New Perspectives on Translation
Insights into the Performative and Cognitive Work of Translators
ARTIS Inaugural Symposium
In Memory of Martha Cheung
Manchester Conference Centre, 13 May 2014
The ARTIS Initiative got off to an excellent start on 13 May 2014 with an inaugural symposium hosted by the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester. New Perspectives on Translation was conceived as a one-day research training event aimed primarily at doctoral students, postdoctoral, and early career researchers.
This event featured two superb and stimulating keynote lectures:
- Professor Sandra Bermann (Princeton University, US) Performativity in Translation Studies: Language, Action and Interaction
- Professor Hanna Risku (University of Graz, Austria) The Leaky Translation Process: New Perspectives in Cognitive Translation Studies
The symposium also featured nine excellent presentations by doctoral students, from different European institutions, working on cognitive and performative aspects of translation.
All of the Abstracts can be found below or by clicking here.
Transgressive ‘Transformance’: Translating Gender and Sexuality in Catherine Millet’s La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M. (2001)
Keynote Speakers (alphabetically)
Performativity in Translation Studies: Language, Action, and Interaction
Professor Sandra Bermann (Princeton University, US)
This talk explores why thinking about translating as ‘performing’ can yield essential insights for translators and translation studies scholars. Nowhere has the centrality of ‘performance’ to translation been more acknowledged than in the domain of literary translation. In ‘hearing the “voice” of the author and the sounds of the text in her own mind and then interpreting through different words, in her own voice’ (Grossman 2010: 11-12), the translator performs the original for a new readership or audience. This talk, however, goes beyond the notion of translation as ‘performance’, in the sense of doing or acting, focusing instead on ‘performativity’, as conceptualised in language and gender studies. I will begin my critique of performativity and its relevance to translation studies by looking at Austin’s (1962) concept of ‘performative statements’. Austin’s conceptualisation of performativity aptly encapsulates the capacity of literary translators to create (rather than describe) a world filled with characters, places and ideas. In signalling a shift of focus from what language says to what language does, Austin’s performatives also reflect the growing interest of translation scholars in what translation does in certain contexts. I will then move on to consider Derrida’s (1988) views on the performative quality of literary translation. For Derrida, the fact that language is ‘iterative’ (a system of signs that can be repeated and reused in different contexts) and has ‘inaugural power’ (it does something in and to the world) is particularly evident and worth examining in relation to translated texts and their potential for literary action. Finally, the notion of performativity will be examined in terms of the cultural category of gender, as illustrated by Butler’s (1990, 2012) claim that gender is not an essence one possesses, but what we create by repeated acts over time. The final part of the talk will speculate more generally on what these insights can tell us about translation’s role in social action and interaction.
The Leaky Translation Process: New Perspectives in Cognitive Translation Studies
Professor Hanna Risku (University of Graz, Austria)
Cognitive science approaches seek to understand and explain how cognitive processes work – especially how translators produce translations. In this presentation, I discuss current developments in the cognitive strand of translation studies in the individual/network field. I begin with a brief description of TS and the particularities of the cognitive science perspective, then go on to discuss how selected contemporary approaches in cognitive science can contribute to the transition from cognitive to socio-cognitive TS. In doing so, I seek to demonstrate that the individual and network perspectives are intrinsically linked, and that this change in perspective moves translation management into centre stage in cognitive TS. Based on current developments and insights, I make several suggestions for the cognitive TS field, some of which might also be of relevance for TS as a whole. I formulate 10 cognitive TS hypotheses that also merit the “socio-cognitive TS” name and address the goals, object, interdisciplinary nature, perspectives and key focus of cognitive TS. These hypotheses also require a number of methodological innovations in cognitive TS. From a methodological perspective, the observation of the parameters of isolated phenomena in a laboratory setting must be augmented by observation of dynamic courses of action in which people interact in the field with their environments and artefacts (instruments, technologies). Social processes and embeddedness become central aspects of the observation and analysis. Like Edwin Hutchins, a pioneer of distributed cognition who experimented with the notion of viewing an aircraft cockpit with its instruments and pilots as an interrelated cognitive unit, socio-cognitive TS will follow inevitably “leaking minds” into their social and technical environments and incorporate process, interaction and artefact analysis into a combined view on dynamic complexity. By describing “how a cockpit remembers its speeds”, Hutchins showed that cognition can be seen as the interplay of multiple dynamic systems; similarly, the aim of socio-cognitive TS is to take an extended view of the translation process in which former boundary conditions or environmental factors serve not only as contingent external circumstances, but are also themselves integral parts of the translation processes.
Panel Abstracts (alphabetically)
Performing ‘Transcendence’ through Ruist–Christian Dialogue: James Legge’s Dialogic and Intertextual Annotation on Ren in his Lunyu
I-Hsin Chen (University of Manchester)
James Legge (1815–1897) translated a series of Ruist (Confucian) texts into English, entitled The Chinese Classics. In this presentation, I use Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism and Kristeva’s concept of intertextuality to discuss Legge’s annotation on ren (perfect virtue, benevolence and universal love) in his Lunyu (the Confucian Analects). For Bakhtin (1981), dialogism in the novel is embedded in “heteroglossia”, where the author develops an ongoing dialogue with all the characters. Based on Bakhtin, Kristeva (1986) defines dialogism as a phenomenon of intertextuality: different voices responding to, absorbing and transforming one another mark the language created in a text. Focusing on Legge’s dialogic and intertextual annotation on ren, I will show how Legge performs the Sino-Christian ideal of ‘transcendence’ through his translatorial engagement with Kongzi (Confucius) (551–479 BCE) and multiple intercultural sources. Specifically, this presentation examines how Legge interprets Kongzi’s discussion with one of his disciples Yan Yuan on achieving ren. In annotating this example, Legge uses the glosses by He Yan (ca. 195–249) and Zhu Xi (1130–1200) as well as the Greek Bible, the Shangshu (the Book of Documents) and other sources to explore philological issues, the philosophical problem of human selfishness and the religious themes of sin and moral transcendence which the saying raises. Tracing analogies between his Chinese and Western sources (for example by relating God-given reason in Christianity to Zhu Xi’s notion of the principle of Heaven), Legge’s annotation illuminates the nuanced Sino-Christian meaning of virtue and transcendence. Overall, I argue that ‘transcendence’ in Legge’s annotation is not a narrow doctrine predefined in a single tradition, but rather is a continued cross-cultural performance, inspiring us to search for the meaning of humanity, love and higher truth in intra-linguistic and interreligious light.
Social Network Analysis of Translation Production: The Impact of Production Networks on Translation Quality Assurance
Melanie Foedisch (University of Manchester)
My research aims at enhancing our understanding of processes involved in translation production, with a focus on the impact of power and dependency relations between actors in production networks on the quality of translation processes and products. Translation will be conceptualised as a complex, networked activity that is dependent upon contributions of all actors involved, e.g. translators, project managers and clients. In my presentation I will discuss the application of social network analysis (Wasserman and Faust 1994), which constitutes an established perspective in sociology for studying social phenomena, to investigate the communication structure in translation production networks. Social network analysis constitutes a quantitative approach that provides a broad range of concepts and measures for analysing and representing social phenomena as networks consisting of the network actors and the relations between them. My study is based on the argument that power and dependency affect the communication structure of actors involved in translation projects which in turn has an impact on the quality of translation processes. I aim to compile network data on the communication about quality-related issues in translation projects which will then be analysed in terms of power and dependency distribution across the actors. An understanding of the observed communication structures – of the overall network as well as individual actors’ embeddedness – may enable us to assess the effect of communication in production networks on quality assurance. The proposed presentation complements the keynote session by Hanna Risku as it suggests a network approach to translation production that may account for the interconnectedness between individual actors and their networks and for the complexity of production processes. It also introduces an innovative methodology to TS for analysing social processes and the embeddedness of individual actors within them.
Exploring Translation Competence Development in Students by Measuring Cognitive Effort in Metaphor Translation
Claudia Förster Hegrenæs (Norwegian School of Economics NHH)
Translation competence as a versatile construct of physical and mental abilities (i.e. sub-competencies) rather than the professional activity of translating involves more than rendering text from one language into another. Translation competence models picture an interwoven system of psychological, physiological, cognitive and linguistic sub-competencies differentiating the bilingual speaker from the translator. While these models illustrate translation competence as the result of a development from being bilingual to being a translator, the very process of acquiring the different sub-competencies is still largely uninvestigated. In this project, I examine the translation of metaphorical expressions by translation students (English-German, English-Norwegian) at different levels of their education (i.e. 1st, 2nd and 3rd year). I study choice of translation strategy and cognitive effort as indicated by production time to investigate competence development. The empirical exploration of the translation process is conducted with the help of the key stroke logging program TRANSLOG and retrospective interviews. The investigation will answer the following research questions: 1. Which metaphor translation strategies do the different subject groups employ, and are there quantitative similarities or differences between the groups 2. How do production times differ in relation to the different translation strategies thus indicating greater or lesser cognitive effort? Do these results differ between the subject groups according to their advancement in the training program? The quantitative data from the TRANSLOG study will be statistically analyzed using a linear mixed-effects regression model, which allows for a controlled application of different variables.
Transgressive ‘Transformance’: Translating gender and sexuality in Catherine Millet’s La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M. (2001)
Pauline Henry-Tierney (University of Manchester)
In this paper I discuss the importance and applicability of feminist translator Barbara Godard’s concept of ‘transformance’ for the translation of contemporary French women’s transgressive, autofictional writing (Godard 1989: 46). A feminist neologism uniting the terms translation, transformation and performance, ‘transformance’ is elaborated by Godard as the dialogism central to the act of translating women. ‘Everywhere women are writing their way into subjective agency’ (1989: 44) affirms Godard, who sees the process of writing as a form of translation itself since women must translate their own lived experience into language in order to write themselves into existence. As a key existentialist concept ‘lived experience’ is instrumental in the formation of subjective agency and underscores the idea that gendered identity is a process of ‘becoming’ rather than a pre-existent state (Beauvoir 1949:1). This idea has been taken up in turn by Judith Butler in her elaboration of gender as ‘the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance(1990: 44). In the way that Godard sees women translating their performances of gender (and I would argue sexuality) into writing in order to affirm their subjective agency, it is necessary to explore what happens to this agency not only when it is translated into language but between languages. For Godard ‘transformance’ posits the dialogic interplay of both the author’s and translator’s voices and so when studying how women writers’ representations of gendered and sexual identity are translated, it is necessary to take into account the ways in which an author and translator will perform their own gendered and sexual subjectivity differently. Taking the translation of Catherine Millet’s La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M. (2001) as my case study as well as analysing excerpts from an interview I conducted with the translator Adriana Hunter, I explore how the act of translation requires the translator to adopt the author’s performance of gender and sexuality while at the same time balancing their own personal performances. As textual examples highlight, Millet performs her gender and extreme forms of sexuality very differently compared to Hunter, yet as the translator reflects, assuming Millet’s transgressive performances of gender and sexuality through translation allowed Hunter to confront discordances embedded in her own sexual subjectivity. It is hoped that this paper will create fresh interest in Godard’s concept of ‘transformance’ and its centrality to the study of translation and gender, and secondly that this paper will be a useful extension of the ideas to be discussed in the keynote address regarding how a Butlerian concept of performativity is of central importance to translation studies.
Multilingual Activist Hip Hop as Performative Narrativity
Rebecca Johnson (University of Manchester)
This presentation will interrogate the phenomenon of multilingual activist hip hop from a narrative theory perspective. Treating the data (subtitled music videos) as examples of performative narrativity in translation, the analysis will relate them to emergent epistemologies and forms of political expression in the globalised era. Performative narratives of this kind, I will argue, offer a useful site from which to explore the interface between ontological and meta levels of social existence, as described by narrative theory in its sociological manifestation (Somers 1994; Baker 2006). Furthermore, since lyrical content and delivery is central to the musicality of rap, I suggest that hip hop is a mode of discourse which blurs the distinction between verbal and non-verbal forms of expression, paving the way for new insights into narrative activity and raising interesting translational questions. The analysis will draw on the work of three influential hip hop artists – Peruvian-American Immortal Technique, British-Palestinian Shadia Mansour, and Argentine-French Keny Arkana – all of whom are able to rap bilingually, and who use this skill to promote their activist agendas. I will examine how, in directing their personal testimonies and socio-political critique to an audience of multiple language communities, the artists fruitfully position themselves at the intersection of existing public narratives and use performativity to open a ‘space’ for supranational and activist narratives to gain currency. These narratives, which are audiovisual in format and freely circulated online, are then further mediated by translators who are motivated to engage with the artists’ work and further its spread. The addition of subtitles to the videos by amateur enthusiasts highlights both the potentialities and limitations of globalised information flow at a time when de-territorialised identities and communities of affinity, as well as non-representational or affective forms of knowledge, are becoming increasingly prevalent.
Translating Translation Theory: A Performative Approach
Silvia Kadiu (University College London)
As part of a broader project exploring the challenges of translating theoretical voices from one cultural tradition to another, this presentation will examine aspects of performativity in my translation of Lawrence Venuti’s The Translator’s Invisibility. The motivation behind my translation of Venuti’s text into French is to perform a foreignizing translation of his text in order to reflect on the viability of his theory of foreignization (the idea that the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text should be made visible within the translating language itself). What do concepts like “foreignizing” and “fluency” mean in a French cultural context? To what extent can I be foreignizing without obscuring meaning? And can Venuti’s methodology of foreignization be applied to any text, including his own? By attempting to translate Venuti himself in a foreignizing way, and by putting his text to the test of its own theory, this project adopts a performative approach inspired from Jacques Derrida’s ‘Des Tours de Babel’, whereby Derrida engages in a translation of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The Task of the Translator’ in order to reflect on translation. My use of the word “translateur” in translating Venuti’s title into French is one of the examples I will discuss to illustrate my performative approach to translating translation theory—“translateur” being an archaic French term which has been used to refer to someone who translates too faithfully, thus emphasizing Venuti’s argument about the translator’s invisibility. By experimenting with the boundaries between form and content to show translation theory in the making, this presentation will suggest that translation might be a space where form is not just a medium of expression but the locus of theory itself. As such, it will invite us to think about the possibility that each translation act might itself constitute a piece of translation theory.
Performing Translations on the Streets
Dinithi Karunanayake (University of Manchester)
This paper proposes to engage with the concept of ‘critical mimesis’ that extends the meaning of mimesis beyond reductive understandings of the term as ‘imitating’ or ‘reflecting’ the world, describing it instead as ‘a practice that both materialises and dissembles, and makes and unmakes bodies and worlds’ (Hughes 2011: 14) to examine how ‘Measures Against Power’ from the collectionStories of Mr. Keuner, a set of parables and aphorisms by Bertolt Brecht is ‘transcreated’ into Maravara Mehewara [Thug Service], a performance text by the Wayside and Open Theatre Group, a troupe of street theatre artists based in Sri Lanka. Drawing attention to the context of performance, both historical and socio-political, as well as the use of performance space(s) and bodies in performing translation, the presentation proposed to connect with the Keynote presentation ‘Performativity in Translation Studies’, particularly in how this performance text may be seen to have ‘inaugural power’ (Derrida 1988) in how it attempts to do something in and to the world. The presentation further hopes to dwell on ‘translation’s role in social action and interaction’ through a textual and performance analysis of the theatre text. The paper draws on both socio-narrative theory and performance theory to reflect on how ‘the real of our experiential worlds is to a large extent created by art in the first place’ (Lehmann 2006: 37).
Cognitive effort and the role of the source text in machine translation post-editing
Lucas Nunes Vieira (Newcastle University)
As a result of the ever-improving levels of quality achieved by machine translation (MT) systems in recent years, post-editing MT is now not only a commercial reality but also a target of increasing interest in research. A number of previous investigations in this field focus on the temporal and mechanical aspects of the activity, with less attention being devoted to its cognitive implications. In this talk, aspects pertaining to the extent of mental processing experienced by post-editors will be addressed in relation to the amount of use they make of the source text (ST). The focus of post-editors’ attention is estimated with the use of eye tracking. As for cognitive processing, a traditional self-report scale borrowed from the field of Educational Psychology is used. Further insight is provided by a qualitative analysis of think-aloud data obtained in parallel tasks carried out under less methodological control. Partial results indicate that the degree of perceived cognitive effort associated with ST use in post-editing is moderated by post-editors’ level of proficiency in the source language (SL). While no clear connections were observed between a ratio of ST consultation and preliminary assessments of translation accuracy or fluency, results suggest that for those with high SL proficiency consulting the ST does not incur more perceived effort, while for those with lower SL proficiency more ST use is associated with higher levels of perceived effort overall. By drawing on concepts and methods originally put forth in the overarching area of cognitive science, it is believed that this talk fits not only the theme of the conference but also the well-known trait of (Cognitive) Translation Studies of being interdisciplinary in its essence. It is also hoped that the methodology and results reported will be useful to other process research on post-editing as well as translation.
Translation as Metacognition
Annegret Sturm (University of Geneva)
I share two basic assumptions with the keynote speakers: first, that the translator has to interpret the source text in her own mind before adapting it to the target audience, as Bermann states; and secondly that translation as an “other-directed act” (Robinson 2001:8) does not only imply cognitive units such as memory and problem solving, but crucially relies on social cognition, as put forward by Risku. In my doctoral thesis, I investigate the hypothesis that translation enhances metacognition. Every translation process requires a higher metacognitive effort than standard communication. In this context, the term “metacognition” does not refer to monitoring processes (cf. Angelone 2010) or awareness of the own knowledge (cf. Hurtado Albir 2010) during the translation process, but to the metarepresentation of other minds (Sperber 2000). Whereas most branches of translation studies agree that translation is a form of metarepresentation (Gutt 2000, Wolf 2002, Sturge 2007), the claim that translation involves the metarepresentation of another mind (Wilss 1992) has received little attention up to now. However, the metacognitive advantage of bilinguals over monolinguals has received considerable attention by developmental psychologists (Kobayashi 2008, Kovács 2009). To test the hypothesis whether translation enhances metacognitive proficiency, I triangulated data of three experimental studies comparing students with two different levels of translation training using fMRI, eye tracking, key logging and translation product analysis. Results of the fMRI study show that the metacognitive network is implicated in the translation condition. But neither the fMRI nor the translation product analysis reveal any difference between the two groups. In contrast, according to the behavioural data MA students have a clear advantage over BA students in text processing in the metacognitively demanding condition.