Discussion Questions

Von Flotow & Beauvoir

The implementation of hypocritical translation is discussed as one of the origins of dis-unity found in feminist approaches to translation. Arrojo develops the notion of what she deems to be the “hypocritical, anxious, and theoretically [not] coherent” work of authors who implement feminist activism into translations. This process reflects on the translators’ belief that they have the authority to interject their knowledge on a political level and elaborate on the topic throughout the creation of the target text. However, by altering the text in this manner, is it not true that the target text cannot be deemed as a translation? As a translator one must attempt to create an equal meaning between the two versions. However, the dis-unity formed offers new interpretations that are not the work of the author. Parshley’s incorrect edition of Beauvoir’s text has had tremendous success in the United States but his work is greatly criticized for the injustice it does to the source text.

Luise von Flotow

I was particularly interested at the section on elitist translation. What is the purpose of making the “already difficult source material even more obscure”- would this not alter the intended message and audience, thus changing the ‘identity politics’, ‘positionality’, and ‘historicity’ of the text?

However Godard “responds to the ‘separatism and classificatory demarcation’ that she claims is a corollary to Gillam’s text, where anglophone social activism is contrasted to francophone ‘epistemological and cultural revolution’. Translation, for Godard, strives to traverse precisely these types of boundaries.”

This seems to be the opposite of my first thoughts. How do you see this type of translation?

Destructive Tendencies

Moi’s essay on the English translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex completely exemplifies many of the issues that result from the process of translation that we have been discussing in our class throughout the entire semester. As she states perfectly, “I offer this essay as a stopgap measure” as a means of bringing the shortcomings of The Second Sex’s English translation to its readers attentions.

For starters, I was completely shocked to read that Parshley condensed the 972 paged French edition to only 145 pages, essentially 15 percent. One of the biggest issues I see with this action is that the text was not shortened as a means of simplifying or clarifying aspects the work. Instead, elements of great importance, detail, and significance were deleted, which in turn totally destroyed what the text was intended to mean. Furthermore, these changes had a strong influence on Beauvoir’s reputation where, for instance, she was criticized for being “uninterested in women”. In addition to unfairly altering what the work was intended to depict, such omissions also completely eradicated essential elements of culture. For example, Beauvoir’s book in French “provides an intimate view of French culture in the mid-twentieth century” whereas in English it does not. This one instance of many demonstrates how certain translation can completely counteract its true intentions which would be to allow for a transfer of culture.

A second aspect of Moi’s essay that I was drawn to focused on Lacan and the mirror stage. Moi asserts that Beauvoir possessed a thorough understanding of the word’s specific meaning in particular regards to philosophy along with the concept of alienation. While Moi notes that Parshley at times did exercise the word “alienation” in the English text, he often injected his own ideas while translating, ultimately making Beauvoir seem uneducated in Lacanian ideas. For example, Parshley translated “alienation” from the French text to mean “projection” in the English text. Moi then brings up a valid point where it is essential to consider the cumulative effect “of reading such a corrupt text”.

I am curious about how many other works have experienced such destruction from a translation process. What then determines which works receive publicity regarding how destructive the translated text has become? Is it the extremity of destruction itself?

Feminist Approaches to Translation Studies

In the article “Dis-Unity and Diversity Feminist Approaches to Translation Studies,” Luise Von Flotow introduces three dis-united and contradictory theories by Spivak, Gillam and Arrojo. Then she discusses the potential factors of the conflict and also the factors contributing to the complexity of feminist theories in translation. Identity politics emphasize that the identity of the writer/ critic/ translator may effect their writing/ perception/ translation. Positionality indicates that “the effect of this identity is relativied by institutional, economic and other factors” (Von Flotow, 4). The historical dimension points out the limits of the subjectivity of the writer/ critic/ translator in certain time period in certain area. However, these three factors seem to be very similar and inter-related to me that I cannot differentiate one from the other. What’s the interrelationship between these three factors?

Parshley’s Sins

The core of our course in Translation Studies has been to explore the multitude of good that translation can do for world culture. We have also looked at how it is done, and what the particular risks and challenges are that face a translator in the monumental task of converting a work of manifested ideas from its native context into an alien culture. Nearly all of our discussions, I am now made to consider, assumed good faith on the part of the translator: that we were dealing with someone doing their best in a labor of love (or at the very least professional pride) to do the most sincere translation they could produce.

It is difficult to read the details of Parshley’s omissions and not conclude that he knew what he was doing – the ‘edits’ are too systematic, the omissions too damning. Part of my own assumption, regarding good faith on the part of the translator, is tied to the colossal amount of work that goes into a literary translation. In addition to the sheer man-hours necessary to complete a work of even modest scale (never mind one thousand pages!?!) there is a level of personal involvement between the translator, the author and the text that makes it hard to accept intentional perversion in the same way that it is hard to accept that incest is a crime that people commit. The abhorrence of such a defilement makes it hard to even consider.

Yet here we are. I am reminded of Mao’s CCP, Stalin’s Soviet Union, the continued abomination that is North Korea, the obscenity of ‘Creationism’ in the classroom, and the criminally impoverished ‘No Fear Shakespeare’. As much as translation can be the a force of good, to unite and illuminate, it can also be a force of terrible evil, corruption and darkness.


Mahony in Hermeneutics and Ideology: On Translating Freud argues that the structure of language may “lead, though not restrict, native speakers, to conceptualize in certain ways” and the language Freud uses theoretically and therapeutically is figurative. Translators when translating a text from different language structure should be aware of how the author and the the translator would think differently. He also proposes that translation of psychoanlysis should be different from other translation that the translator should dig into the unconscious part of the author in his writing. Though he admits that it sounds risky, it is still important for the translation of psychoanalysis. I agree that the translator should be aware that he stands in a position different from the author, but can he acknowledge all the difference? When the translator adds footnotes identifying the meanings “that might have escaped the conscious awareness of the author,” is there anyone to identify the role that the translator’s unconsciousness plays? And how to differentiate the influence from one’s unconsciousness and from the structure of language that one’s in?


Kingue began her presentation with a reading from the language in which she wrote her book in, French. Kingue deliberately opened this way to demonstrate, just like Wa-Thiong’o says, that “we can can only capture our true essence in our mother tongues”.

As I sat listening to the fluidity of the excerpt in French, and the way in which Kingue read her work with such expression and emotion, I understood why Kingue felt it was important that the audience hear her work in the language she originally wrote the words. I think it all comes down to the idea of authenticity and what it means to be authentic. Kingue said that writing was her only means of being able to be who she really was and a way for her to communicate her emotions. Because French is a part of Kingue’s identity, because French is her mother tongue, listening to her read that particular language, I think, really brought to life the true significance of what it means to be authentic in terms of language and identity.


     “Let me reach you for a moment so you can hear who am I “

The presentation started with a nice speech about the main hero of the day – Angèle Kingué. ” I can keep talking about Angèle’s archivements, awards, but I want you to listen her own voice…” And she started the presentation…the Bucknell Hall was filled with her low voice reading in French…For me it created a very strong atmosphere of the book till the end of the French part. It’s known that the author can’t read his own work, but here Kingué breaks the ice. The French part was the best cause she let us feel the spirit of the book, the heart of her heroes. I truly believe that you should read the book in a target cause only in that case you will have the whole perception of it. Nabokov says about the the Russian translation of Lolita “Story of this translation is the story of a disappointment. Alas, that ‘wonderful Russian language’ which, I imagined, still awaits me somewhere, which blooms like a faithful spring behind the locked gate to which I, after so many years, still possess the key, turned out to be non-existent, and there is nothing beyond that gate, except for some burned out stumps and hopeless autumnal emptiness, and the key in my hand looks rather like a lock pick”. And unfortunately the author needs to translate his/her work into another issues because of the market interests….if the French is ” part of her identity” was it hard for to translate her own book into English? And how it’s differs from French version then? Does the French have the same value for people from Africa or in the first place is the language of the country?

For Kingué French is “the language I birth the words” and for me it created the atmosphere of Borges and Marquez magical realism. Also it reminds me the works of Zora Neal Hearston when her heroines were straggling the hard life and at the end they build their own society…


While listening to Angèle Kingué’s reading of Venus of Khala-Kanti, I was able to reflect on the message from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk. Adichie had discussed that as a little girl, she wrote stories that involved characters with only blue eyes and blonde hair. Through her studies, she had formed a belief that these were the only characters that could be involved in literature. It was not until later in life that she came to the understanding that she too was able to create based on what was familiar and meaningful to her. Kingué opened her reading with the statement, “Let me let you hear me as I am.” She then began to read from the French text she had created the piece in. She explained that speaking in French was a part of her identity and it was important to her that she was able to write her novel in the language she claimed as her own. She furthered her comment by claiming that we are only truly ourselves in our mother tongue.

Spivak also analyzes the use of language as a development for growing to understand oneself. Kingué discussed her inspiration for her creation and the story that had inspired her to come to know the perspective and humanity of all characters involved. She had incorporated crucial cultural context and the emotions that she experienced while creating the events. The author must aim to create a reality for the reader.

Appiah discusses the constraints that language has on our thoughts and expression. This can be a challenge when attempting to translate a piece from one language into another. To further this argument, Spivak notes that a translator must exceed in his or her ability beyond further comprehension of the language. The translator must be informed of the culture to fully relay the essence of the piece. Was Christine Swartz Hartley aware of the environment and culture that Kingué included in her novel? If not, how did Kingué ensure that Hartley was fully aware and able to translate meaning for meaning?

Angèle Kingué

Angèle Kingué began by starting the reading in the text in the original French. She said that it is only in our mother tongues that we can truly be ourselves. Ngugi argues that English is not an african language. In this case, would Ngugi not consider French to be an African language as well?  If not, does that alter the meaning/value of Kingué’s work since she does not write in an African language?

Angèle Kingué states that we are what we speak- ideas in manner of expression, subtly we try to convey the essence of what we try to capture with words. How is her writing perceived differently because it is written in the language of the colonizer? We have studied how languages differ in what they must say, so how is this the case for Kingué when writing in French? How is this affected when then translated into English?

Finally, we have discussed how there are many dialects of a language. When Kingué writes does she use an African dialect or the French taught in France? How does this affect how the writing is received to native and to foreign audiences? What then is the implication on the economics of translating the work?