From the most sophisticated theoretical discourses to the most banal clichés, translation continues to be understood in terms of such marital metaphors as fidelity and faithfulness. Lawrence Venuti theorizes this way of looking at translation as instrumentalism. According to Venuti, the instrumentalist model of translation is concerned with “the reproduction or transfer of an invariant that is contained in or caused by the source text, an invariant form, meaning, or effect.” Since any meaning of any text is contingent upon various values and functions that a source text supports in its original language, no translation can provide “direct or unmediated access” to it. Instrumentalism, Venuti asserts, “grossly oversimplifies translation practice, fostering an illusionism of immediate access to the source text.”
In his recent book, Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic, Venuti puts forward a hermeneutic model of translation that seeks to do away with instrumentalism and “conceives of translation as an interpretive act that inevitably varies source-text form, meaning, and effect according to ineligibilities and interests in the receiving culture.” Venuti theorizes that the process of translation involves the application of factors that are formal (e.g. equivalence, style, genre) and thematic (e.g. incorporating an interpretation presented in a commentary on a source-text). He calls these factors interpretants, arguing that “the application of interpretants guarantees that a translation is relatively autonomous from its source text."
Based on Venuti’s hermeneutic model of translation, as well as deconstructionist thinking, postcolonial discourses on translation, Transfiction, and scholarship from the Cultural Turn in translation studies that examines the figure of the translator as a cultural interpreter, this seminar aims to initiate a discussion of translation as a mode of interpretation.
What does the hermeneutic model mean for comparative literature as an academic field, which, despite being heavily dependent on translation, continues to afford it only marginal importance? How does the hermeneutic model and scholarship that seeks to understand the role of the translator affect the creation and circulation of world literature? What potential does hermeneutic model have in redefining the pedagogy of translated literature? What kind of recalibration of literary aesthetics does the hermeneutic model prompt? What are the creative avenues that the hermeneutic model provides us to enter the domain of world literature, which according to David Damrosch is not a vast collection of literary works but a mode of reading and therefore of interpreting? Do discourses in academic institutions favor a particular model of translation, and, if so, what discourses and which model?
Scholars and translators working on what Pascale Casanova calls dominated languages are particularly encouraged to submit proposals.
Please submit proposals through the ACLA website.