Louise von Flotow – Sacrificing Sense to Sound

*my comments 

Suzanne Jill Levine describes wordplay as “puns”

These “puns” :

  • they place sound above meaning and yet have a semantic bond between the words!
  • Even though there is a focus on sound, there is still a network of signifiers!

Women’s writing of 1970s-80s

  • wordplay to “undermine assumptions of meaningfulness in more conventional language.”
  • “the complicity that wordplay creates a willing reader and the text is extremely difficult to reproduce in translation”
    • the reader gives the wordplay meaning, and interprets sound differently
  • Von Flotow
    • examined strategies of supplementation and exploitation for wordplay
      • Berman’s deforming tendencies
    • Ex: feminist wordplay in German by Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology
      • “difficulty in the differing political contexts: German readers interested in such material were viewed as lagging behind”
      • translation with pedagogical agenda
      • copious footnotes
    • Ex: Michelle Bourse, French translation of Agua Viva
      • musicality of words, forms, juxtapositions
        • these express what has so far remained inexpressible
      • need a “mimesis” , “imitation” or Bourjea terms “imitation phonétique”
      • The TT reproduces and/or riffs the sound of the ST
  • Nicole Brossard
    • describes women’s difficult access to and position with conventional language
    • “chats pitres tristement” & “chapitres”

Mimetic Translation

  • paronomasia – wordplay
  • Translators of experimental women’s writing resort occasionally to mimetic translation
    • Levine sees this as the most radical
  • Worries that it’s focused on individual words rather than the lexicon as a whole
  • favors graphic and phonetic aspects of ST & does not focus on semantic meaning
  • BERMAN: enrichment of ST – because the translation sounds foreign.
    • experience foreign in their own language
  • Valesio
    • deformation of semantic content
      • creates interlinguistic paronomasias, wordplay across languages
        • Ex: Catullus’ poem by Celia and Louis Zukovsky
          • justify by interpretation
  • Who wants to read children’s nursery rhymes with footnotes?

The “Sonorous Plot” of Feminist Writing and Mimetic Translation

  • Discussion about translation and experimental writing
  • four anglophone francophile women academics, writers, and translators
  • their texts were “easier to listen to than read”
  • bringing French Quebec writers to English speaking Canada
    • sound as sense
    • with difficult material, it was suddenly not difficult because of the “sense as sound”
  • Godard
    • “ventriloquist translation”
    • translator visibility ”
  • La tentation
    • follows ST closely
    • no attempt to explicate
    • sound where meaning was impossible without
  • “Sonorous Plot”
    • ascribed to Nicole Brossard
    • described as a “weave that is created when “one phoneme leads by homophony to the next” and “the sound of words, not their syntax, make the textual connections.”
    • little room for interpretation based on sound!!!! (emphasizing certain words – brings about certain meanings)
  • Brossard’s use of the feminine possessive pronoun
    • “ma” after “espace” : “l’espace (ma)/ parmi tous les âges, les rides/versatiles de la femme inattendue”
    • women taking over the masculine space for feminine use
    • translation to repeat sound points to cultural reference

Challenge of reading mimetic translations

  • Reading experience different when you know the meaningfulness of the texts already
  • no ST “communicative value” for some feminist texts in Canada
  • Texts with “deliberate mis-translation”
    • foreignizing of syntax and semantics
    • ELITIST TRANSLATIONS – academic elitist
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About Tyler Candelora

Tyler Candelora is a first-year student at Bucknell University. He is from Coal Township, PA. He speaks English but is currently learning Spanish, French, and Arabic. Tyler is a comparative humanities and language major.

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