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Politics of Cross-Cultural Reading

Tagore, Ben Jelloun and Fo in English

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Marion Dalvai

The last two decades have witnessed an upsurge in scholarship on world literature. In most of this work world literature is understood as a concept in intellectual history, as a cultural system or as a curriculum to be taught. Grounded in three empirical case studies, this book complements such approaches by asking what world literature in English is or has been and what role authoritative readers (translators, editors, publishers, academics and literary critics) play in constituting it as a field for others.
The ambivalent position of English as a roadblock to international visibility and as a necessary intermediary for other literary languages justifies a particular attention to what is presented as world literature in English. By emphasizing the constitutive function of cross-cultural reading, the book encourages reflection on the discrepancy between what is actually read as world literature and what might potentially be read in this way.
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Chapter 5: Who is Afraid of Dario Fo? Translation and Adaptation Strategies in English-Language Versions of Accidental Death of an Anarchist

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CHAPTER 5

Who is Afraid of Dario Fo? Translation and Adaptation Strategies in English-Language Versions of Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Translations act as a form of intercultural communication, making what is alien to a culture come into contact with what is peculiar to it. […] Since it is generally the receiving system that initiates the cultural contact, a translator’s decisions will be largely determined by the translation and cultural norms prevalent in the target polysystem.1

Translation in general and theatre translation in particular has changed paradigms: it can no longer be assimilated to a mechanism of production of semantic equivalence copied mechanically from the source text. It is rather to be conceived of as an appropriation of one text by another. Translation theory thus follows the general trend of theatre semiotics, reorienting its objectives in the light of a theory of reception.2

In the last chapter, I dealt with a specific aspect of cross-cultural reception, academic criticism. The aim of this final chapter is to analyse yet another specific aspect of the reception process: the paratextual and metatextual commentary provided by several agents involved in the production of the English translations and adaptations of one of Dario Fo’s best known plays, ← 233 | 234 → Morte accidentale di un anarchico [Accidental Death of an Anarchist]. Concentrating on the visible traces these agents leave within the covers of a book allows me to flesh out the translation and adaptation strategies pertaining to this particular case...

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