8 nov. 2009

In my MLA talk I'm making the argument that Venuti's notion that "translation today bears little sign of these [modernist] developments" (The Translator's Invisibility [2nd ed.] 164) has to be questioned. Yes, there is a whole swath of mainstream translation that receives little influence from more radical Poundian principles. What Venuti unwittingly minimizes, however, is the entire phenomenon of the postmodernist poet-translator from Spicer to Rosmarie Waldrop. It is true that he mentions some of these significant names in passing, but he prefers to see translation as marginal and victimized rather than as central to modern poetics as a whole. Take away translation, and we have a mutilated modern/postmodern poetics. Maybe this modernist poetic practice of translation is marginal within the total universe of translations, but it is central to American poetry itself. Poet-translators employ a huge range of techniques, from Richard Wilbur on one end of the spectrum to Rothenberg on the other.

If we take "translation" as our area of concern, then modernist translation (as defined by Venuti) is a small part of the whole. Yet if we take "modernist / postmodernist poetics" as our area, then translation becomes absolutely central. You have to be able to see the duck as well as the rabbit.

Venuti's emphasis on the binary opposition between fluency and its discontents also has the practical effect of putting all "fluent" translations in the same category. Yet surely all "fluent" translation are not created equal, and there is a huge continuum of practices between the fluent and the obtrusive. Venuti's deep distrust of theories that make the translator invisible has the paradoxical effect of making certain kinds of translation less visible. Maybe interesting things are happening in Marianne Moore's LaFontaine, for example. Someone should look at that. Isn't that another variety of "modernist" translation?

6 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

Looking at his versions of Antonia Pozzi, it struck me first that he was adding extra linebreaks and indentation to make the poems more like Niedecker. Then his preface makes this intention quite explicit. (And it's clear he feels he's doing Pozzi a service by affiliating her to an Anglophone tradition -- whether we buy this or not, clearly he's concerned with the same kind of literary politics you are.) He references Pound too, as who would not.

Jordan dijo...

Don't go misreading Venuti the way he misreads you! Surely he's pulling a Silliman, reducing a complex situation to a binary, for the sake of (starting an) argument...

Jonathan dijo...

Sure, but as with the case of Silliman, this binary creates the opportunity for a critique.

Jay dijo...

As a layman, I find this debate fascinating. If one of translation's aims is to render the source work "fluently" in the target language, I could see the concern that translation might have a homogenizing tendency (or at least a tendency toward smoothing out idiosyncracy and difficulty). But "fluency" is not one thing -- after all, couldn't Leslie Scalapino and Billy Collins (for lack of a better polarity) be said to be equally "fluent"?

Johannes dijo...

The thing that your Lorca book does well is move away from the formalist obsession with the original and the copy to how these various texts interact with US culture. I feel Venuti's obsession with domesticated/estranging translations in many ways just furthers the old formalist paradigm (literal/faithful and adulterous/free etc). And in fact, his estranging strategies are in many ways just another domestication.

Where did Venuti respond to your book. I would like to read it.

Johannes

Jonathan dijo...

I can forward it to you if you write me a message at jmayhew@ku.edu