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Discuss George Steiner's Theory of Translation with Reference to Its Importance for Translation Theory as a Whole.

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. Discuss George Steiner's theory of translation with reference to its importance for translation theory as a whole.

"'... all of the children would jump into the Brod when it was so hot, and our parents would sit on the side of the water and play cards. Tell him.' I Told Him 'everyone had his own family, but it was something like they were all one big family. People would fight, yes, but it was nothing'"(Foer , 155)

George Steiner made an undeniable contribution to translation 'theory'. His ideas, as laid out in After Babel (1975), were very progressive when they were first published and they remain very relevant today. Steiner covered a great deal of new ground, most notably the idea that all communication involves translation. After Babel has influenced a vide variety of people, e.g. Brian Friel (McGrath), working in a range of different fields.

Ironically After Babel, which highlights the many difficulties involved in the process, and concept, of Translation has itself been translated into several languages ranging from Romanian to Chinese (Steiner , xi).

It is viewed as a key advance in the explanation of Translation. Naomi Blivin makes the claim that it is the "First systematic investigation of the theory and practices of Translation since the 18th Century" (Steiner). It is a comprehensive study of the subject of language and translation. It is both a controversial and seminal work that covers a great deal of new ground and has remained the most thorough book on this topic since it was first published in 1975 (Steiner , x). There had been no organized or detailed attempt to place translation at the heart of human communication or to explore the ways, in which the constraints on translatability and the potentialities of transfer between languages engage the philosophic enquiry into consciousness and into the meaning of meaning (Steiner , ix, x).

It deals with linguistic and philosophic notions - such as meaning, context, historic relativity, cultural aspects of the language and literature.

Steiner refutes the notion that translation is a scientific pursuit. He flatly denies that there can be any 'theories of translation'. According to Steiner the best a translator can aim for is to "articulate narrations of felt experience". He borrows the words of Wittgenstein to describe translation as 'an exact art' (Steiner , xvi).

Whereas the dominant concept for most of translation theory at this time (1960s & 70s) was equivalence (Venuti , 120) Steiner returns to the hermeneutic tradition and takes a literary and philosophical approach to translation theory, akin to German Romanticism, this is contrary to linguistic orientated theorists who define translation as 'Functional communication'. In fact in his preface to the second edition Steiner claims that academic linguists find his work 'an irritant' (Steiner , xi). Steiner's approach comes from the tradition that is of the opinion that translation is both violent and exploitative, towards the source text, yet at the same time sympathetic and ethically restorative (Venuti , 124).

Steiner claims that language maps the world, and each different language does it differently. Every language, and Steiner stresses that there is no hierarchy of languages, reveals a number of possible worlds, geographies of remembrance and cultural memory (Steiner , xiv). When a language dies a possible world dies with it. Steiner comes across displeased with the increasing domination of 'American English' around the world.

The thesis of After Babel is that "all communication, even within a single language, involves translation"(McGrath , 5). This is evident in the emission and reception of every mode of meaning, from communication the broadest sense down to specific verbal exchanges. To understand is to decipher. To hear significance is to translate, "To understand is to translate" (Ricoeur , 215),

Therefore the essential structure and problems of the act of translation are fully present in acts of speech, of writing and of any other form of communication within any given language (Steiner , xii). Translation between different languages is just another use of a model that is fundamental to human speech even when it is spoken in only one language (Steiner , xii). This is illustrated by the prominent difficulties encountered by people trying to communicate, within the same language, across spaces of historical time, social class, different cultural background and professional sensibility (Steiner , xii).

"Language is the main instrument of man's refusal to accept the world as it is."

In After Babel Steiner argues that this "concealment and lying", which he says are central to language, have been "crucial to man's survival in the face of ineluctable biological constraints." He further clarifies this point as man's miraculous ability to survive "in the face of death" (Steiner , xiv). Steiner is citing language, with its ability to generate counter-factuals, 'if' propositions and, most significantly, future tenses, as a key ingredient in the story of man's survival, and prosperity, on this earth. This inherent ability to say no to reality and to build 'fictions of alterity' enables us to endure (Steiner , xiv). Translation in the more usual sense arises when two languages meet (Steiner , xii).

Throughout the book, George Steiner tries to reconcile the supposed chaos stemming from the Biblical fall of Babel Tower and the Darwinian benefit of having so many languages in the world. The first three chapters basically deal with issues of language. They are sprinkled with some interesting tidbits from Steiner's experiences as, what he claims to be, a native speaker of English, French, and German. The fourth chapter gives the reader a nice history of translation in about sixty pages; however, the fifth chapter, "The Hermeneutic Motion."

The Hermeneutic motion is Steiner's model of the 'theory' of translation. It professes that act of appropriative transfer of meaning contains four parts (Venuti , 186). These are 'initiative trust', 'aggression', 'incorporation' and 'compensation' (Venuti , 186).

Initiative trust involves an investment of belief on behalf of the translator that there is 'something' in the source text that can be understood and translated. This is an act of 'radical generosity' on behalf of the translator and this trust will be tested, to a greater or lesser extent, in the



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