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Fredrik Hertzberg (Abo Akademi University)

Materiality and Translation

According to Walter Benjamin in "The Task of the Translator", 'any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information - hence, something inessential'. Yet there seems to be a fine line between 'transmission' and 'translation'; how to draw it? This paper suggests that the features of a literary work which seem to resist translation may be grouped under the concept of 'materiality'. The 'materiality' of a poem can be addressed on many levels; it concerns the sound, the look, the rhythm, and the syntax of the poem, among other things. This paper gives some examples of how translators have dealt with such issues in translating Finland - Swedish modernist poetry into English. At the same time, a poem's materiality seems to be something above and beyond these aspects of a poem, something which could be summed up as the 'experience' of the poem, or its 'phenomenology'. This paper considers how to best describe this feature, whether it is useful as a concept in regard to translation, and whether it explains why even translations which expressly intend to transmit also may retain something of the materiality of the original.

Fredrik Hertzberg (b. 1966) is a literary scholar and critic. He has a Ph.D. in English from SUNY-Buffalo and a doctoral degree in comparative literature from Abo Akademi University. The title of Hertzberg's dissertation is Moving Materialities: On Poetic Materiality and Translation, with Special Reference to Gunnar Bjorling's Poetry (2002). Hertzberg's translations of Gunnar Bjorling's poetry appear in boundary 2 and in You Go the Words (Action Books 2007). At present, Hertzberg is an editor at Svenska litteratursallskapet in Helsinki, Finland.

Adrienne Ho (University of Iowa)

Translating an Echo: Intersubjective Voices of Sulpicia's Poetry

In the European tradition, a translator of Classical verse relies on historical, archaeological and literary evidence as a biographical guide. However, with Sulpicia, the only extant female poet of Augustan Rome, we have no extra-textual biographical information, and philologists, literary critics, and commentators alike have rallied to the question 'Who is Sulpicia'? by representing Sulpicia's corpus in multiplicitous, conflicting ways. Mathilde Skoie's Reading Sulpicia demonstrates the inherent hermeneutic nature of commentaries operative in differing interpretive communities by highlighting the modes of reading Sulpicia's poems (Corpus Tibullianum 3.13-18) 'in order to display interpretive strategies at play.' As a translator, my approach to Sulpicia is deeply influenced by this mode, and the hermeneutic nature of commentaries extends to my translation. This paper will show that translation, like commentary, is shaped by interpretive method. But, unlike a commentary, the hermeneutic choices facing any 'authorial' translator must extend into more difficult terrain than just message. Sulpicia's poems are a case in point where an 'authorial' translator must recreate aspects such as voice, which is often supplemented by biography. Because each translator's answer to 'Who is Sulpicia'? determines how Sulpicia's corpus is represented, the primary concern of this paper is with the polyvocalic quality articulated by literary criticism and commentary, and the implications for a translator responsible to intersubjective voices. Sulpicia's voice is intersubjective rather than strictly historical. Instead of concluding that Sulpicia's poems adhere to a single conjecture from among the determined suppositions, this paper will consider Sulpicia's poetry as an echo.

Adrienne Ho holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa, where she is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature. She is a poet and a translator of Latin and Classical Chinese, and her work appears in US and Canadian journals, including Arc, Burnside Review, Circumference, Denver Quarterly, The Malahat Review, 91st Meridian, and Ninth Letter. From 2002-04, she was co-publisher of Delirium Press, a small broadside press based in Montreal, Canada, featuring limited edition prints of original poetry and visual work by local artists.

Elaine Lee Yin Ho (University of Hong Kong)

Translation, Parallel Texts, and the Present of the Past

Around 1997, there were vigorous discussion and debate in scholarly and other circles about Hong Kong identity. One of the key issues, shaped by postcolonial theories of hybridity, was how British colonial rule interacted with Chinese ethnocultural characteristics to generate a specific 'Hong Kong' identity. This historical vantage was complicated by relational arguments on a 'Hong Kong' identity emerging in opposition, to a number of different others, for example, expatriate resident, Chinese nationalist, emigre/immigrant, diasporic subjects. Ten years after 1997, are these arguments still relevant? This essay explores a number of ways of extending and problematizing the earlier debate. To do so, it looks to literature and literary translations between Chinese and English, rather than cultural studies, for modalities of 'Hong Kong' identity in a transnational frame. The essay focuses on two pre-1997 poems on Hong Kong, by Hong Kong poets, and published locally, both of which are available in parallel English and Chinese texts. Following the inspiration of Michel de Certeau's ideas on historiography, the essay deploys these two sets of sinophone - anglophone texts to set up points of reference in a dialogue on 'the present of the past'. Beginning with the more recent poem, first written in Chinese, and its postcolonial subject matter, the essay explores how the availability of an English translation extends this poem's postcolonial agenda beyond its immediate local context, and inserts it into the discourse of world literature. This framework of analysis which co-ordinates translation and the transnational is set in relation to an earlier poem published simultaneously in both Chinese and English. The earlier poem delivers an anti-colonial critique of a different kind from the later poem. Significantly, its simultaneous sinophone-anglophone presence opens up a number of perspectives on how 'Hong Kong' identity can be construed as the compounded legacy of British colonial and Chinese ethnonational cultures, and conceptualized vis-a-vis different others. These perspectives do not always align with, and indeed, problematize those of the arguments around 1997.

Elaine Yee Lin Ho has BA and M.Phil degrees in English from the University of Hong Kong, and a Ph.D in English Renaissance literature from University College London. She has published two monographs on Timothy Mo (Manchester University Press) and Anita Desai (Northcote), and a number of articles on world anglophone literature and Hong Kong literature and culture. An edited collection of essays, 'China Abroad: Travels, Subjects, Spaces', has just been completed and will be published later this year. The current presentation is part of a larger project on anglophone-sinophone literary exchanges in Hong Kong.

Piers Hugill (University of Southampton)

The Poetics of the Sacred; or, why Meschonnic translated the Bible

This paper concerns the theory and practice of Henri Meschonnic's translation of the Hebrew Bible. Following Walter Benjamin, Meschonnic maintains that 'successful' translations must also be works of literature ('news that stays news'), because the originals are also creatively inexhaustible. A work of literature is writing that always generates new possibilities of meaning and with them new 'subjects' as writers - readers. In critiquing existing Bible translations, which he classifies as either domesticating (for example E. A. Nida's) or foreignizing (for example Andre Chouraquies Hebraisizing calques), Meschonnic has a much wider purview in mind. His view is that a 'sacralising' onto - theology is unwittingly at work in many current theories of poetic language. By tackling sacred language directly as literature this tendency can be fully disclosed. In his own practice Meschonnic seeks to recognise the distance from the source language as a form of decentring that allows the target language to be carried into the centre of the source text, entering into the system of writing of the other that changes the target language forever. This has meant an acute and subtle re-working of the Hebrew's cantilation marks, an experiment in a new way of writing French closer to the tradition of free - verse with its emphases on visual prosodies, parataxis, and fragmentation, than to any 'imitation' of the original. In his critical writings he has shown the same features at work in the treatment of such 'sacralised' poets as Paul Celan.

Piers Hugill is Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Southampton. He worked with the (anti-)performance group LUC, has published poetry and criticism in a number of magazines, and edits the journal of experimental translation, 'reception'.