Saturday, March 14, 2009
A few weeks ago, I was teaching a class on the history of translation theory. So many different metaphors were mentioned during our discussion of material about Sir John Denham and John Dryden. I will name some of them here.
Transfusion. In the sense of an alchemical reaction, transfusion was a fairly common metaphor some centuries ago, though perhaps the word today would make us think instead of a blood transfusion. In either case, the idea of infusing new spirit and new life into something applies. Shell and kernel. Latham gets a across a similar idea (i.e. of preserving the general meaning if not the exact wording) with his comment "I used the freedome of a Translator, not tying myselfe to the tyranny of a Grammatical consruction, but breaking the shell into many peeces, was only carefull to preserve the Kernell safe and whole, from the violence of a wrong, or wrested Interpretation." (as quoted in Venuti's excellent The Translator's Invisibility). Clothing. This is a very common metaphor. Rider (also cited in Venuti) used this metaphor: "Translations of Authors from one language to another, are like old garments turn'd into new fashions; in which though the stuffe be still the same, yet the die and trimming are altered, and in the making, here something added, there something cut away." In other words, you use the author's material but refashioned and reshod. Tight-rope walker/dancer. In the introduction to his translation of Ovid's Epistles, Dryden wrote: "'Tis much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs. A man may shun a fall by using caution, but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected, and when we have said the best of it, 'tis but a foolish task; for no sober man would put himself into a danger for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck."