‘Introduction to Translation Studies’ by Susan Bassnett.

‘Introduction to Translation Studies’ by Susan Bassnett.

This blog post is the summary of ‘Introduction to Translation Studies’  by Susan Bassnett. 

Read this for a quick revision! 

The book “Translation Studies” by Susan Bassnett is divided into three main sections outlining the disciplines of literary translation.  

Section one deals with the problem of meaning, untranslatability, equivalence, and questioning translation in connection to communication theory. Section two analyzes translation concepts through different time periods. Section three underlines the problems of translating different genres of text – poetry, prose, and drama. 

  • Andre Lefevere- In ‘Louvain Colloquium on Literature and Translation’ (1976) – proposed that ‘Translation Studies concerns the problems raised by the production and description of translations’.
  • Susan Bassnett’s ‘Translation Studies’ attempts to describe this discipline.
  • Translation studies is a ‘vastly complex field with many far-reaching ramifications’ (unwelcoming consequence) touching linguistics and literary studies.
  • Translation is known as an ‘intrinsic part of a foreign language’ and has never been given independent focus.
  • SL- Source Language & TL – Target Language: The translation of one language (SL) to another (TL) ensuring:
  1. transferring similar meaning
  2. transferring a similar structure precisely without distorting TL structure.
  • Hilaire Belloc in his Taylorian Lecture ‘On translation’ (1931) – “The art of translation is a subsidiary art and derivative”.
  • The work loses dignity from the writer to the translator destroying the art of the whole.
  • Translation is seen as a ‘low-status occupation’.
  • It is seen as a ‘secondary activity’, ‘mechanical’ rather than a ‘creative process’.
  • Discussions of translation are on a low level and non-scientific.
  • Works of major writers – Homer, Rilke, or Shakespeare are analyzed as ‘products’ only and not the ‘process’ of translation.
  • The first theoretical essay on translation in English: Alexander Tytler’s “Essay on Principles of Translation” (1791)
  • 19th Century – translation was considered: 
  1. useful method for a writer to explore
  2. To shape a writer’s native style
  3. To circulate content in various    languages
  4. Less importance to formal properties of text
  • Translation broke intercultural barriers by overlapping ideas of nationalism and national languages.
  • The translator was thought to be in a servant relationship with SL text.
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1861) said that the product of a translator showed ‘self-denial’ and ‘repression’ of once creativity.
  • Two hierarchical relationships increasing in the 19th century with colonial imperialism:
  • SL author demands loyalty from the translator
  • Translator removes all responsibility from the culture/nature of the SL text in the product
  • If translating written material is seen as servile (to do something to please) occupation, the techniques will not be recognized.
  • However, if it is done to improve/upgrade SL text the hierarchical system will fall.
  • Education systems use translated material to teach however the process of translation is neglected. Translated material is treated as the original text.
  • Susan Bassnett says that the ‘translational debate’ is that scholars who reject the idea of scientific analysis of translation are the ones who teach many translated academic books.
  • 19th century definitions of translation:
  1. Theodore Savory – ‘Art’
  2. Eric Jacobsen – ‘Craft’
  3. Some Say – ‘Science’
  4. Horst Frenz – ‘Translation is neither a creative art nor an imitative art but stands somewhere between the two’.
  5. Anton Popovic in his “Dictionary for the Analysis of Literary Translation” outlines the basis of a methodology for studying translation. 
  • Translation studies touch different areas such as stylistics, literary history, linguistics, semiotics, and aesthetics; developments in grammatology, narratology, advances in the study of bilingualism and multilingualism, and child language learning.
  • Andre Lefevere defines the goal of “Translational Studies” is to ‘produce a comprehensive theory which can also be used as a guide for the production of translation.
  • Four general areas of Translation studies: (Two are product-oriented and two are process-oriented)

1. History of translation

2. Translation in the TL culture

3. Translation and linguistic

4. Translation and poetics

  • Two bases of evaluating translated text:

1. The closeness of translation to SL text (if the author knows both languages)

2. TL text as a work of a particular language (validity of a text)

  • Critics will expose the frailties/faults of other translators and avoid analyzing their own methods of translation. 
  • There is no universal canon/rule to evaluate texts; however, both the process of creating it and the function of given content should be taken into account. 

Susan Bassnett believes that there are certain principles that can be arranged and segregated and utilized in translation indifferent to the language.

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Mercy Hapsiba

Freelance Writer~Blogger~Learner

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