Chapter 2: The Scientific Model
1. Toury’s status derives from his role in developing and promoting the plan for establishing an autonomous discipline, Translation Studies, and in developing concepts and a method for the discipline. Toury considers that isolated insightful descriptive translation research has been undertaken within various other disciplines such as Contrastive Linguistics and Comparative Literature. But he asserts that studies must be undertaken within one discipline with shared objectives and method in order for individual studies to be “intersubjectively testable and comparable, and the studies themselves replicable…thus facilitating an ordered accumulation of knowledge” (Toury 1995, 3). These assertions indicate core features of Toury’s project for the discipline: it adopts strict divisions and a natural sciences’ model and method.
2. The scientific model is a powerful model to espouse in setting up a discipline, since it is a model that commands respect. In his study of academic disciplines Tony Becher says that disciplines which are theoretical, quantitative and sharply defined tend to have a higher status. Accordingly groups of academics in disciplines lacking prestige have occasionally initiated reforms designed to increase the degree of “hardness” of certain specialisms and the degree of convergence of their community (Becher 1989, 161). The issue of status can have significant practical implications. Edwin Gentzler claims that unless quasi-scientific methods of study are established, it is very difficult to convince university authorities to support new disciplines: the proponents of successful new translation studies programs in Europe and in the U.S. have been forced to argue the “systematic rigour” of the discipline (Gentzler 1997, XII). Venuti considers that Toury’s adoption of a scientific model was motivated fundamentally by the effort to install Translation Studies in academic institutions, by “academic empire-building” (Venuti 1998, 28). This is perhaps a little cynical, but it is clear that recognition as a valid discipline by peers in the scholarly community creates a stronger position in the competition for funds and resources, which are necessary for building the “material and intellectual infrastructure within which new ideas have better chances of germinating” (Hermans 1999, 15).
3. It could also be said that promoting a particular research area entails presenting it as distinct from others, and this could lead to the setting up of strict boundaries and divisions. In the following chapters I shall discuss Toury’s disciplinary divisions before going on to problematize them.