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Translating Emotion

Studies in Transformation and Renewal Between Languages


Edited By Kathleen Shields and Michael Clarke

This collection of essays can be situated in a development that has been underway in translation studies since the early 1990s, namely the increasing focus on translators themselves: translators as embodied agents, not as instruments or conduits. The volume deals with different kinds of emotion and different levels of the translation process. For example, one essay examines the broad socio-cultural context, and others focus on the social event enacted in translation, or on the translator’s own performative act. Some of the essays also problematize the linguistic challenges posed by the cultural distance of the emotions embodied in the texts to be translated.
The collection is broad in scope, spanning a variety of languages, cultures and periods, as well as different media and genres. The essays bring diverse questions to a topic rarely directly addressed and map out important areas of enquiry: the translator as an emotional cultural intermediary, the importance of emotion to cognitive meaning, the place of emotion in linguistic reception, and translation itself as a trope whereby emotion can be expressed.


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MICHAEL CLARKE - Translation and Transformation: A Case Study from Medieval Irish and English -29


MICHAEL CLARKE Translation and Transformation: A Case Study from Medieval Irish and English Traditionally we were taught that the translator is the betrayer of his source text, or at best a passive intermediary who allows the reader to forget that he exists. In our time it has been a source of new vigour to realize that that view was grimly reductive, and we can now see the translator as a powerful agent whose authority is all the more deeply embedded when it is unac- knowledged.1 The urgency of this insight is borne out especially clearly by the pivotal role of the professional interpreter in arenas where political and linguistic worlds collide, like the interrogation rooms of Guantánamo Bay or in the multilingual creativity of modern life.2 But the principle applies just as much when a literary translator takes a text from one cultural con- text and recreates it in another. Poised between two systems of thought and communication, he acts as gatekeeper between them and determines their relative status in terms of power and dominance. Implicitly, also, he poses the Whorfian question: to what extent are meanings and cultural structures separable from the forms of the particular language in which they were first expressed?3 I want to use this perspective as the starting-point for investigating an extraordinary episode in the history of translation: the creative project that was carried out under parallel forms in medieval 1 See Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: a History of Translation (London: Routledge,...

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