Tymoczko describes post-colonial and minority literature as  “converg[ing] on the shared limit defined by cultural interface” with the target language (p. 22). Through the act of translating, he argues that “judgement is inescapable in the process; ‘objectivity’ is impossible. And just as there can be no final translation, there can be no final interpretation of a culture through a literary mode. There is no last word” (p. 24). How is translating into a minority culture different in this than translating out of the minority language? Further, how does the position and cultural identity of the translator effect this inherent judgement of the mind?

Spivak and Appiah

What caught my attention in Spivak’s article is what he’s saying on the page 370 ” Language is not everything. It’s only a vital clue to where the self loses it’s boundaries”. If language is not everything what the translator should do in this case: use the footnotes, pre-reading  article….or he should leave this work to reader, to let him find all the puzzles…?

In Appiah’s work I found the question which Schleiermacher also was arguing:” if , as I suggested, translation is an attempt to find ways of saying in one language something that means the same as what has been said in another; and if , as I have recently suggested, the literal meaning of an utterance is a matter go what intentions a speaker would ordinarily be taken to have in uttering it….” So is he saying here that the literal translation is a sort of domestication? But I think what he’s arguing is that there not that much similarities in languages and to make a “pure” translation is almost impossible, so then we have to do a “thick translation”?

Thick Translation

Appiah emphasizes that there’s certain educational and institutional purpose behind literary creation and translation, and he proposes “thick translation” to “urge to continue the repudiation of racism… to extend the American imagination… and to develop views of the world elsewhere that respect more deeply the autonomy of the Other” (341-342). This is definitely significant for translations from “cultures of the minority” into “cultures of the majority.” However, what will Appiah argue for translations from culture from the majority into culture of the minority, for example, the translations of Western literature into Chinese culture? Should there be any resistance or confinements in order to keep the Chinese culture and to maintain the overall diversity of world culture?

Spivak and Appiah

Spivak writes, “In my view, language may be one of many elements that allow us to make sense of things, of ourselves.” This ability to further express one’s thoughts allows for the individual’s creation of an identity. The act of stringing meaningless terms together to form something more complex can be additionally shaped based on the speaker’s gestures and the pauses he or she chooses to incorporate. The author’s argument discusses the obligation to account for culture as a translator. He notes that a translator must exceed in his or her abilities beyond simply being able to converse in the language of the original. If one does not carefully relay the cultural message of the work, then does the piece lose its identity and relevance along with the subject?

Spivak and Appiah

Appiah states that “if what language you speak determines what thoughts or intentions you have, translation … will always be impossible” (p. 334). Does our language influence our thoughts? For example, if two things are only described by one word in language A but given two separate words in language B, then can a speaker of language A fail to recognize or correctly distinguish between the two yet speaker of language B would think of them as distinct from each other? Essentially, does our vocabulary determine how we conceptualize and our world? If so, how does our thinking change throughout development and in learning multiple languages? Is ‘pure language’ then that which denotes an idea/thought/feeling that is shared among all humans, regardless of language?

Small Oversight…

Chan’s article examines the affects of colonialism* on the Chinese language and the influx of ‘Europeanization’ on literature. It spends very little time actually looking at the period of time when China was actually under colonialism*, and instead most of its focus is instead placed on modern-day scholars who are attempting to resurrect some kind of ‘pure’ Chinese. These modern-day ancient-language enthusiasts deride the intellectual giants of the early 1900’s, like Lu Xun (the godfather of modern Chinese literature), for their abandonment of pure Chinese in favor of some bastardized version. This is interesting, as the authors of the May Fourth movement and the progressives of the Republican Era were the first generation of Chinese to see literature (as it is commonly understood) to be critical the national well-being. It was also only in the 1900’s that any attempt to achieve national literacy was made. For the vast majority of China’s 5000 year history, that these neo-purists like to invoke, nearly all of the population was illiterate. All but a tiny percentage, the top 1%, were unable to read the ancient, esoteric classical script used by Confucius and other purely Chinese historical writers. So how is it, exactly, that this ancient subset of the language evokes feelings of collective memory in people who have never known, whose grand-parents and great-grand parents have never known how to read it?

Oh, also, these same scholars neatly side-step the issue of the CCP and Mao Zedong’s violent impact on the language, despite the fact that the modern lexicon is made up of characters approved of by the leaders of the Cultural Revolution. He literally rewrote the language and cut out vast sections of its most under-utilized characters. The majority of the ‘impoverishment’ of the language that seems to be so decried here is the product of purely Chinese people.

Who is this new-old ‘pure’ language supposed to be for? What would it be used for, and why? How could ideas imported by the Chinese, into Chinese and absorbed by the Chinese kill off living parts of an active language?

*China was never, at any point, any country’s colony.


What is the art? How you differentiate what is art and what not? Is it “art for art” or it needs to be professional and have fans?

Another question is how should we translate the world literature? And why living in a 21st century, the century of globalization, we still need to translate/adopt the world literature? In this case how can make it understandable for everyone: shall we use translation studies or simply create one language for everyone?


Late homework for the Thursday class.

1. What is your understanding of local and global adaptation?As far as I understood from the article the local adaptation is caused by problems of source text itself and limited to certain part of it (for instance, it might be factors like cross-code breakdown or  situational inadequacy). And a global adaptation is determined by factors outside the source text, usually it takes more wide-ranging revision.

To what extent do the forms of adaptation reflect Berman’s deforming tendencies? I think here it’s possible to say that rationalization and clarification  are very close to global adaptation, cause using these two tendencies you are not only translate the text, but also adopt it for the reader…

2. Identify the ST and TT in the movie?How are they related?  Charlie Kaufman is writing a script for the book so basically the language is English but he’s adopting the style of the book (making it shorter and put it in the “frame” of movie time). And at the end we have a script based on his own experience of reading the book.

3. Consider your own choice of adaptation.

Well, my favorite book is The Lord of the Rings and I think Peter Jackson has done an amazing movie, his team worked well with the script, still they lost a lot parts from the book….but they combine parts really good, so you don’t feel missing something. I think the this is local adaptation. Another example is brothers Grimm’s fairy tails: in the real version they are really dark and the main character sometimes dies, but in children’s version it’s always happy end and good guys always win. I think here we can talk about global adaptation.



Translation and World Literature

Damrosch begins with an example of one of the oldest lyrics to survived. He notes that “whereas many works of world literature come to us already shaped by complex dynamics of transmission, further shadowed by vexed relations between the originating culture and our own, this text has almost no history at all intervening between us and the moment of its inscription in 1160 B.C.” (412). Because of its survival , brevity, and simplicity, the poem is regarded as art. I’m curious as to how Schleiermacher might categorize this text/lyric as an example of bringing the reader to the author’s linguistic-conceptual world or vice versa? First, in order to classify something as a work of art, its understanding needs to be universal. Now because the gender of the speaker of the text fails to be identified, could one argue that it cannot be considered a work of art since it fails to accomplish such universality? Would this mean that in the case of considering the text art the author should be brought to the reader as the gender of the speaker would be established?

World Literature

During the reign of Ramses V, a scribe documented a variety of literary texts on a papyrus roll. These preserved lyrics are some of the oldest in the world. Damrosch selects the piece for its simplicity to further analyze the complex problems that derive from the task of translation. He mentions the obstacles of which a translator must tackle, such as “decipherment of grammar, of vocabulary and of cultural framing.” (Pg. 412). One then must solve questions of context and decipher whether the speaker is a male or female. Although a poem is typically thought to be concise in its explanation and language, the translator must battle the intricate nature and elements that the composition possesses. Does one then wreck the purity of the source text by trying to illuminate these themes in the target text? Is there truly a way to establish equal delicacy in the language of the translation?

In addition, through evaluation Chan’s argument, can one claim that improper translation of Asian texts can be attributed to Western ethnocentric views? What effect does this action have on the hierarchy of languages?