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Unformatted text preview: Lawrence Venuti Translating Derrida on Translation: Relevance and Disciplinary Resistance 1 .The unique and the exemplary This is the story of my struggle as an English-language translator and student of translation who questions its current marginality in the United States. Yet this can also be read as the story of your struggle, you who have an interest in translation, who wish to study and per- haps practice it and who therefore can be affected adversely by the cultural and institutional marginality that limits the opportunities to do both in this country, as well as elsewhere. For since American eco- nomic and political dominance sustains the global hegemony of En- glish, insuring that it is the most translated language worldwide but relatively little translated into, the marginality of translation in the United States inevitably produces adverse effects abroad, notably by continuing unequal patterns of cultural exchange. 1 Thus, in the par- ticular instance of translation, the “you” for whom I claim to speak— and hence the “I” who speaks—may be taken as universal. Nevertheless, my shift from “I” to “you” must not be so rapid, must not appear so seamless, because my story is fairly unique, occasioned by a recent translation project. I want to discuss the circumstances sur- rounding my translation of a lecture by Jacques Derrida on the theme of translation. To be sure, translating the work of this contemporary French philosopher requires that one be a spet in a certain sense, possessing a knowledge not only of the French language, but of Con- tinental philosophical traditions, and not only of translation practices between French and English, but of the discursive strategies that have been used to translate Derrida’s writing over the past thirty years.Yet these different kinds of specialized knowledge are not sufficient for the task: one must also desire to translate Derrida. Indeed, scholars who admire his work, who teach, research, and edit it may decline to trans- late it, both because his playful, allusive writing poses numerous diffi- culties to the translator and because translation continues to rank low in the scale of scholarly rewards. Of course, if the hand is willing, it may still be tied by the legal factors that always constrain translation. 2 law re nc e ve nut i The Yale Journal of Criticism, volume , number ( ): 237–262 © by Yale University and The Johns Hopkins University Press Derrida’s work has accrued such cultural and economic capital that academic presses tend to purchase exclusive world rights from the publisher of the French text and from the author himself.This means that a translator must not only receive Derrida’s permission to trans- late his work, but must negotiate with presses to avoid copyright in- fringement. The many complicated factors that play into translating Derrida seem to make such a project so special as to undermine any...
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2012 for the course COMPLIT 322 taught by Professor Shammas during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.
- Winter '11