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National Identity in Translation

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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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Born Translating: The Transl/National Roots of Estonian National Identity

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Abstract: The Estonian national movement can be described as a process of cultural adaptation of German national-romantic and Enlightenment patterns which, in the second half of the 19th century, were employed by the first generation of Estonian intellectuals to construct a national identity able to mobilize Estonian people around the agenda of the national movement. Translation played a central role in this process, insofar as the Estonian writers, who laid in their works the ideological bases of the new national awareness, heavily drew on German authors. Their “originals” were undeclared adaptations of (mainly) German literary works and motifs with many omissions and additions aimed at domesticating foreign works for the Estonian public. The article concentrates on the work of Lydia Koidula investigating the way in which she manipulates her German models in order to make them into suitable material for the Estonian national agenda. The case study highlights the crucial role of translation history for the investigation of the construction of national identity in 19th century Europe.

Keywords: adaptation, national identity, Estonian national movement, Lydia Koidula, translation history

1 Introduction

The spread of national ideas in 19th century Europe follows an evident transnational pattern. Ideas, motives, ways of action are adopted from the generating centers (mainly France and Germany) and adapted to the Southern, Central and Eastern peripheries of Europe. Nonetheless, nationalism studies often ignore the means of this adoption and adaptation of foreign models to local situations, that is interlinguistic and...

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