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Translating the Untranslatable: A Comparative Study of Two Modern Language Translations of the Verses of Egils saga Skalla-Grimssonar

By Edel Maria Porter


My project analyses the extent to which, though a process of translation (or rewriting), skaldic poetry has been appropriated and manipulated in such a way as to help construct ideas of national identity. It combines two academic fields of study: one is the long-established and time-honoured tradition of skaldic scholarship and the other\ud is the relatively new field of Translation Studies which in the last thirty years has gone from being a marginalised, almost ignored field of interest to a discipline which is now being studied as a subject in its own right. Translation Studies has become a very broad subject with many sub-specialities, but my research is chiefly concerned with theories of literary translation and in particular builds on recent research (by scholars such as Susan\ud Bassnett, Andre Lefevere and Maria Tymoczko) on the links between colonialism and translation.\ud \ud Translations of skaldic poetry provide a particularly suitable basis for the investigation of translation as a place of cultural interface. The complexity and subtlety\ud of this poetry make it notoriously difficult to render into other languages, leading to claims that this genre is `untranslatable'. While this is patently untrue, any attempt to maintain the form of skaldic poetry, communicate the content, and, at the same time, convey its metonymic implications in translation inevitably results in lacunae between source text and translated text which are more marked than those which occur when rendering prose. An examination of these liminal spaces can discover both the strategies employed by the translator and the extraneous (cultural, economic, ideological) factors, which may have influenced the production of the translation.\ud \ud Similar studies carried out by translation scholars have so far concentrated on the twentieth-century literatures of British, Spanish and French ex-colonies. By examining Norwegian and Spanish translations, I analyse the less obvious but equally complex relationships between the target cultures and the source culture as reflected in\ud the poetry. I argue that one strategy employed by ex-colonial powers to accommodate the notion that another culture or literary tradition is equal or superior to their own is by appropriating it through what I call `retrospective colonization'. I extend this theoretical\ud framework without being prescriptive, however; this is an empirical study consisting mainly of descriptive and critical analyses of the translated texts

Publisher: School of English (Leeds)
Year: 2007
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