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National Identity in Translation


Edited By Lucyna Harmon and Dorota Osuchowska

Language as an essential and constitutive part of national identity is what obviously gets lost in translation, being substituted by the language of another nation. For this reason, one could perceive national identity and translation as contradictory and proclaim a total untranslatability of the former. However, such a simplified conclusion would clearly deny the actual translation practice, where countless successful attempts to preserve the element of national identity can be testified. The authors of the book focus on the possibilities of various approaches to national identity as a research subject within Translation Studies. The authors hope that the variety of topics presented in this book will inspire further research.

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National Identity in and as Translation


Abstract: The essay investigates nation and translation as processes of recognition, identification, but also distinction and separation, that rest on signs and symbols. Both moreover happen between cultures, which they also shape through recognition and distinction, i.e. the formation of collectives. Most importantly, they always contain a productive, if often challenging, sphere of metaphoricity in their workings. The modern British poet Wystan Hugh Auden provides examples of how the supposedly national can shade over into the transnational through translation – and vice versa – and of the ideological consequences produced by the transfer. In Auden’s life and works, this ranges from the appropriation of cultural identities via the supposed switch into a new one through his encounter with the German language and German culture to an all-embracing attitude of a global citizen and translator from many languages – though never without a noticeable dose of irony and self-criticism.

Keywords: identification, distinction, metaphoricity, ideology, Wystan Hugh Auden

At first glance, nothing could be further apart than translation and nation. The former is a process or the result of a linguistic transfer; the latter a historical political formation. Yet things begin to move closer together when one realises that both are connected with processes of recognition, identification, but also distinction and separation. In structural terms, both translation and nation rest on signs and symbols – and, as I wish to demonstrate in the present essay, also on metaphoricity, on the shady areas in which signs mean more than themselves, but...

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