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Goldsmiths - University of London

“L’esprit humain, qui semble voyager d’un pays à l’autre”: Considerations on the historical relationships between translation and comparative literature

Boldrini, Lucia. 2010. '“L’esprit humain, qui semble voyager d’un pays à l’autre”: Considerations on the historical relationships between translation and comparative literature'. In: II Simpósio Internacional de Literatura Comparada e Tradução. Florianopolis, Brazil. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

The relationship between comparative literature and translation has always been much debated, whether the primacy of the one or the other is declared, or their inextricable relation is asserted, or maybe their incompatibility. I do not want to rehearse these arguments now because we are already familiar with them. I want however to mention Stanley Corngold’s point that the activities of translation and comparative literature are fundamentally different, because “translation means carrying over a piece of foreign language into one’s native or ‘near-native’ language” whereas “‘comparison’ means, in fact, being for one moment, without a language; it means being […] at a place of thought where the target language is absent […] It means not needing to translate, on the claimed strength of being able to translate.” (Corngold, 141) This leads to a very interesting question: what is the language of comparison? If I compare a piece by Flaubert and one by Kafka, and my normal language of thinking is English, yet when I read each of the writers I understand them in their original language, so what language am I thinking in when I compare them?
Corngold’s words set up a dialectic between familiarization of the other (even appropriation) and de-familiarization of the self through its encounter with the foreign, even the unthinkable.
Among the many interesting points this brings to our attention, two are worth singling out. The first is about translation and is implicit in Corngold’s words on “carrying over a piece of foreign language into one’s native or ‘near-native’ language”. What I’m interested in here is the issue of the native or mother language, or near-native, that is to say, a language of extreme familiarity as precondition for the possibility of accurate translation. The second is about comparative literature: even if I may not always know what it is, a language of mediation is postulated for the comparison, and it too must be a language I am familiar with, even if for a moment I may not know what it is, or be left without it.
These points, and especially the emphasis on the native language, have important implications, as they directly take us to the Romantic assumptions of a direct identitarian link between nation, people, language, literature, and theoretical reflection (thinking) upon these; which is also of course the context of Goethe’s thoughts about the mediation of World Literature, and the context from which the discipline known as “comparative literature” is seen to have emerged.
They also brings to our attention the assumptions that we make, necessarily, about the language of linguistic, literary, and critical expression, and the assumption that these closely relate with our most essential identity.
(first paragraphs)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)

Additional Information:

written version to be submitted in 2010/ 2011

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature

Dates:

DateEvent
September 2010["eprint_fieldopt_dates_date_type_shown" not defined]

Event Location:

Florianopolis, Brazil

Item ID:

4339

Date Deposited:

26 Oct 2010 13:37

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2017 15:14

URI: http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/4339
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