Facets of Domestication

Case Studies in Polish-English and English-Polish Translation

by Dorota Guttfeld (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 178 Pages
Series: Dis/Continuities, Volume 10


Lawrence Venuti’s distinction between foreignizing and domesticating translation is a powerful concept in translation studies. This volume discusses domestication and foreignization in Polish-English and English-Polish translation and presents case studies of film, prose, poetry, and non-fiction, Internet memes and a card game. For many students of the discipline, it is an initiation rite of sorts to face the proposition that domestication is not the only way to do translation, and that translation is not the transparent mediation many intuitively believe it should be. To examine the concept, one has to take a close look at translation policies, genre conventions, stylistic shifts in translation, the rearrangement and manipulation of content, or the treatment of culture-specific items.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Titel
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Facets of domestication
  • English to Polish: the protective translator
  • Translation and ideology. His Holiness John Paul II and the hidden history of our times in Polish
  • Domestication and foreignization in children’s literature. Culture-specific items in two Polish translations of Anne of Green Gables
  • Polish to English: the exotic East
  • Old Polish attire in English. Foreignness and domesticity in the English translations of Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz
  • From the Wild Fields to the DVD. A domesticating approach in the translation of With Fire and Sword
  • From the Orient Westwards. Cultural items in two English translations of Sonety krymskie by Adam Mickiewicz
  • Polish and English: between translation and adaptation
  • Two audiences, two messages. A case study of self-translation in Fear / Strach by Jan Tomasz Gross
  • Localizing a new text-type. Anglophone Internet memes and their Polish versions
  • Humour and cultural references in constrained translation. The Polish translation of Munchkin, a non-collectible card game
  • Contributors

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Facets of domestication

The present volume is a collection of papers based on the B.A. and M.A. projects of translation studies graduates from the Department of English at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. The findings from these diploma theses all illustrate various degrees of the source texts’ adaptation to target culture standards. The common denominator is the authors’ engagement with the concept of domestication.

Lawrence Venuti, who rediscovered the term for translation studies, argues that “every act of translating wreaks on a foreign text” some form of “ethnocentric violence” which ought, for ideological reasons, be countermanded “by a violent disruption of domestic values that challenges cultural forms of domination, whether nationalist or elitist” (Venuti 1995: 147), so as to exert “an ethnodeviant pressure on those (cultural) values to register the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text” (20).

If the original sin of translation is not redeemed by such efforts at foreignization, the rendering becomes “an ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to target-language cultural values” (20), a domesticating translation that “masks an insidious domestication of foreign texts, rewriting them in the transparent discourse that prevails in English and that selects precisely those foreign texts amenable to fluent translating” (17).

Since a domesticated text “conforms to values currently dominating the target-language culture, taking a conservative and openly assimilationist approach to the foreign text, appropriating it to support domesticating canons, publishing trends, political alignments” (Venuti 1998: 240), if domestication becomes the accepted norm, it “prevents an engagement with cultural difference because foreign texts, whatever their origin, are uniformly pressed into homely moulds” (Munday 2009: 98).

Although criticized for his, paradoxically, American-centric perspective and elitist attitude to translation and literature as academic natural past-times (see Pym 2010), as well as his combative and unqualified pronouncements, Venuti remains a powerful influence in translation studies (Kearns 2009). One of the initiation rites for many students of translation is facing the proposition that domestication might not be the only way to do translation, and that translation itself is not necessarily an innocent activity, let alone the transparent mediation that many believe it can and should be. ← 7 | 8 →

The realization that domesticating translation behaviors are “enforced by editors, publishers, and reviewers” and that the resulting renderings are molded to be “eminently readable and therefore consumable on the book market, assisting in their commodification and insuring the neglect of foreign texts and (…) discourses that are more resistant to easy readability” (Venuti 1995: 16) opens translation studies to the discussion of (cultural) politics, ideology, social attitudes to otherness, reader preferences and horizons of expectations, to use a term borrowed by Meg Brown from reception theory, and (self)fashioning in international relationships.

This volume presents papers by graduates of the Department of English in the Faculty of Languages at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, all based on their B.A. and M.A. research projects in English-Polish and Polish-English translation. For a beginner-scholar, the most obvious way to test Venuti’s claims is to research the translation of culture-specific items. More challenging projects include the analysis of stylistic shifts, the rearrangement and manipulation of the content, the application of target-side genre conventions, the selection of texts for translation, or the emergence and formulation of internal translation policies. The study of culture-specific items benefits from various categorizations of procedures (or techniques) used to render them in translation, such as the taxonomies developed by Javier Aixela or Piotr Kwieciński, which are employed in some of the following papers. Kwieciński also introduces a distinction between the procedures themselves, situating them on a spectrum between exoticism and assimilation, and the (domestication or foreignizing) effects they may but do not have to cause. While the two frameworks are closely connected, they need not be synonymous. Since the effects of particular procedures may be assessed from the reactions of the audience, some of the papers included in this volume include attempts at surveying target reader preferences.

The case studies in the first part of the book discuss English-Polish translation. While Venuti initially described domestication as a tendency visible in translations from relatively minor languages into dominant ones, such as (American) English, the section illustrates its appearance in translations into Polish as well. The first paper, by Joanna Szakiel, illustrates the political pressure exerted on the source text in translation, and the uneasy relationship with the foreign: the outsider perspective of the Western journalists on what target readers may view as an essentially Polish specialty is very much welcome, as long as it is flattering and does not contradict the expected notions of decorum, which needs to be protected by means of translation shifts. The next article, by Ewa Tadajewska, illustrates similar shifts in the translation of a literary text; to facilitate identification with the protagonist, her original religious denomination is partially hidden from view of the Polish reader. ← 8 | 9 →

The second part of the volume focuses of the ways Polish culture seeks to represent itself to the Western recipient. The texts under analysis include some of the most canonical representations of Polishness. The article by Karolina Retkowska discusses the icon of the Sarmatian nobleman, transported West by the rather domesticating renderings of traditional Polish attire. Krzysztof Wadyński examines culture-specific items (notably forms of address and elements of material culture) universalized in the translation of a film based on one of the most influential Polish novels, depicting a mythologized period of heroic struggle. Natalia Grabowska views Poland’s own complex relationship with the East as the source of this crucial sense of exoticism, and studies English translations of Oriental terminology in some of the most famous Polish poetry.

The three articles featured in the last part of the book investigate less traditional cases of interlingual transfer. Joanna Szakiel discusses a fascinating case of self-translation in another study of a non-fiction book, illustrating the influence of the target readership, the communicative situation, and the cultural context in which a text is to be received on its form and content. Aleksandra Borowska examines the propagation of viral pictures on the Internet as a chance to witness the emergence of new genres and translation norms. Dominika Grygowska analyses translators’ priorities in rendering cultural references and humour in the Polish version of a card game, and notes the growing influence of globalization on the margin of freedom the translators are allowed to enjoy.

I hope that the papers showcase the variety of research topics available to young researchers, inspire further studies in the field, and encourage younger students to pursue their interest in translation. I would like to thank the Head of the Department of English as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Languages for making this variety possible, and for their support of this publication.

Dorota Guttfeld


Kearns, John. 2009. “Strategies” in Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (eds.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. London / New York: Routledge, 282–285.

Munday, Jeremy. 2009. Routledge companion to translation studies. London / New York: Routledge.

Pym, Anthony. 2010. Venuti’s visibility. http://usuaris.tinet.cat/apym/on-line/translation/1996_Venuti.pdf, DOA April 1, 2015. ← 9 | 10 →

Venuti, Lawrence. 1995. The translator’s invisibility: a history of translation. London / New York: Routledge.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (June)
foreignization cultural references Polish literature translation studies
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 178 pp., 12 b/w fig., 31 tables

Biographical notes

Dorota Guttfeld (Volume editor)

Dorota Guttfeld is Assistant Professor of English at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland). Her research interests focus on the translation of science fiction and fantasy literature and, specifically, the issue of rendering cultural items.


Title: Facets of Domestication