18 nov. 2009

What about a theory of poetic translation that was tropological, that aimed for the preservation of every antithesis, metonymy, litotes, catachresis, etc... in the poem? If we take the rhetorical, tropological structure of the poem seriously, what would that mean for translation? (Assuming prosody is pretty much a lost cause in translation.)

5 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

Pursuing this would be instructive. That catalog of devices with Greek names is an excellent starting point & shared reference, but might not turn out to be exhaustive. On the other, there's probably something to be rescued from the lost cause of preserving prosody -- just as the devices are a way of identifying "what" the poet is "doing" with semantics, we can ask what the poet is doing with prosody (not just "what's the meter", "where's the rhyme"), and then ask whether the translator has done something analogous.

Jonathan dijo...

I don't really care about "something analogous." That could be almost everything.

Vance Maverick dijo...

I take your point, and yet -- is there a bright line between "here's a catachresis in the original, is there a corresponding one in the translation?" and "this four-character line is choppy, how's the pentameter in the translation"? Both seem to me like judgment calls, the first only marginally more substantiable.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, but you'll find that there is in fact a clear distinction--a bright line. I think almost anyone should agree that it would be desirable to translate the tropes, but almost nobody really thinks that the metrical structure of the translation should shadow the original all that closely. People talk more of "functional equivalence," or simply do nothing at all. That's what I mean by a lost cause. Furthermore, I think it is naive to even try.

Vance Maverick dijo...

Right, I was trying to unpack what might be meant by "functional equivalence". I'm naive all right, but not so naive as to think it meaningful to shadow the meter of the original. Yet when you compare a page of Lorca with carefully counted syllables on the left, to a ragged English translation on the right, don't you feel a lack? And if the translator could find a way to govern the line with some palpable regularity -- as I think Hughes does, though I wouldn't care to say how -- wouldn't that be a gain?