable rules to universalized symbols. They did not intentionally choose this tradition; if anything it chose them,
because its hegemonic status in the West made it almost prohibitively difficult to make any other choice.
Successful MT would, in fact, be the ultimate goal of the monastic tradition in translation theory, beginning with
Jerome and Augustine in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D. The digital computer is the perfect monk,
the perfect cenobitic ascetic, absolutely conformed to both the will and the mind structures of the monastic
institution that programmed itunable either to resist hierarchical commands or to function outside the realm of
hierarchized symbolic logic, hence incapable of learning, creativity, deviation, or intuition.
Approached uncritically, ahistorically, this cenobitic ideal seems either patently and irreproachably obvious or
else insidious, even evil; from the same unthinking ahistorical perspective the only alternative to it is a complete
rejection of all machine interference in the translation process. Martin Heidegger, for example, in Der Satz vom
Grund ([1957] 1991) gives us a choice between MT and radical literalism; anything in between is bad faith (and
ultimately both of those are bad faith as well). The AI people, for their part, go on assuming that MT is only
possible if a digital computer can be programmed to make correct translation choices, based on a minutely
detailed lexicon and phrase-structure rules.

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But suppose an MT researcher were to shift paradigms. Rather than basing his or her work uncritically and
unconsciously on Augustine and the medieval monastic ideal and simply paring away creativity, until only the
purified text remains, suppose he or she were to discover the importance of learning, of translating for the
expansion of one's own creative expressive repertoire, and thus of one's flexibility of response to novel
circumstances. Then it might become easier to shift out of the excessive reliance on the digital computer, with
its hierarchical binaries and its symbolic logic, and explore the possibilities of neural networksthe new thinking
machines that actually learn.
What I want to do in the rest of this conclusion is to flesh out a significant alternative to the currently dominant
paradigm in MT research, first by uncovering a pre-Christian tradition in the history of translation theory that
has been largely (and strategically) forgotten, then by uncovering this emergent AI technology, neural networks,
that was developed concurrently with digital computers and likewise largely (and strategically) forgottenand for
much the same reasons. Cicero's approach to translation and the neural networks that seem to follow it can help
us step outside the current debilitating dualisms, the paralyzing choices we are offered between a Faustian
determination to achieve the impossible (and a concomitant resignation to failure) and a blind revulsion against
all such misguided projectsbut they will also bring us back to the moral dilemmas in a new and uncomfortable
way.
Cicero and the Education of the Orator
Translation in the West has traditionally, hegemonically, thus (almost) exclusively been defined as a process of
communication: the transmission of meanings from one language to another. This is a rationalist bias, owing
much to Plato and Aristotle and generally Hellenic philosophy, but taking its greatest impetus in the West from
the Christian Platonism of Jerome and Augustine. The Christian tradition theorized translation as a channel of
conversion: Jesus' command to make disciples of all the nations could only be carried out through translation,
and in order for the Latin-speaking or other target-language reader to be converted to the one true faith, the
personal creativity of the translator had to be subordinated to, or subsumed in, the Logos, God's unitary Word.
The ethos of Christian translation might be summed up, in fact, by paraphrasing John the Baptist's famous
pronouncement in John 3:30"He must increase, but I must decrease"as "In order that Jesus and his church might
increase, the Bible translator must decrease."

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The practice of translation for the translator's "increase"learning, growth, expansion of technical and expressive
repertoiresis originally a pre-Christian approach, first developed by Cicero for the education of the orator in the
first century before the common era; and it is specifically Cicero's legacy that I want to explore briefly here,
before returning to the question of strong MT. Cicero's method was rediscovered in the late Middle Ages and
Renaissance and given widespread pedagogical application, but increasingly under the hegemonic influence of
the monastic ideal of submission to the authority of a superior model, as Jerome had explicitly reformulated
Cicero's approach for translators in his A.D. 395 letter to Pammachius. And eventually, unsurprisingly, it
degenerated into the grammar-translation approach to foreign-language learning, a method now largely
discredited and displaced by more scientific methods, like memorizing abstract syntactic structures and
vocabulary and expecting students to combine them to form grammatically acceptable utterances. More "natural"
methods that stress creative learning over the rote memorization of decontextualized syntactic and semantic
structuresmethods like Accelerated Learning, Total Physical Response, Community Language Learning, and The
Silent Way 41are patently closer in spirit to the premonastic model developed by Cicero than they are to
Christian ascesis, and hence continue to play a rather marginal role in both foreign-language learning and the
training of translators.
Translation is first theorized by Cicero in passing in De oratore ("On the Orator," 55 B.C.) and De optimo
genere oratorum ("On the Best Kind of Orator," 52 B.C.); in the former Cicero, or rather his dialogical persona
Lucius Crassus, finds that imitating Latin orators binds his verbal imagination, and so he tries his hand at
imitating Greek orators in Latin:
But later I noticed this defect in my method, that those words which best befitted each subject, and were
the most elegant and in fact the best, had been already seized upon by Ennius, if it was on his poetry that I
was practising, or by Gracchus, if I chanced to have set myself a speech of his. Thus I saw that to employ
the same expressions profited me nothing, while to employ others was a positive hindrance, in that I was
forming the habit of using the less appropriate. Afterwards I resolved,and this practice I followed when
somewhat older,to translate freely [explicarem] Greek speeches of the most eminent orators. The result of
reading these was that, in rendering [redderem] into Latin what I had read in Greek, I not only found
myself using the best wordsand yet quite familiar onesbut also coining by analogy [exprimerem imitando]
certain words such as would be new to our people, provided only they were appropriate. (1.34.155)

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This encapsulates precisely the premonastic translational practice that, beginning in the fourth century A.D.,
must be avoided, renounced, ultimately repressed: following whatever translation practice seems appropriate in
specific circumstances, whatever practice each individual "resolves" to follow; translating "freely" and
''analogically"; coining new target-language words. For the Christian tradition whose ideological heirs we are,
for MT researchers in particular, this is not translation. To translate freely, with contextual flexibility and
personal expressive creativity, with the aim of learning and growing into ever newer approaches and mind-sets,
is not to translate at all. To encourage such flexibility and creativity in the translator, without rigorously bringing
him or her within the confines of a dogmatic system or an ascetic discipline, is therefore not to theorize
translation.
It is instructive to note, in fact, that in the On the Orator passage Cicero not only does not refer to his crosslinguistic exercises with the Latin verb from which we derive "translation," transferre ("translation" comes from
the participle form translatum, meaning "transferred"), but also doesn't use his own primary word for translating
either, convertere. The three words he does use in this passage, explicare, reddere, and exprimere imitando, are
all strikingly centrifugal to translationcertainly to translation as it is theorized in the Christian Middle Ages.
Although reddere and exprimere, for example, were used in Cicero's day to mean to translate, to "render" or
''express" the target-language text in the source language, in both the translational sense was peripheral,
marginal, overshadowed by strong literal and other figurative senses. Translation as an activity lacks definition
for Cicero, remains (from our Christian point of view) vague or underdetermined, because it is not yet
ideologically invested, not yet idealized as the transcendental channel of scriptural dissemination. Very little
rides on a precise conception of what is involved in the act of translation; as a result Cicero feels very little need
to assign that act a specific well-defined term, a term that will exclude all "extraneous" connotations. In some
sense, in fact, for Cicero no connotations are extraneous: every direction in which a word for translation takes us
is potentially useful.
There is, for example, an implicit protocapitalist economy in the verb reddere, "to render," which fits Cicero's
more famous remarks from three years later in "On the Best Kind of Orator," to the effect that in translating
from Aeschines and Demosthenes he was in a sense borrowing money from the Greek and repaying it in the
Latin, but not in the exact same coins. More interesting from the point of view of MT and the monastic tradition,
however, are the two ex-verbs, explicare and exprimere, unfolding and pressing out, which give his approach a
decided outward impe-

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tus that will be severely circumscribed by the medieval church. Cicero, in other words, is not only tolerant of a
wide spectrum of translatorial activity; he also insists that translation be directed out into the world, out into the
target culture, out into specific speech-use situations. In the terms I used in The Translator's Turn, where the
medieval church idealized the translator's introversion or turning inward, Cicero insists on the translator's
extroversion, or turning outward. As Kenneth Burke demonstrates in his reading of the Confessions, Augustine
employed "in-" words in order to point Christians in the right direction ([1959] 1969, 125), and theological
privatizations of the social throughout the Middle Ages followed Augustine "inward." 42 In this sense we might
conjecture that the Christian tradition, had it tended toward the use of -primere and -plicare verbs for
translation, would have preferred imprimere and implicate: "impressing'' upon translators the dogmatic
"implications" of the Bible, "implicating'' or folding translators into the "impress" or stamp of ecclesiastical
approval.
Exprimere literally means to squeeze outa powerful image for the translation process as Cicero describes it, akin
to giving birth. In After Babel George Steiner (1975) likens the assimilation of a translation by the target culture
to the intake of food, which may heal or kill, may be sacrament or poison (299); but obviously this image
requires that the translator first take the source-language text in and "squeeze" it out in target-language form,
regurgitate or excrete or deliver it for target-language consumption. It will make a great deal of difference for
the status of translators whether the target culture conceives the translator as a mother bird, pre-chewing worms
for her young, or as a human mother, delivering an infant into the worldor as a mammal at stool, pushing out
waste material.
Figuratively, especially in connection with imitando, exprimere means to mold or form one thing in imitation of
another. Cicero's phrase Sed etiam exprimerem quaedam verba imitando suggests the potter shaping clay into
the likeness of a face, creating something new in imitation of something that already exists; or, because the
likeness of which Cicero speaks is not of a face but of words (and since we derive our verb "express" from the
participle form of exprimere), it suggests the romantic poet giving verbal expression to the whispering of the
muse.43 Exprimere gives us the translator as mediator, but not as neutral transfer-machine; rather, as the artist
who mediates between two forms of being, two modes of understanding, natural and plastic, material and verbal,
matter and manner, source language and target language. The "expressivist" mediation of translation as
exprimere is specifically channeled through the translator's transformative relation to both forms of being, both
modes of understanding. The

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translator is only able to mediate between them because he or she plays an active, creative role in exchanging
one for the other.
Explicare is to explicate, of course, to expound, to interpret, but specifically in the conflicted sense of both
"ordering" and "setting free," both "making plain" and ''spreading out." Christian translation theory will want to
push this conflict toward ever greater order, toward an ideological plainness or clarity controlled by the
institution; and there is, certainly, a germ of this in Cicero as well, especially in his insistence that the words the
orator chooses be ''the best words," be "appropriate." Cicero drives most insistently, however, toward explication
as exfoliation, toward translation as a proliferation or "liberation" of new Latin meanings out of rigidified Greek
words.
This drive is evident in the self-learning sequence by which Cicero comes to translation: he first memorizes a
Latin poem or speech and attempts to paraphrase it in the same language, but discovers that this restricts him to
a choice between simply repeating the brilliant original words and casting about for other, less effective words,
and so decides to attempt the same feat across linguistic barriers, from Greek to Latin.
The contrast with the Christian tradition could not be clearer. For Cicero translation is useful in removing a
restrictionin liberating the budding orator's verbal imagination from the prison of the original text. If your
exfoliations or explications of the original text are too ordered, too slavishly subordinate to the phrasing of the
original, step back, put cultural and geographical distance between you and your model: this will help you
"explicate" the text in the root sense of unfolding it, spreading it out, expanding it. In its dogmatic management
of translation, the medieval church will strive to transport the slavish dependency on the original phrasing that
Cicero deplores from "intralingual" to "interlingual" translation: to replicate in translation the restriction on the
"orator's" or translator's verbal imagination that Cicero attempted to undo through translation.
Neural Networks
And now I return to the technological issue with which I began: the clash between digital computers, which can't
translate natural languages into natural languages without extensive pre- and postediting, and neural networks.
This latter is a technology that has been around since the fiftiesit was developed around the same time as digital
computersbut in the late sixties, for a variety of more or less unconvincing reasons, it was displaced in the march
of technological progress by computers. The death blow was dealt "perceptrons," as neural networks were called
in

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those days, by Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert in a book called Perceptrons: An Introduction to
Computational Geometry (1969); they showed that perceptrons were unable to perform simple rule-governed
tasks like determining whether there was an odd or even number of spots on a grid, and since digital computers
could do that kind of task in a fraction of a second, the scientific community quickly lost interest and turned to
the full-scale development of computers.
In an ideological and historical perspective, this choice is easy to explain: the rule-governed symbolic logic of
computers is hegemonic in the West, thus normal, thus inherently more attractive than a machine that learns,
approaches problems creatively neither from the top down nor from the bottom up but from the middle out, and
grasps solutions with the kind of fuzzy trial-and-error intuition of human beings. These processes, which Cicero
theorizes and exemplifies so persuasively for translators, are precisely what cenobitic Western culture has been
trying to weed out of humans; now we're going to create a machine that does the same retrograde things?
Tellingly, however, with all the triumphs of the digital cenobite, computer technology has also run into some
frustrating dead ends. Given the high premium placed in the West on hierarchical, binary, and rule-governed
thought, we have convinced ourselves that that is the higher thought and all other thought processesespecially
those having anything to do with emotionare inferior and finally irrelevant. And so we build machines that can
only think in that higher mode, and then wonder why they can't learn, think creatively, write poetry, or translate.
A digital computer will do exactly what it's programmed to do with unbelievable speed; but it is helpless in
novel circumstances. It is incapable of scoping out a situation and adjusting to it.
My word processor's spelling checker, for example, is really only a human-aided spelling checker; it needs my
help to work at all, because it can't tell a misspelled word from one that isn't in its lexicon. It doesn't know the
difference between a word and a proper name, and can't learn the difference no matter how often I tell it to skip
or add individual capitalized "words." It can make a few contextual checksit will flag double words, for
examplebut only the ones it has been programmed to make, and the kinds of contextual cues that would enable
it, say, to correct inadvertent misspellings and leave deliberate ones alone (say, when writing dialect or foreigner
or baby talk) are far too complicated ever to be programmed thoroughly enough to work. Thus the impossibility
of strong MT within the prevailing computational paradigm.
The problem at the heart of the AI movement is ultimately an ideological one: the ideal is to create a computer
that will think independently

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while yet remaining utterly submissive to institutional control. The perfect AI would be the perfect monk, the
perfect middle-level executive: able to think, to take initiative, to be creative, but always in the service of a
larger, institutionally defined goal (the church, the university, the firm). As soon as the monk or the
administrator or the executive or the AI becomes too creative, too independent, begins deviating from
institutional goals, he or she or it is relieved of responsibility, fired, discontinuedas perceptron research was in
the sixties. Anyone who trains employees or builds machines to learn, to intuit, to make creative decisions is
looked upon with suspicion, even loathing. Thus hogtied, AI researchers despair of ever reaching their ideal.
It should, on the other hand, be possible to build a neural-network MTa net of, say, five hundred or one
thousand neuronsthat, fed large quantities of existing translations, could use that material to teach itself to
translate. And it would probably learn to translate quite well"well" in the sense of quickly, flexibly, enjoyably,
and creatively. The only hitch is that it might not conform to idealized standards for "correct" translation. This is
the reason, I suspect, that neural networks have not yet been utilized in MT applications, and that will probably
keep them from being so utilized for many years to come: as soon as you allow for learning, as opposed to
programmingwhich latter is, unsurprisingly, the implicit definition of "learning" in most of our schoolsand for
creative flexibility and adaptability as opposed to rule-governed behavior, you surrender all absolute power to
enforce conformity to institutional goals. Neural networks not only make mistakes; they can become quite
stubborn about their mistakes. Like human beings, they can prefer their mistakes (or what some researcher
defines as a mistake) to the correct form.
In other words, we already have the technology to make MT a reality; but for deep-seated ideological reasons we
don't like the reality it would becomeit wouldn't be an obedient MT!and so we call for more indepth study of
linguistic systems, more detailed study of text-linguistic patterning (contextual cues, implied background
information, etc.), and more government funding in order to keep striving for the only MT reality that we could
tolerate; or else we write off the entire project as a lost cause.
This behavior would seem irrational and self-destructive if it weren't so characteristic of the effects of
ideologyof the way we behave when virtually our entire culture tells us that it is the only possible, indeed the
only thinkable, way to behave.
My speculations on neural-network MT rely heavily on William F. Allman's book The Apprentices of Wonder:
Inside the Neural Network Revolution (1989), a largely celebratory look at the exciting possibilities offered

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by neural nets. But many of Allman's larger perspectives on the techno-philosophical issues involved raise
important and rather disturbing questions for MT:
Perhaps the ability to generalize from experience, not logical ability, is what makes our brains so good at
understanding speech and recognizing faces. The ability to draw on previous experiences to respond to
new situations makes our brain, like a neural network, an insight machine, while the serial rule-andsymbol processing of a conventional computer makes it an ideal logic machine. "Connectionism not only
accounts for our weaknesses in doing logic problems and the like," says [Jay] McClelland, "but it also
accounts for our abilities to be much better at thinking than anything else isincluding machines."
Such irrationality may also provide the glue that holds societies together, such as our compassion for
people we don't know or may never see again and our unwillingness to do something because "it doesn't
seem right," even though it may be a strictly logical move for other reasons. Our irrationality may also
account for economists' problems in making forecasts; economists often assume that people will behave
logically when making financial decisions. Ultimately, our irrationality may account even for the fact that
we are able to fall in love, despite what reason might say about the fate of many such relationships.
In fact, our irrationality, along with its good and bad consequences, is the trait that distinguishes us from
every other creatureand machineon the planet. It, and not our ability to do logic, is what makes us human.
Our blundering, irrational brain creates our hatred and bigotry, envy and paranoia, pride and greed. But it
is also behind our ability to enjoy music, forge a sense of justice, believe in things we can't see, and
empathize with strangers. It's the source of hope, love, the movies of Charlie Chaplin, and our ability to
get out of bed in the morning with the knowledge of our mortality. (3738)
And, of course, it is behind our ability to translate. But if that's the case, wouldn't a truly effective MT also be
capable of "hatred and bigotry, envy and paranoia, pride and greed"? Wouldn't these "negative" emotions and
behaviors be necessary components of a successful MT? And mightn't a really good neural-network MT boot up
some morning feeling more like watching a Charlie Chaplin movie than translating a weather report or a
business letter?
Just how human do we want to make our machines? And if the answer is "not very," then why do we want to
replicate ourselves mechanically in the first place? Do we just want a cheap, reliable work forcea

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hardworking and non-unionized mechanical proletariatto do all the more routine and less creative jobs required
for the proper maintenance of capitalism? Science fiction writers from Karel Capek * to William Gibson have
explored the political, ethical, and philosophical implications of this desire far more thoroughly than any of the
researchers or funding organizations: how much life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are you going to
permit an AI? And what are you going to do if the AI subverts the checks on its access to those rights and
exceeds the idealized bounds of its mechanical existence? Does MT necessarily presage the apocalyptic future
of Terminator 2: Judgment Day?
Much of our instinctual resistance to the entire AI project stems from a deep-seated theological horror, an
ancient taboo against arrogating to ourselves the divine power to fashion new life. Much of our instinctual desire
to see AI work stems from the flip side of that horror, a deep-seated theological reverence for creation and a
worshipful wish to participate in it. Much of this theological baggage has been transformed over the centuries
into socioeconomic needs: management's desire to create and infinitely replicate the perfect untiring,
uncomplaining, unerring worker; the employee's desire to retain some sense of self-esteem, integrity, and lifeaffirming creativity in his or her work. The new neural nets, precisely because they show so much promise of
thinking like we do, must increasingly force us to ponder these difficult political and philosophical issues.
Synchronicity and Freedom
And, in fact, I wonder whether there isn't some cultural synchronicity involved here. Most of these radical new
approaches to translation, exploring both the social control of translation and the translator's irrepressible
creativity, are developed in the mid- to late eighties, published in the late eighties and early nineties. Just as MT
researchers begin to discover ways of reducing the process of translation to the kind of mechanical, rulegoverned procedure that can be performed rapidly and reliably by digital computers, postcolonial and other leftleaning translation theorists like Eric Cheyfitz and Tejaswini Niranjana and Larry Venuti begin to theorize
translation as empire, translation as power, translation as a hegemonic mastering of the translator's will so as to
conform to dominant ideological norms. The strong MT is not only the ideal monk; it is the ideal capitalist or
colonial subject, perfectly shaped to the institution's ends. In precisely the same time frame, say in 1987 and
1988, Jill Levine is writing her book about the translator's subversive silliness and creativity, I'm writing my
book about the translator's somatic swerves from a controlled source-language text in all kinds of new
directions, Anthony

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Pym is formulating his open-ended and potentially endless semiotic theory of translationand William F. Allman
is writing his book about neural networks, the computerlike machines that think and learn creatively. Could it be
that the first truly successful machine translators, built out of neural nets, will translate more like Jill Levine or
Tony Pym or Doug Robinson than like the "subtracted self" (Harpham 28) of an Augustinian cenobite?
Maybe not. The social control of translation so brilliantly outlined by the postcolonial theorists suggests that a
neural-net machine translator will never be built; or if it is, it will never be funded, celebrated, targeted for
mass-production, put to work alongside (or in place of) human translators all over the world. It would be
tremendously ironic if creative human translators were effectively replaced, not only in technical but also in
literary translation, by creative translating machinesat the very moment when translation theorists were most
powerfully investigating the creativity of human translation.
But that hardly seems likely. If there is a synchronicity of the sort I'm suggesting, in fact, the irony of it is
probably rather simple: human beings resist robotization. There is something in our makeup, in the human spirit
if you like, that demands freedom, imaginative alternatives, and the liberty to experiment with them in the real
world. And this seems to me the overriding concern in the new approaches to translation: the freedom to swerve
creatively and subversively from hegemonic norms, whether through foreignism as a channel of dissident
resistance to mainstream assimilation, or through postcolonial retranslation as a potential source of restructured
identity, or through propagandistic deformations of patriarchal forms in both the source language and the target
language as a vehicle of gender liberation. Traditional approaches to translation, while certainly multiple and
complex enough to defy easy generalization, all too often offered a straitjacket, a muzzle, an enforced
instrumentalization of translators to repressive social norms of semantic stability. The new centrifugal theories
are, at least in large part, translators fighting back, saying not only "look at how radically the experienced reality
of our work differs from the theoretical norms set up to confine it" but also "let's work together to change the
experienced reality of our work in liberating ways." It's about time.

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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NOTES
Preface
1. See the end of chapter 2 in Translation and Taboo, "O Kannada," and chapter 2 of Translation and Empire.
Chapter 1
2. It is ironic, in fact, that Rener's paean to the building-block theory of language should have as many missing
or overturned building blocks as it does (Rener 1989). Given the massive quantity of minutiae he is dealing
with, he (or his press) is clearly in need of a professional copy editor. In his bibliography, for example, he also
omits the first half of Louis Kelly's subtitle ("A History of Translation . . ."), the main title of Gaspard de
Tende's book (De la traduction, ou . . .), two whole articles (one by Draper, mentioned on p. 53, another by Glyn
[not Glynn] Norton, mentioned on p. 271), and the d in Pollard. In the text the Earl of Roscommon is spelled
now with one, now with two m's; Wolfram Wilss's name is Anglicized systematically as "Wills." Humphrey is
alphabetized between Huet and Horatius Flaccus. Throughout the text anthologized pieces are indicated with the
misleading parenthetical notation "qtd in," so that, for example, without checking the anthologies themselves
one cannot tell whether Rener has seen the whole text of Trevisa's "Dialogue Between a Lord and a Clerk Upon
Translation'' and Jerome's letter to Pammachius (to name only two of several dozen cases) or mere quotes from
them. (Pollard does give the whole text of Trevisa, but Marti only gives short excerpts of Jerome.) The reader
who is unfamiliar with these anthologies is also at a loss to know whether the references to Trevisa's Lord and
Squire (230) and Jerome's letter to Pacuvius (121) are Rener's errors or Pollard's and Marti's (they are Rener's).
Another result of this practice is that for anthologized texts we are often given no title or original year of
appearance/composition/publication, because the only bibliographical reference given is the anthology, not the
original author, and textual references are to editor and page number.
All quotations throughout the book are given in the original language, except three quotations from Aristotle,
one from Isocrates, one from Martianus Capella, and one from Thomas Sebillet; I assume either that Rener
cannot read Greek or that Rodopi cannot typeset it, but there is no apparent reason to give one of the Aristotle
quotations in Latin (218) or the Martianus Capella (Latin original; 147) and Sebillet (French original; 54) in
English. If he provides an English translation for even one foreign-language original, it

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is difficult to justify not providing translations for all of them; conversely, if he provides originals for nearly
every quotation in the book, it is difficult to justify Aristotle in Latin (from the Poetics) and Martianus and
Sebillet in English. At least half of the texts he quotes from in the original language are available in English
translation; did he just happen to stumble upon these three translations and decide to use them instead of the
originals?
Typographical errors and lexical, syntactical, and stylistic infelicities (of the minor type that are irritating but
easily fixed by a copy editor) do not exactly abound, but are not exactly scarce either. A few of these are
humorous: in "Other authors belonging to the so-called Saxonists also tried to stem the flood of French
borrowings in English" (70), "belonging" is a Saxonism. A spot check turned up two incorrect page
references in the first two pages of the index (Boethius 16 should be 17, Draper 238 should be 239).
Chapter 2
3. Copeland only cites Ricoeur once (61), but his work is indebted to and congruent with Gadamer's. The only
poststructuralist theorist Copeland mentions is Foucault, and him only in passing, in reference to his concept of
the "author-function" (116); but clearly, a good deal of the analytical work she does is poststructuralist in venue.
4. My impatience here is fueled by my own work with six (and ultimately, potentially, an infinite number of)
tropes of translation in The Translator's Turn, which, because our books appeared the same year, Copeland
cannot be expected to have read when she was writing her own. Many of her remarks about appropriate
commentary, for example, suggest synecdoche far more strongly than either metaphor or metonymy: "The text
can be 'rewritten' as formally unified because its meaning or cause has been discovered" (78), for example, or
"While allegoresis figures itselfeven modestlyas disclosure, it in fact operates as a deep recausing of the text as
if from within the text" (81). See The Translator's Turn, esp. pp. 15357.
Chapter 3
5. For further discussion of this emergent approach to translation, see my Translation and Empire: Postcolonial
Theories Explained.
6. It is instructive to note that Tarzan learns English by the building-block method Rener propagates; see
Cheyfitz's brilliant deconstruction of this moment in Burroughs's novel on p. 16.
7. To borrow Fredric Jameson's terminology from the conclusion to The Political Unconscious (281ff).
Chapter 4
8. This is true of some recent linguistic approaches. Hatim and Mason's Discourse and the Translator, for
instance, doesn't explicitly mention ideology, but the authors' discussion of intertextuality and semiosis is
steeped in an awareness of the impact various socioideological pressures have on translation. I used to shake my
head at Noam Chomsky, with his two illustrious but strictly separate careers as a linguist and a political theorist;
it is gratifying to see a few linguistic theorists beginning to integrate the two.
Chapter 7
9. "Two friends of mine, both artists, wrote me about reading the Twenty-One Love Poems with their male
lovers, assuring me how 'universal' the poems were. I found myself

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angered, and when I asked myself why, I realized that it was anger at having my work essentially assimilated
and stripped of its meaning, 'integrated' into heterosexual romance. That kind of 'acceptance' of the book
seems to me a refusal of its deepest implications" (quoted in Daz-Diocaretz 5758).
10. For one attempt to build bridges similar to the ones Daz-Diocaretz seems interested in building, coming out
of Bakhtin and Lacan's Schema L, see chapter 2 of my Ring Lardner and the Other. I adapt this
conceptualization for the study of translation in chapter 1 of Translation and Taboo.
11. Reading what Zavala has to say about the "omniscient reader" doesn't help much, either. Unlike DazDiocaretz, she does define the term, but her definitions are as vague as Daz-Diocaretz's of the "translatorfunction":
The "omniscient reader" as interpreter of avant-texts discloses a particular form of textual cooperation in
the process of following the generative phases by which a project of communication (meaning) is
transformed into expression. As recipient, s/he becomes a participant of the work and does reconstructive
readings by showing the avant-text as a process, as an ongoing production of possibilities of meaning,
while describing the interpretative possibilities in the matrix or genesis of the avant-text itself. The
omniscient reader interprets the shifts from meaning to significance and translates the text's deep structure
in rendering how the sender re-reads her/his own signs. Within this perspective of verbal discourse as a
social phenomenon and social interchange between sender and receiver, both internal and external, the
avant-text brings to the forefront the social life of language, "populated, overpopulated with the intentions
of others," in Bakhtin's neat definition of language (1981, 294).
It should be stressed that both my model 'omniscient reader', whose task it is to describe internal poetic
language, and the writer, are understood as concrete historical entities. (134)
Really? What does this mean? Would a "concrete historical entity" be the same thing as a person? The two
concrete historical entities in this case are a model and a writer; are we to assume that the model and the
writer are "concrete," "historical," and "entities'' in the same or parallel ways? Or are we talking about two
different kinds of concrete historical entities? If they are supposed to be the same, are we to see the model
''omniscient reader" as something that real readers actually do, a reader-role or reader-function, or as an ideal
toward which real readers are expected to strive, or what? In that case, exactly how are we to see a model,
role, function, or ideal as "concrete"? These are all abstractions, obviously, and I cannot figure out what
Zavala could possibly mean by their concreteness; which makes me think that the "omniscient reader" must
somehow be a real person like the writer, except that she does specifically call that reader a model. And
omniscience is not a characteristic normally attributed to real people; it sounds much more like an ideal. She
writes further: "S/he is a conscious participant in the event of the utterance, and yet occupies an independent
position in it, and as such attempts to explain the specific living social comprehension of the literary
utterance" (134). This sounds like a person: differentiated for gender, conscious, and able to "attempt" to do
things, implying agency and incompleteness (the possibility of failure). In fact, a few lines earlier, Zavala
describes the "omniscient reader" as "this specific reader" (134). But the description is simultaneously so
obviously idealized that it is difficult to equate it (him? her?) with any specific historical individual, any real
reader. My guess is that for Zavala the "omniscient reader" is, like "the ideal reader," a methodological
fiction, specifically a mystified reification of the theorist's own normative construction of the text. The
theorist reads the text carefully, covering what she or he takes to be every possible aspect and angle, and then,
instead of reifying the resulting portrait as "the text,"

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as formalist approaches have traditionally done, s/he reifies it as the image of the text generated in the head of
the ideal or omniscient readerthat is, the theorist her- or himself writ large. This enables the theorist to pretend
that her or his reading is qualitatively different from that of the individual readers she or he studies, more
complete, indeed perfectly complete, and thus an adequate foundation for theoretical pronouncements on both
the bias or directedness of specific readings and the universal nature of reading.
Chapter 8
12. "This does not mean that all translation should become 'literal,' because this type of translation only makes
sense for a certain type of works, whose relation to their languages is such that it requires this differential
coupling of literal translation" (Berman 1984, 173). But what would that "is such" be, exactly? He says we
shouldn't do an anglicizing (or a gallicizing) translation of Henry James; a ''different type of approach" is
needed, but what?
13. And in fact the book would have been very different had Berman listened more intently to Bakhtin, and to
compatriots of his such as Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, and less intently to Lacan and (especially)
Heidegger, who coach him to impose rigid authoritarian controls on the engagement with the other.
I take my images of cuts and flows, earlier in the paragraph, from Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipe, and
Deleuze and Guattari's discussion of the standard language and dialect, of majoritarian and minoritarian
discourse, in Milles plateaux, makes a good deal of Berman sound nave.
14. See also the essays by Richard Jacquemond (13958) and Sherry Simon (15976) in Venuti's Rethinking
Translation (1992).
15. Compare Heyvaert's disclaimer in his preface: "Berman wrote this book ten years ago, in France, where
there was (and still is) much less of an awareness about gender-biased language than in the USA today.
Consequently, the reader will sometimes find he, him, and man used to refer to people (translators, writers,
readers) in general. I apologize to all those who might be offended by my failure to substitute s/he, him/her, and
person in the appropriate cases. I believe Berman's unrelenting emphasis on the necessity of an experience
[preuve] with the foreign suffices to clear him of any exclusionary prejudice" (viii). It's always nice to have a
translator who buys your idealizations. Women in Berman's French society (his masculine-generic terms
proclaim) are foreigners who do not translate, do not write, and do not read, and who therefore do not need to be
"experienced." Women, like other capitalist functionaries in the West and "primitive" peoples abroad, do not
represent a significant alterity worthy of dialogue. We are somewhere in the vicinity of Heidegger's
pronouncements on dialogue with the Other (a powerful influence for Berman), which somehow always
managed to exclude the Jew as significant Other.
16. See Benjamin (1928) for a discussion of fascism as an attempt to restore an "aura" destroyed by capitalism;
see also Eagleton's Marxist reading of this problematic in Benjamin (chap. 2).
17. Berman's we is intensely problematic throughout the book. He uses it to mean I, mostly, and Heyvaert
respects his "alterity" by not shifting in English to the I; but he also moves constantly outward from the
pluralized I, much as Whitman did, cosmically, in singing of "myself." For example: "That is the reason why we
have been led to attempt to writeeven if partiallya chapter in the history of European translation and a chapter in
German cultural historya chapter particularly heavy in meaning, since we recognize in it choices that have been
our own, even though our cultural field has changed" (20). What is the extension of the we here? Does Berman
mean that he made choices (which were "his own") that he later, in reading German romantics, discovered were
made by people of a different

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age and country? That's what the first we sounds like, but by the second and third we's it begins to sound as if
he is expanding his we to include the reader as well, indeed "all of us," all right-thinking Westerners who
make the same choices the German romantics once made.
18. Sometimes strangely, as when Heyvaert tells us in English that both Hlderlin (158) and Heidegger (160)
refer to the "experience [preuve] of the foreign"here the foreignizing impact of the bracketed French word is to
make it seem as if Hlderlin and Heidegger were in the habit of referring to the experience not as die Erfahrung
but as l'preuve.
19. "Mais cela ne veut absolument pas dire que le pote dlaisserait les Grecs" (Berman 1984, 258).
20. I got quite accustomed to it while living in Finland; my students all used it, due to interference from Finnish,
which also uses the conditional in this way. For a discussion of this reshaping of a "native" feel for a language
through constant exposure to "foreigner" speech, see my Translator's Turn (2627).
21. Other constructions that sound like beginning American writing students essaying the foreign waters of
academic discourse would include: ". . . in Novalis, F. Schlegel, and Schleiermacher. The latter was . . ."
(Heyvaert 1992, 47), "To be sure, neither Novalis nor F. Schlegel are translators" (103), "he includes them in the
sphere of 'the philological' in general, for the same reason as 'notes' and 'commentaries,' for example, as 'critical
genres''' (124), "Because 'representing what is foreign in one's mother tongue,' that is what runs the risk of
threatening . . ." (149), "would be difficultly understood'' (168), and "capable to 'figure' the world" (181).
22. Here are two punctuation examples as well, these involving the omission of the first comma marking a
sentence modifier: "And this is exactly as we have indicated, F. Schlegel's intuition" (Heyvaert 1992, 161) and
"the definition of which for that matter, remains indeterminate" (190). Is this foreign? If so, is it Berman or
Heyvaertand does it matter which it is?
23. In a session at the American Literary Translators Association meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
November 36, 1994, Peter Bush brought up another disturbing wrinkle in foreignism: it is often interculturally
condescending, pandering to preexisting stereotypes of source-language speakers within target-language culture.
For example, a phrase like "the world is a handkerchief" in a translation from Spanisha literal rendition of the
idiom that Spanish speakers use where English speakers would say "small world"is understandable but cute and
quaint in English, and serves to confirm Anglo stereotypes of the "picturesque simplicity" of Hispanics.
Chapter 10
24. For a discussion of this excluded middle in Goethe's movement from the 1813 claim that there are only two
maxims of translation, taking the reader to the author and taking the author to the reader, to the 1819 claim that
there are three, see The Translator's Turn (8283). I argued there that Goethe realized what Venuti has now
realized, that translation without assimilation is impossible, and in his 1819 remarks on the Divan had to come
up with a new opposition to "taking the author to the reader." As Venuti begins to insist in The Translator's
Invisibility, even the strangest, most alien or foreign-sounding translation brings the source-language author to
the target-language reader.
25. Significantly enough, in the passage from Rethinking Translation quoted above, Venuti too reifies "words as
words," as material things, and calls for translators to respect "their opacity, their resistance to empathic
response and interpretive mastery"(4). In a generous reading, this would point to an awareness of the role played
by the autonomic system in processing language, the felt materiality of language, language as tone, pitch,

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color, gesture, which we express and receive with our whole bodies; and would direct translators' attention to
the many hitches in the somatic processing of language, the blockages to empathic response, the somatic
defenses we raise against others' attempts to read us correctly and incorrectly. In a less generous reading it
fleshes forth a dead world, a world of reified utterers emitting reified verbal signs that remain opaque to
empathic response and, in protecting against interpretive mastery, become themselves the effective tools of
interpretive mastery. The former reading would incline us toward the empathic sensitivity of Sacks himself;
the latter toward the dehumanizing "total institution" of the traditional mental hospital.
26. I'm punning here, of course, on Derrida's title "Des tours de Babel," which means not only "(On) the Towers
of Babel" but "(On) Some Turns of Babel."
27. And from the author's point of view, even before translation, how does this textual proprioception work?
You write a book, it feels real to you, but for it to be published, then received well, it has to feel real to others as
welland how do you accomplish that? You can't make someone experience your words proprioceptivelyyou can't
make someone "appropriate" your words, make them theirs, incorporate them into their own body image. In
academic publishing in particular it seems common for books to be published that have never been experienced
proprioceptively by anyonenot even the author. An editor reads a book, is impressed by it, sends it out to
readers, who are impressed by it, it gets published, reviewers are impressed by it, libraries buy it, it gets
borrowed and read by readers who are impressed by it, it comes out in paperback and gets bought by scholars
who are impressed by itand no one ever feels it, no one ever appropriates it, makes it their own. I think that's
what happened to my earlier book American Apocalypses, which was received very well but just sort of died on
the vine. It didn't excite people enough for them to appropriate it. It never felt like their own leg to walk on,
their own hand to write with. The Translator's Turn, on the other hand, is getting appropriated that way, by
translators who find it voicing their own thoughts about translation, their own experiences of translating. And
it's getting translatedby people who experience a textual phantom for it in French.
28. The best recent book I know on this process is The Subversive Scribe, by Jill Levine, and her self-depictions
have been feeding me a kind of quasi-scholarly phantom for writing about myself as a translator over the past
few pages.
29. This may be the place to say a few words about the "biologism" of my talk of somatics in The Translator's
Turn, what I call proprioception here. I've been astonished at how eager academic theorists have been to
thematize my somatics as biologism, and thus as a kind of reactionary scientistic mysticism, a belief, say, that
biology is destiny. I made it painfully clear in The Translator's Turn that ideosomatics is a far more materialist
exploration of ideology than anything I've seen written by Marx or Marxists, who tend to assume, uncritically,
that ideology works on us mentally, like God, without neural channeling. The sociopolitical layers of our
neurologies go so deep it is impossible to say just where ideological programming ends and our innate
proclivities begin. That the neurology of proprioception is equally social should be clear from the fact that
statistically, women in patriarchal society are far more aware of their proprioceptive and vestibular senses than
menand that women who train themselves for entry into the corporate world typically dull awareness of those
senses (protective coloring for work in an institution that denies the body), whereas men who survive
disintegrative or other traumatic experiences, or struggle through to gender liberation, are typically exhilarated
by their enhanced sense of their own body. Women are socialized to proprioceptive sensitivity, men to
insensitivitywhich is why we speak of women's intuition and of men being blind to the emotional climates
around them. There is such a thing as preideological biologywe find it in a more or less pure state in fetuses,
especially very early on in pregnancy, and it survives deep in the hindbrain even in adulthoodand

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there is such a thing as unbiologized ideology. But most human biology, physiology, neurology is saturated
with ideology, and almost all ideology operates through biological channels. How else could it operatebarring
some chess-playing god that could move us around on the chessboard? The distinction between biology and
ideology is another (and pernicious) non distributio medii.
30. This was not, by the way, a claim I made in that book, but enough people have read it that way to make me
suspect I'm partly responsible for the non distributio medii (either all translation is intellectual or all translation
is intuitive). In my desire to underscore the importance of intuition, I probably overemphasized the somatics of
translation, neglecting to stress forcefully enough that whatever intellectual, analytical checks and balances you
bring to bear on your intuitive sense of the right translation of a given word or phrase, the resulting mind-body
coalition that makes the final decision is still intuitive, still somatic. This is true even in the simplest sense: I
don't know a single translator, no matter how cerebral, who would use a given target-language word or phrase
purely on analytical grounds. It always has to feel right as well. Even in technical translations, I would guess
most translators feel as I douneasy, even anxiouswhen unable to check an unfamiliar term with an expert and
forced to trust a dictionary, because the dictionary's analytical assurance is never enough to compensate for a
missing intuitive feel of rightness. More complexly, too, competent translators rapidly somatize analytical
approaches to texts, so that what might seem to a nontranslator like a purely intuitive approachthe translator
picks up the text and after a cursory glance through it, starts translating, without diagraming sentences or
looking up words or doing detailed literary analyses of symbols and imagesis often highly (but subconsciously,
or somatically) analytical. What experienced driver analyzes traffic situations as consciously as the driver
trainee? What tennis pro has to keep saying subvocally, "Keep your eye on the ball until it leaves the racket,
lean onto your forward foot as you stroke into the ball," and so on? As I noted earlier in this chapter, I find that I
often deal even with the difficult problems that arise in a translation without conscious thought, my mind
seemingly blank, but some other me back behind my conscious awareness running through words, images,
syntactic structures until I solve my problem and can go on. I was astonished to find one reviewer assuming that
I considered the translator's intuition more important than craft, or craftsmanship; in my view the translator's
craft is intuitive, at least after the novice has taken her or his first baby steps in the field.
Chapter 11
31. We also, of course, abuse a trust or a privilege, which might be thought closer in spirit to the kind of
linguistic or philosophical abuse Lewis theorizes; but the abuse of a trust or a privilege remains explicitly
interpersonal, and by definition has the effect of changing the interpersonal dynamic. The abuser of a trust or a
privilege is typically an inferior partner in a relationship (a child, for example, or an employee) who has been
entrusted with an important task or function and is expected to carry out that task or function in a way that
satisfies the entrustor, or who has been extended a special privilege and is expected to remain properly grateful
and appreciative. Abuse in these circumstances entails transgressive behavior, overstepping the bounds
established for the abuser's actions: to abuse a trust or a privilege is to (mis) take the trust or the privilege for an
improvement in status, indeed for an equalization of status, when in fact it was only intended as a special case,
an exception, a momentary and transient and nonbinding exemption from the full stricture of the hierarchical
relationship. The result of this abuse is characteristically the threatened or actual withdrawing of the trust or the
privilege in futurethe threatened or actual restoration of the original hierarchical dynamic, which was never in
fact rescinded, only temporarily and tentatively (indeed, probatively) waived.

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This type of abuse does seem to fit the hegemonic conception of translation, in fact, in which the source
author is thought of as the hierarchical authority who extends to the translator the privilege of rendering his
(not her) text into the target language, or who entrusts his text to the translator's care. The "good" translator is
traditionallythat is, not in Derrida's iconoclastic senseone who renders the text in the submissive spirit of this
trust, one who studiously avoids abusing the trust. In this sense the abusive translator that Lewis theorizes
might be thought of as primarily abusing the source author's trustsecondarily, perhaps, the target reader's
trust? That remains to be seen.
Would we also say that a cheating husband has abused his wife's trust, or that a cheating wife has abused her
husband's trust? This seems to me slightly peripheral to the notion of trust-abuse; but it is also more central
to the physical and emotional abuse that I'll be considering throughout the chapter.
32. I realize, of course, that there is more going on here than rape; according to Wiseman, in ancient Rome
consensual sex between males is considered equally abusive for the man who accepts another man's penis into
his mouth or anus. I don't mean to simplify Venuti's argument, only to highlight the portion of it that strikes me
as most bizarre.
33. Finnish y is pronounced like the German or the French u; Finnish like the German or the French eu;
the y sound in ly (" [clock] strikes, [bell] sounds") and y, "night," is a soft diphthong that is difficult for nonFinns to pronounce. Cynthia got the vowel quality of the y right but held it a beat too long before turning the
into an English o.
34. There is also a scene in act 1 with the infant Poju/Boy, where Lea is talking baby talk to her son, who at this
point is a plaster doll, his voice trills on a synthesizer. Lea interprets his speech like this: "Ahaa. Aatataa. Se on:
vellin ainakin Poju hyvksyy" (Koskiluoma 1983, 62). I rendered that with stylized foreignism: "Aha. Atatataa.
That means: Boy does like porridge." Annie apparently found that "Atatataa" difficult to say, strange, unEnglish, because in two of the four performances that I saw she left it out or turned it into her own laugh.
35. A fascinating line of speculation in this context is Wilhelm Reich's in The Mass Psychology of Fascism,
where he traces Eero's type of brutal abusiveness to patriarchy's demonization and suppression of natural
sexuality:
With the institution of chastity, women, under the pressure of their sexual needs, become unchaste. The
natural orgastic sensuality of the men is replaced by sexual brutality which in turn gives the women the
feeling that the sexual act debases them. Extramarital sexual intercourse is by no means effaced from the
earth. But, as a result of its different evaluation and of the abolition of the matriarchal institutions for its
protection, it comes into conflict with official morality and comes to lead a backstairs existence. With the
changed social position of extramarital intercourse the manner of experiencing sexuality changes also. The
conflict which now exists between nature and a "higher" morality disturbs the capacity for gratification.
Sexual guilt feelings disturb the natural course of the orgastic process. This results in sexual stasis, and the
dammedup sexual energies seek an outlet through all kinds of pathological channels. Neuroses,
perversions and antisocial sexuality become permanent sexual phenomena. Infantile and adolescent
sexuality, which in the original work democracy of matriarchy was affirmed and socially underwritten,
comes to be systematically suppressed. This distorted, disturbed, brutalized and debased sexuality in turn
supports the very ideology to which it owes its existence. The denial of sexuality can now, rightly, be
justified by the dogma that sexuality is something inhuman and filthy. What is overlooked, however, is the
fact that this filthy sexuality is not natural sexuality but the specific sexuality of patriarchy. Sexology of
the patriarchy of the past few hundred years has never made this distinction. (7475)

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It is easy enough to dismiss Reich's utopian conception of matriarchy as sheer speculation; we have no
evidence that matriarchy ever even existed, let alone that it had the paradisal attributes Reich imagines for it.
It is harder, however, to dismiss his trenchant ideological analysis of sick patriarchal sexuality and its roots in
authoritarian social structures. If Reich is right about the intrinsic interrelatedness of authoritarianism,
violence, mysticism, and the suppression of natural sexuality, it will make no sense to call, say, "infidelity"
abusive and "fidelity" nonabusive; both fidelity and infidelity will be wrapped up in the same abusive social
dynamic. More on this below.
36. It is interesting to note that, like many psychoanalytical theories, Jotuni's novel and Koskiluoma's stage
adaptation seem to blame the mother for abuse: both Lea's and Eero's mothers were abusive, Lea's mother
physically abusive, Eero's (at least) emotionally abusive. Lea learns her passive-aggressive codependency from
her father, lets Eero beat her as her father had once let her mother beat him; we don't know who beat whom in
Eero's childhood home, but the only parent he mentions at all is his mother. A significant corollary: if Eero
allegorically represents the abusive translator and the abusive parent the source author, I too as abusive
translator render (abuse) the work of a female source author, indeed two female source authors, two symbolic
mothers, Maria Jotuni the novelist and Maaria Koskiluoma the dramaturge.
37. Poju is an affectionate diminutive for poika, "boy"; other children's names in the play include Tytti, from
tytt, "girl," and Veikko, a boy's name that means "guy." The only child's name that is not generalized in this
way is Pia, Latin for "pious.'' Since Tytti, Pia, and Veikko (and their sibling who dies in a miscarriage caused by
Eero's abuse) are all represented by plaster dolls on stage, it made sense to translate all the children's names into
English, making the children sound generic, Boy, Girl, Pious, Guy. Ironically enough from Venuti's standpoint,
a radical domestication here felt more alien, more foreignized, than the Finnish originals would have.
38. This is what I called "aversion" in The Translator's Turn (23949).
39. For further discussion of the classics as abusers (though not in those terms), see my articles "Trivial and
Esoteric Pursuits" (1987) and "The Trivialization of American Literature" (1988).
40. It is, of course, hard to make a living if you're this choosy about what you translate; some readers of The
Translator's Turn took me to task for ignoring the economic realities of the field, the dire consequences in some
cases of translating in ideologically deviant ways. But of course I didn't ignore those realities; I just insisted that
sometimes emotional health is more important than an individual job, and it may be preferable to quit or get
fired rather than having your soul slowly destroyed by an abusive situation. If there is nowhere else to go, if you
look and look and can find nothing else, then you have to go on adapting to abuse, seeing it as clearly as
possible and taking a stand, symbolic or otherwise, against it whenever you can without endangering your job,
but nevertheless perpetrating it in line with your employer's or clients' requirements. But even then you'll be
better off aware of abuse, including your own, and willing to make ethical decisions based on your perception of
abuse, than you would be idealizing every translation task as a set of technical problems (terminology, syntax,
register, etc.).
Conclusion
41. For further discussion of these methods, see chapter 11 of Colin Rose, Accelerated Learning.
42. See also Michael Leff's persuasive exploration of"Burke's Ciceronianism."

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43. Cf. D'Alton: "But, apart from the question of translation, it was recognised as possible for a Roman writer to
range from mere servile imitation, which was little better than plagiarism, to the most vital form of it, which is
made familiar to us under the image of the bees that flit from flower to flower, and thence draw material which
they transmute into a new creation" (430). Seneca uses the image of the bee in Letter 84.

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his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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INDEX
A
Abuse, xxi;
purified linguistically, 132-38,
and recovery, 175-77;
of a trust or privilege, 199-200
Abusive fidelity, xiv-xvi, 145, 151-60
"Tottering House" as an allegory of, 138-42, 147-71;
and the victim, 136-37
Academic discourse, 101-5
Accelerated learning, 183
Accelerated Learning (Rose), 201
Acting writer (Daz-Diocaretz), 67, 71-72, 75
Aeschines, 184
"Affective Fallacy, The" (Wimsatt/Beardsley), 56
After Babel (Steiner) xi, 126, 185
A la recherche du temps perdu (Proust), 36
Alcuin, 18
Alfred, King. See King Alfred
Alien word (Voloshinov), 94
Allman, William E, xxiii, 188-89, 191
Alterity (Berman), 83, 86-91, 118
Althusser, Louis, 28, 88
American Apocalypses (Robinson), 198
American Literary Translators Association, 101, 197
American Translators Association, 81
Anecdotalism, xxi, 48-54, 61
"anyone lived in a pretty how town" (cummings), 115
Apprentices of Wonder, The (Allman), xxiii, 188
Aristophanes, 39
Aristotle, 9, 11, 181, 182, 193-94
Arnold, Matthew, 112, 166
Arte of English Poesie, The (Puttenham), 19
Artificial intelligence (AI), 180, 187-88
Asp, Maria ("Hilja"), 147
"At Parting" (Leino/Robinson), 51
"Aufgabe des bersetzens, Die" (Benjamin), 82, 113
Augustine, 13, 88, 89, 99, 181, 182, 185
Aulis (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 140-41, 143
Aura, 90, 196

Author-function (Foucault), 68-69, 71, 165, 194


Averros, 11
B
Bacon, Roger, 9
Baker, Mona, xxv
Bakhtin, Mikhail, 67, 71, 85, 195, 196
Bassnett, Susan, 40
Basso, Keith, 22
Baudelaire, Charles, 81
Beardsley, Monroe C., 56
Beaujolan, Guy, 8, 11
Beckett, Samuel, 120-21
Behn, Aphra, 7

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Belenky, Mary Field, 42, 54


Benjamin, Walter, xxiii, 57, 81-82, 85-86, 90, 91, 113, 116-18;
and the aura, 196;
and postcolonial theory, 98;
and Wayne's World, 129
Bensoussan, Albert, 59
Bergholm, Eija-Elina, 144
Bergman, Ingmar, 147
Berman, Antoine, x, xii-xiv, xxiii, 81-95, 98, 196-97
Berthelot, Marcellin, 11
Blackburn, Paul, 99
Blake, William, 36
Bleich, David, 107
Bodkin, Robin Orr, xxv, 122
Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus, 14, 82, 194
Boncompagni, Baldassare, 11
Brentano, Franz, 90
Brock, Sebastian, 8, 11
Brodsky, Joseph, 57
Brossard, Nicole, xix, xxiv
Bruni, Leonardo, 89
Burgundio of Pisa, 82
Burke, Kenneth, 50, 185
Burke, Virginia (''Toini"), 146
"Burke's Ciceronianism" (Leff), 202
Bush, Peter, xxv, 197
C
Cabrera Infante, G., 57-59, 160
Caminade, Monique, 46, 53
Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne de Littrature Compare, xxiv, 83
Capella, Martianus, 193-94
Cary, Edmond, 7
Catford, J. C. xxiv
Catullus, Gaius Valerius, 135-36
Chamberlain, Lori, xix, xxiv, 98, 164, 176
Chaplin, Charlie, 189
Charlemagne, 18
Cheyfitz, Eric, xiii, xix-xxi, xxiv, 3-4, 6-7, 9, 18-22, 28, 38, 62, 89, 98, 176, 190, 194
Chomsky, Noam, 194
Chuang-Tzu (So-Shu), 116
Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 4-5, 11-14, 16, 19, 81, 89, 182-87

Clothing as eloquence, 18-19


Codependency, 201;
as the translator's fidelity, 160-65, 168-71, 173
Community Language Learning, 183
Confessions (Augustine), 185
Consolatio philosophiae (Boethius), 14
Constructivism, 27-29, 36, 37-41, 75
Contemporary Translation Theories (Gentzler), xx
Contracting Colonialism (Rafael), 98
Cooke sisters, 7
Co-optation: of abuse, 134-35;
of subversion, 58-59
Copeland, Rita, x, xxi, xxii, xxiv, 3-4, 11-17, 18, 194
Cotton Patch Version (Jordan), 127
cummings, e. e., 115
Cunningham, Bob, xxiv
D
Dacier, Anne, 7
D'Alton,J. F., 202
D'Alverny, Marie-Thrse, 8, 11, 13
Daniel (in Luther), 95-96
Daniel, Arnaut, 116
Dante Alighieri, 128
De Campos brothers, xxiv
De inventione (Cicero), 4
Deleuze, Gilles, 104, 196
De Man, Paul, 57
Demosthenes, 184
De optimo genere oratorum (Cicero), 183
De oratore (Cicero), 183
Derrida, Jacques, 28, 48, 57, 81, 100, 106, 113, 122, 145, 156, 171, 198, 200;
and abusive translation, 132-35, 138;
and metaphor/metonymy, 15;
and semiotics, 46
Der Satz vom Grund (Heidegger), 181
"Des tours de Babel" (Derrida), 145, 198
De Vegerre, Suzanne, 7

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"Dialogue Between a Lord and a Clerk Upon Translation" (Trevisa), 193


Daz-Diocaretz, Myriam, x-xii, xix, xxi-xxii, xxiv, 8, 26, 61-77, 176, 195
Difference in Translation (Graham), 132
Discourse and the Translator (Hatim/Mason), 194
Dolet, Etienne, 89
Domestication, xx, 108
Douglass, Frederick, 19
Doyle, Mike, xxv
Dryden,John, 4, 138
E
Eagleton, Terry, 196
Elitism: and foreignism, xx, 99-101, 105-6, 109, 111-12
Empire: and translation, 19-21
En attendant Godot (Beckett), 121.
See also Waiting for Godot
Epistemological Problems in Translation and its Teaching (Pym) x, xxii, 26, 43-55, 61
Equivalence, 49-51
"Erotessa" (Leino), 51
Esra, Ibn, 11
Ester (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 144
Ethical growth (Berman), 83-86, 113
Ethnocentrism, 98, 45, 83-84, 87-91, 93, 104
Eugene Onegin (Pushkin/Nabokov), 82
Even-Zohar, Itamar, x, 26, 27
Evert (Lea's father, Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 143, 148
Exchanges (Weissbort), 47
Experience of the Foreign, The (Berman/Heyvaert), x, xii, 81-96
Explicare (Cicero), 184-86
Exprimere imitando (Cicero), 184-86
External knowledge (Pym), 52
F
Fanon, Frantz, 19
Faust (Goethe), 36
Feminism, xix, 56, 59, 61-66, 68-69
and poststructuralism, 15;
and systems theory, 42
Fidelity as codependency, 160-65, 168-71, 173
Finnegans Wake (Joyce), 36, 96
Fitzgerald, Robert, 127
Fluency, 141;
in academic discourse, 101-5;

and reader-response theory, 106-11


Foreignism, x, xiv, xx-xxi, 39, 82, 84
and the alien word, 94-96;
as channel of dissidence, 97-99, 104;
as dissidence, 113;
and elitism, 105-6, 109, 111-12;
as ethical growth, 113, and the excluded middle, 114-16, 118, 197;
and Heyvaert's rendition of Berman, 91-95;
and naive realism, 95-96;
as (post)modern experimentation, 114;
and translation of "Tottering House," 138-42;
and Wayne's World, 117-18
Foucault, Michel, 34, 67, 68-70, 74-75, 103, 165, 194
Frank, Anne, 39
Frank Theatre, 138
Freud, Sigmund, 31, 34, 42, 57, 157
G
Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 13, 28, 86
Gauguin, Paul, 22
Gentzler, Edwin, ix-xvii, xx
Gerard of Cremona, 11
German romanticism, xx, 84-91
Gillespie, Stuart, xxiv
Gleick, James, 49
Godard, Barbara, xix, xxiv
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 86, 90, 128, 135, 197
Goffman, Erving, 52
Gormley, Nancy ("Lea's mother" ), 143
Gradin, Sherrie, xxv
Graham, Joseph E, 132, 145
Grammar, x, xxi-xxii, 38;
building-block theory of, 4-6;
and the clash between medieval cultures, 12-14
Green, Susan, xxiv
Gregory the Great, 8
Grosseteste Robert, 8

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Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie (Rei and Vermeer), xxiv


Guattari, Flix, 104, 196
Guidry, Matt ("Eero Markku"), 145
H
Haavikko, Paavo, 123-24, 173
Harpham, Geoffrey Galt, xxv
Haskins, Charles Homer, 8, 11-12, 13
Hatim, Basil, 194
Heath Cobblers (Kivi/Robinson), 48
Hechter, Cynthia ("Ester"), 144, 200
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 86
Heidegger, Martin, 82, 86, 90, 181, 196, 197
Helms, Jesse, 69
Hermeneufics, x, 114
Hesse, Hermann, 128
Heyvaert, Stefan (translator of Berman), 83, 91-95, 196-97
Hilja (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 147
Hirsch, E. D., 112
History of Science (Taton), 11
Hlderlin, 89, 197
Holland, Norman, 107
Holz-Mnttri, Justa, xxiv, 8, 25
Homer, 127, 128, 165-66
Hopkins, G. W., 91
Hopper, Paul, xxv
Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), 5, 13, 14, 16, 193
House, Juliane, 8
Huet, Pierre-Daniel, 193
Humphrey, Lawrence, 193
Huojuva talo (Jotuni/Koskiluoma), xvi, 50, 125, 138-64, 159
"Hyv lukija!" (Robinson), 121
I
Iliad (Homer), 165;
translated by Dacier, 7
"Intentional Fallacy, The" (Wimsatt/Beardsley), 56
Intercultural communities (Pym), 54-55
Internal knowledge (Pym), 52
Interpretatio (Rener) x, 3-9, 11, 99
Iser, Wolfgang, 67
J
Jacquemond, Richard, 98, 196

Jakobson, Roman, 13, 15, 61, 67


James, Henry, 33, 196
Jameson, Fredric, 174, 194
Jauss, Hans Robert, 67
Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus), 4, 13, 14, 82, 88, 89, 173, 181, 182-83, 193
John of Trevisa, 193
John Scotus Eriugena, 8
John the Baptist, 182
Jordan, Clarence, 127
Jotuni, Maria, xvi, 50, 138, 144, 161, 201
Jourdain, Areable, 11
Judaeus-Savasorda, Abraham, 11
K
Kafka, Franz, 31
Kant, Immanuel, 26-27, 37, 179
Kaul, Bill, xxv
Kelly, Louis, 193
King Alfred, 8
King James Bible, 126-27
Kivi, Aleksis, 48
Knox, Wendy, 138, 141-47, 159
Koskiluoma, Maaria, xvi, 138, 201
Krawutschke, Peter, xxv
Kristeva, Julia, 46, 67
L
"La Belle Altrit" (Lang), 83
Lacan, Jacques, 15, 28, 57, 70, 195, 196
La divine commedia (Dante), 36
"La mythologie blanche" (Derrida), 133, 156
Lane, Helen, xxv
Lang, George, xxiv, 83
L'Anti-Oedipe (Deleuze/Guattari), 196
"La traduction et la lettre" (Berman), 83
Lattimore, Richard, 127
Lecercle, Jean-Jacques, 116, 137, 160
Lefevere, Andr, vii, x-xii, xxii, 50, 61, 62, 91;
discussed, 25-42;
and equivalence, 50;
and Pym, 43-45

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Leff, Michael, 202


Leino, Eino, 51
L'preuve de l'tranger (Berman), x, xii, 83
"Le retrait de la mtaphore" (Derrida), 132
"Les belles infidles" (Mnage), 83
Lesbian poetry, 65, 68-70, 72, 76
Lethem, Jonathan, xxv
Letter to Pammachius (Jerome), 13, 82, 183, 193
Levine, Suzanne Jill, vii, x, xiv-xvi, xix, xxii, xxiv, 26, 30, 54, 61, 62, 98, 160, 176, 190-91, 198;
discussed, 56-60
Lewis, Philip E., x, xii, xiv-xvi, xxiii, 58, 82, 113, 141, 145, 148, 158-59, 164, 167, 171, 176, 177;
discussed, 132-38
Libri, Gillaume, 11
Lindberg, David C., 8, 11, 13
Linguistics, vii, xi, xxiii-xxiv, 19, 25-26
Linna, Vin, 165
Literalism, 81, 84, 98, 117, 181, 196;
as social movement, 82
Literary theory, 56-57
Livius Andronicus, 81
Lotbinire-Harwood, Susanne, xix, xxiv
Luke, 95-96
Luther, Martin, 89, 95-96
M
Machine translation, x, xxiii, 126, 187, 190;
failure of, 180-82;
and ideology, 187-91;
as perfect monk, 181-82
Maier, Carol, xix, xxiv, xxv, 66-67
Majoritarian writing (Deleuze/Guattari), 104
Mallarm, Stphane, 92
Mamet, David, 142
Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, The (Sacks), xxiii, 118
Markku, Eero (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 139-41, 143, 145-71, 200;
and abusive (in) fidelity, 151-60
Markku, Lea (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 139-41, 143, 145-71, 200;
and codependency/fidelity, 160-65, 168-71, 173
Markku, Poju (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 143, 147, 158, 200;
as abuse victim/target text, 165-71
Marx, Karl, 42
Marxism, 56, 196;

poststructuralist, 15, 28
Mary, mother of Jesus, 95-96
Mason, Ian, 194
Mass Psychology of Fascism, The (Reich), 200-201
Mazon, Paul, 7
"Meaning of Fidus Interpres in Medieval Translation, The" (Schwartz), 9, 11
"Measure of Translation Effects, The" (Lewis), x, xiv, 132-38
"Medieval Science in the Christian West" (Beaujolan), 11
Mehrez, Samia, 89, 98
Mnage, Gilles, 83
Messianism, 85, 113
Metaphor, 15-16
Metonymy, 15-16
Milles plateaux (Deleuze/Guattari), 196
Minoritarian writing (Deleuze/Guattari), 104
Minsky, Marvin, 187
Montaigne, Michel de, 19
Monty Python, 116
More, Thomas, 89
More Roper, Margaret, 7
Mother (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"): Lea's, 143, 148-51, 201;
Eero's, 151-52, 157-58, 201
Multilingual Computing, 180
N
Nabokov, Vladimir, 82
Nakedness and savagery, 18-19
Neoliteralism, 81, 85, 95
Neruda, Pablo, 63
Neural networks, xxiii, 186-91
New Criticism, 56-57

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New Historicism, 56, 103-4


New International Bible, The, 127
Newman, Francis, 99, 166
Newmark, Peter, 39
Nida, Eugene A., xxiv, 39, 127
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 31, 90, 156
Night on Earth (Jarmusch), 125
Niranjana, Tejaswini, xix, xxi, xxiv, xxv, 19, 28, 89, 98, 176
Nomadism, 19-20
Norton, Glyn, 193
NOT! (Wayne's World), 117-18
Notker of St. Gall, 14
Nott, John, 99, 136
Novalis, 135, 197
Nummisuutarit (Kivi), 48
O
O'Connor, Flannery, 159
Odyssey (Homer), 165
"O Kannada" (Robinson), 193
Omnicient reader (Zavala), 67, 195-96;
and the translator-function, 71-72, 75
"On Cannibals" (Montaigne), 19
On the Best Kind of Orator (Cicero/Hubbell), 183, 184
On the Orator (Cicero/Sutton/Rackham), 183
Ovide moralis (anonymous), 14
P
Papert, Seymour, 187
Paradise Lost (Milton), 36
Paradise of Women (Travitsky), 8
Park, Bill, xxv
Patronage, 40-41
Pedagogy of translation, 51-54
Peirce, Charles Sanders, 46
Perceptrons, 186-87
Perceptrons (Minsky/Papert), 187
Phantom limb, xxi, xxiii, 129;
author's, 120-22;
and proprioception, 118, 120, 127-28;
and prosthetic, 119-20;
target-language reader's, 126-29;
translator's, 123-26

Phillips, Katherine, 7
Piper, Annie ("Lea Markku"), 145-46, 200
"pity this busy monster, manunkind" (cummings), 115
Plato, 181, 182
Poe, Edgar Allan, 92
Poetics of Imperialism, The (Cheyfitz), xiii, xx, 18-22, 89, 98
Political Unconscious, The (Jameson), 174, 194
Pollard, Alfred, 193
Polysystems theory, viii, x, 26-42, 61, 67
Pomerans, A. J. (translator of Beaujolan), 11
Postcolonial theory, x, xi, xiii, xix, xxi, 3, 39, 40;
and Native Americans, 19-21
Poststructuralist theory, xi, xii, 3, 67, 71, 113, 194;
feminist, 15;
Marxist, 15, 28;
and subaltern studies, 19
Pound, Ezra, 99, 115-16
Proprioception, 118-20;
and the phantom limb, 127-28
Prosthetics: and the phantom limb, 119-20
Puig, Manuel, 58-59
Pure language (Benjamin), 86
Purity (Berman), 83, 86-91;
and abuse, 132-38
Puttenham, George, 19
Pym, Anthony, x, xii, xix, xxi, xxii, xxiv, xxv, 26, 27, 30, 37, 56, 61, 62, 101, 179, 191
Q
Qasidah, 28, 45
Quine, Willard van Orman, 19, 46
Quintilianus, Marcus Fabius, 4, 5, 18
R
Rafael, Vicente, xix, xxi, 98
Reader-response theory, 28, 56, 62, 71, 85, 114;
and fluency, 106-11
Reddere (Cicero), 184
Reich, Wilhelm, 172, 200-201
Reib, Katharina, xxiv, 8
Renan, Ernest, 11
Rener, Frederick M., x, xxi, xxii, xxiv, 3-9, 11-12, 16, 18, 20, 21, 99, 193-94

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Rethinking Translation (Venuti), 81, 101, 115, 132, 145, 196, 197
Return of the Jedi, The (Lucas), 120
Revised Standard Version, 127
Rezeptionsstetik, 28, 67
Rhetoric, x, xxi, xxii, 38;
building-block theory of, 4-6;
and the clash between medieval cultures, 12-14;
as ornamentation, 18-19
Rhetoric (Alcuin), 18-19
Rhetoric, Hermeneutics and Translation in the Middle Ages (Copeland), 11-17
Rich, Adrienne, 26, 62-66, 68-69, 71, 76-77, 194-95
Ricoeur, Paul, 13, 194
Ring Lardner and the Other (Robinson), 195
Roman de la Rose (Lorris/Jean de Meun), 16
Roscommon, Earl of (Thomas Wentworth), 89
Rose, Colin, 201
Rose, Marilyn Gaddis, xxiv, 81-82, 84
Routledge, xi, 40-41
Russian formalism, 56, 67
S
Sacks, Oliver, xxiii, 118-20, 127, 198
Sakuntala (Kalidasa), 36
Salutati, Coluccio, 89
Sarduy, Severo, 58-59, 160
Saturday Night Live, 117-18
Saussure, Ferdinand de, 46
Savagery: and nakedness, 18-19;
and nomadism, 20
Schlegel, Friedrich von, 97, 197
Schleiermacher, Friedrich, xxiii, 90, 98, 129, 197
Schwartz, Werner, 8, 11
Sebillet, Thomas, 193-94
Semiosis, 45-48, 52
"Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen" (Luther), 95-96
Shakespeare, William, 19, 95, 128, 165
Shklovsky, Viktor, 67
Sidney, Mary (Countess of Pembroke), 7
Silent Way, The, 183
Sillat (Haavikko), 123
Simon, Sherry, xix, 98, 196
Siting Translation (Niranjana), 19, 89, 98

So-Shu (Chuang-Tzu), 116


Social approaches to translation, 25-26, 43
Spurs (Derrida), 122
Steele, Mike, 139, 141
Steinbeck, John, 128
Steiner, George, xi, 21, 86, 126, 185
Steinschneider, Moritz, 11
Strindberg, August, 147
Structuralist theory, xii, 3, 15-16
Studies in the History of Medieval Science (Haskins), 11
Subversive Scribe, The (Levine), x, xxii, 26, 56-60, 160, 176, 198
Sullivan, Eileen, xxv
Systems theory, xii, xxi, 61;
and equivalence, 50;
and evaluation, 29-30;
and feminist critiques, 42;
and spatial boundaries, 35-36;
of systems theory, 37-41;
and temporal boundaries, 33-36
T
Tarchetti, Ugo, 106, 108
Tarkiainen, Viljo, 144
Tarzan (Burroughs), 4, 19, 20, 194
"Task of the Translator, The" (Benjamin/Zohn), 81, 85
Technical translation, 100-101, 126, 179
Tempest, The (Shakespeare), 19
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron), 120, 190
Thomas Aquinas, 181
Thorndike, Lynn, 11
Today's English Version, 127
Toini (Huojuva talo/"Tottering House"), 146
Total Physical Response, 183
"Tottering House" (Jotuni/Koskiluoma/Robinson), xvi, 50, 125, 166, 172;
as an allegory of abusive translation, 147-71

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Toury, Gideon, x, 27
Translation and Literature, xxiv
Translation and Taboo (Robinson), xxii, 6, 172, 193, 195;
and machine translation, 180
''Translation and the Postcolonial Experience" (Mehrez), 89
Translation/History/Culture (Lefevere), 37
Translating Poetic Discourse (Daz-Diocaretz), x, xxii, 26, 61-77
Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literature (Lefevere), x, xxii, 25-42
Translation Spectrum II (Rose), xxiv
Translation studies: abusist, xiv, xvi, xxi, 147-71;
anecdotal, xxi, 48-54;
and the aura, 90;
and comparative literature, 19;
constructivist, 27-29, 36, 37-41, 75;
deconstructive, 48-49;
descriptive, xiv;
disabusive, 176-77;
domesticating, 108, 134;
elitism in, xx, 99-101, 104, 105-6, 109, 111-12;
empire, 194;
and equivalence, 49-51;
ethical, 83-86;
ethnocentric, 28, 45, 83-84, 87-91, 93;
ethnographic/anthropological, 19;
feminist, xix, 59, 61-66;
foreignist, x, xiv, xx, xxi, 29, 31, 39, 82, 84, 91-96, 97-112, 114-18;
foreignist/abusive, 138-42;
Handlung, xxiv;
linguistic, xi, xxiii-xxiv, 19, 25-26;
literalist, 81, 84, 98, 181, 196;
literary theory's impact on, 56-57;
manipulation school, xi;
messianic, 85, 113;
minoritarian/majoritarian, 104;
neoliteralist, 81-82, 85, 95;
nomadic, 19-20;
personal/anecdotal, xii, xxii, 43-55, 61-66;
polysystems, viii, x, 26-42, 61, 67, 75;
postcolonial, x, xi, xiii, xix, xxi, 3, 19-21, 29, 31, 39, 40;
poststructuralist, xi, xii, 3, 19, 113;
scientific, xxii;

and segmentation, 4;
semiotic, 45-49, 52;
skopos, viii, xxiv;
social, 25-26, 43;
structuralist, xii, 3, 15-16;
systemic, xii, xxi, 26-42, 43-45, 50, 61, 62;
and teaching, 51-54;
and technical translation, 100-101
Translator-function (Daz-Diocaretz), 62, 67-77;
and acting writer, 71-72;
and omniscient reader, 71-72
Translatorisches Handeln (Holz-Mnttri), 25
"Translator's Invisibility, The" (Venuti), xix, 81, 97
Translator's Invisibility, The (Venuti), x, 97-112, 114, 115, 132, 135-36, 197
Translator's Turn, The (Robinson), xix, xx, 6, 31, 83, 101, 105, 108, 111, 126, 197, 198-99;
and abusive translation, 145, 159;
on aversion, 201;
and equivalence, 50, 51;
on Goethe, 197;
and the history of translation theory, 99;
and introversion/extroversion, 185;
and intuition, 129-31;
and machine translation, 180;
and medieval doctrine, 172;
as personal/anecdotal, 61;
and the phantom limb, 122;
on subversion, 127;
and the three seals, 174-75;
and tropes, 194
Travitsky, Betty, 8
"Trivial and Esoteric Pursuits" (Robinson), 201
"Trivialization of American Literature, The" (Robinson), 201
"Tropics of Translation, The/Kntmisen kntpiirit" (Robinson), 122
TTRTraduction, Terminologie, Redaction, 83
Tudor, Elizabeth, 7
Tuntematon sotilas (Linna), 165
"Turnings" (Robinson), 125
Twenty-One Love Poems (Rich), 63, 194-95
Tyler, Margaret, 7, 8
Tyndale, William, 89
Tytler, Alexander Frazer, 4, 11-12
U
Universe of Discourse, 37-41, 43, 46

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V
Veinte poemas de amor y una cancin desesperada (Neruda), 63
Venuti, Lawrence, vii, x-xii, xiv-xvi, xix, xx, xxiii, xxiv, 39, 82, 113-15, 117, 128, 132, 134-37, 141, 156, 177,
179, 196, 197;
discussed, 97-112;
on Schleiermacher, 90-91
Vermeer, Hans, xxiv
"Vers la traduction abusive" (Lewis), xiv, 132
Violence of Language, The (Lecercle), 116, 137
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro), 128
Voloshinov, V. N., 94, 129
W
Waiting for Godot (Beckett), 121, 125, 159
Wayne's World (Saturday Night Live), 117-18, 129
Weissbort, Daniel, xxv, 47
"What Is An Author?" (Foucault/Bouchard/Simon), 68-70
Will, Fred, xxv
Willis, Sharon, 132, 135
Wilss, Wolfram, 193
Wimsatt, W. K., 56
Winter's Tale, A (Shakespeare), 95
Wise Blood (O'Connor), 159
Witte, Heidrun, 53
Women's Ways of Knowing (Belenky), 54
Word and Object (Quine), 19
Y
Yeats, William Butler, 36
Z
Zavala, Iris M., 71, 195-96
Zohn, Harry (translator of Benjamin), 113, 116-18
Zorrilla, Jane, xxv
Zukovsky, Celia and Louis, 99

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Page xvii

his meditation in this in-between space a fruitful one that allows new and insightful perspectives on some of the
most difficult problems facing translation theorists and practitioners today. Problems of fidelity, voice, and
agency continue to haunt translation theory, despite attempts to "get beyond" them. With What Is Translation?
Douglas Robinson solidifies his presence in the field in a genre unique unto itself, one that not only enables new
insights to appear but also allows him to slip away from falsifying conceptual categories.

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Page 221

WHAT IS TRANSLATION? was composed in 10/12 New Baskerville on Power Macintosh 7100/80 using
PageMaker 6.0 at The Kent State University Press; printed by sheet-fed offset on 50# Glatfelter Supple Opaque
Natural notch case bound over binder's boards in ICG cloth by Thomson-Shore, Inc. designed by Diana Gordy
and published by The Kent State University Press Kent, Ohio, 44242

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