ENGL 123 term paper final draft

ENGL 123 term paper final draft - Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson...

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Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson Professor Edelstein ENGL 123 11 June 2007 The Ethics of Literary Translation: A Cultural Perspective The origin of what is denoted by the term translation is appropriately embedded in its very language. The prefix trans , in and of itself, immediately implies the notion of crossing borders, of one thing turning into something completely foreign. This translatory process is at the crux of both modern and ancient discussions on the ethics of literary translation. How do we translate? Is there any specific or authoritative process to follow? Should one translate mechanically, with complete literal faith to each word? Or does the translator of literature owe more creativity to the text? As the former notion of linguistic fidelity implies honesty and logical certainty, the theory of fidelity has governed translation practice without question for thousands of years because of its moralizing undertones. Perhaps fidelity to language is akin to fidelity to God, as it was He who mythically “confused the language of the whole earth; and from there [He] scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:9). In the biblical story of the city of Babel, God creates communicative barriers between people, while grounding each language in a “common myopia; none can articulate the whole truth of God or give its speakers a key to the meaning of existence” (Koskinen 13). This fragmentation of human society, while seen by some as a sort of mythical curse, is the initial foundation upon which theories of translation were founded.
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Carlson 2 Traditionally, faithful translation was the only legitimate form of translation, as free translations were seen as wrong and/or morally suspect because of their subjective viewpoint. When the translator deviated from the path of faithful translation, it was automatically perceived as an unfaithful interpretation of God’s word. The assumption that “free will always produces wrong choices, that unmonitored freedom always verges on licentiousness,” led to a belief that the freedom of the individual translator needed to be somehow constrained to prevent him/her from using the language to do wrong (Koskinen 13). Theoretically, allowing a free translation as opposed to a strictly faithful one would breed linguistic infidelity. The ethical implications of translating are thus derived from the degree to which we can trust the judgment of the individual translator. Despite the assumedly mechanical and logical nature of literary translation, various arguments on translation theory affirm that there is no authoritative model to follow when translating text; instead, the individual translator must make both ethical and creative decisions when translating in order to produce the best possible rendition of any original text (Audet, Dancette). However, this is not to say that the process of translation dismisses the importance of linguistic mechanisms or logical, literal translation tactics; nor is it granting the translator complete freedom to do as s/he
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ENGL 123 term paper final draft - Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson...

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