Translation Studies and Its Turns

Translation Studies and Its Turns

Research, Ideas, Issues

In my blog, I am going to publish fragments of my current research, or share my ideas about what I come across in the publications I read or in the materials I study, or discuss issues in Translation Studies which, I think, call for a discussion. My posts do not claim to be anything more than work in progress and are inevitably of fragmentary nature. I count on my readers and their expertise to fill in the blanks and to contextualize discussions, whenever necessary. All borrowings must be acknowledged.
NB: The posts are published so that the newest one comes first and shown on the main page, therefore the older ones are to be found the section "Previous Posts." The New Testament principle is at work: the first will become the last.

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LXX Studies and TS: A Friendly Nudge

TranslationPosted by Sergey Tyulenev Wed, May 15, 2013 10:03:30

To continue my yesterday’s blog post, let us see how TS is viewed by a Septuagint scholar (van der Louw). He sees it as “of a fairly recent date” but a discipline that already has several ‘schools’. He sees the discipline develops as “developing at a high pace” with Interpreting Studies branching off as a separate discipline.

Our discipline may cause confusion in how we use terminology: the “old-age plarity literal versus free severs as the background of almost every book, only under different disguises:

literal <> free

verbum <> sensus de sensu (Jerome)

erfremdend <> eindeutschend (Schleiermacher)

foreignizing <> domesticating (Venuti)

direct <> oblique (Vinay & Darbelnet)

direct <> indirect (Gutt)

overt <> covert (House)

documentary <> instrumental (Nord)

semantic <> communicative (Newmark)

formal-equivalent <> dynamic-equivalent (Nida)

formal-correspondent <> functional-equivalent (Nida – De Waard)”

We could add a couple more. Let us note that van der Louw is careful to say that the polarity ‘literal vs. free’ “serves as the background” of other versions of this polarity. I take it he hinted thus to his reader that different scholars modified the basic terminology for a reason (although it’d be superfluous for his purpose to go into details).

Van der Louw appreacites TS’ progress from the word level/sentence through discourse and style to the sociocultural settings of translating. However, as van der Louw remarks, together with broadening of TS scholarship’s scope “a loss of thoroughness” may be noticed. He gives an example from Andre Lefevere’s reading ideology into a translation of Jesus Christ’s original Aramaic where Jesus compares a loaf of bread with his body: “Lefevere here connects a translational issue with the burden of the medieval controversy concerning the nature of Christ’s presence in the eucharist, more than a thousand years later, in order to detect ‘ideology’ in translation” (p. 10, footnote 39). Another inaccuracy in TS’ study of the LXX is found in Vermeer’s Skizzen zu einer Geschichte der Translation: van der Louw disagrees with Vermeer’s statement that literalness (Woertlichkeit) is the “main characteristic” of the LXX, adding: “Yet many passages have been translated quite freely.”

As a Septuagint scholar, van der Louw observes that the Septuagint has been treated in a “stepmorthely” fashion in TS and even “in a major work of reference [Baker’s Encyclopedia of Translation Studies] the Septuagint is only mentioned in passing.” Delisle & Woodsworth’s discussion of the Septuagint [in Translators through History], van der Louw adds disconcertingly, is “apparently not designed to arouse interest in the study of the Septuagint, for they state curtly: ‘In modern times, its primary value is in biblical scholarship’.” To upset van der Louw even more, Woodsworth does not take this phrase from a new edition of Translators through History (2012: 157).

Van der Louw understands the reasons why the LXX has not been granted a more central position in TS: 1) “few researchers can read both Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew,” while they may not always have access to the secondary literature with its own terminology and theological and text-critical methodology; 2) the LXX does not have an established original, only one surviving documents providing a glimpse into the translation process and that is only a short note by the translator of the book of Ben Sira, making it difficult to study translation methods; 3) more pragmatically, LXX-related research is less likely to be interesting to policy-makers or grant-giving organizations as compared to translation research looking into modern issues of translation.

Van der Louw finishes this discussion on an optimistic note, though:

“Despite these difficulties I am convinced that the study of the Septuagint can contribute to Translation Studies. An interdisciplinary study can materially advance the knowledge of translation practice in pre-Ciceronian antiquity, if only by making Septuagint literature more accessible to translation researchers. The Septuagint as a major translation deserves its place within Translation Studies.”

His own study is an attempt to “show to what extent models and methods from Translation Studies are useful for the study of an ancient translation.”

Indeed, van der Louw signals that TS should grow over its recent parochialism and, by embracing the research on translation done elsewhere, serve as a forum for interdisciplinary scholarly efforts to understand the phenomenon of translation better—not only in its present-day manifestations or in an observable past, but venturing into deeper ‘waters’. Together with specialists in other epochs we can navigate not only around our own shores, but also beyond our present horizons. Elsewhere I wrote that postcolonialism is not only about geography—TS has been successful in going beyond the West-East/West-Rest paradigms; yet there is another colonialism to overcome—the colonialism of the present, to go not only into postmodernity but into pre-modernity, so to speak.

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