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Fidelity In Translation

Torture-Of-Etienne-Dolet

‘Fidelity has dominated translation history, but theorists interpret it in starkly different ways.’ Discuss, making reference to at least two theorists.   Faithfulness or fidelity has been a measure by which a translator’s work can be judged. However, fidelity has not remained constant throughout time and across space and at different stages of history the interpretation of fidelity has varied quite broadly. This essay aims to discuss this meandering in the term fidelity and will examine various theorists who can provide examples of fidelity in action.   Fidelity defines exactly how precisely a translated document conforms with its source. It can allude to how a document corresponds with its source in a variety of ways, from being ‘faithful to the message’, to being ‘faithful to the author’. Also one must factor in the register, the languages and grammar, the cultures and the form. Fidelity theory and its discussion has dominated the history of translation studies. In the early days, adherence to the source text in a verbatim way was seen as the best fidelity. However, as time has progressed, society has learned to define fidelity quite differently.   Origins of translators in history can be difficult to define. One of the key protagonists we have is Cicero, the early Roman orator. The Romans perceived themselves as a continuation of their Greek models. Translation was primarily a form of literary apprenticeship and literature was read in parallel Greek and Latin texts. Cicero outlines his approached to translation in his work De optimo genere oratorum (46 BCE), Cicero writes: ‘And I did not translate them as an interpreter, but as an orator, keeping the same ideas and forms, or as one might say, the ‘figures’ of thought, but in language which conforms to our usage. And in so doing, I did not hold it necessary to render word for word, but I preserved the general style and force of the language.’(Cicero 46 BCE). Thus Cicero was rebelling against the traditions of ‘word-for-word’ translation.   Another innovative translator from Cicero’s time was the poet, Horace (65 BC-8 BC), who again favored a ‘sense-for-sense’ view to translation. Horace was interested in promoting creative writing, and saw in his Ars Poetica how the free translation of Greek texts aided poetic composition:   ‘It is difficult to treat a common matter in a way that is particular to you; and you would do better to turn…

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History Of Translation

etienne dolet

[INTRODUCTION TO TRANSLATION THEORY – Coursework Essay] Various scholars have highlighted the importance of translation history. To what extent would you agree and why? Discuss and exemplify, making reference to at least two theorists.   Translation history mimics history itself. Any post-Babel relationship between tribes, nations, continents, peoples, involves translation and translators as different cultures possess different tongues. Relationships across time involve translators and interpreters to intermediate and add to the charms of civilization. ‘It is not too difficult to see how translators throughout their history have acted as both guardians and traders. They have acted both as the zealous elaborators and protectors of national languages and literatures and as the indispensable intermediaries in the opening up of the world to the circulation of commodities, people and ideas.’ Cronin (2003:70) From war to famine, dispersion of knowledge, empire building, conquest, religious missionaries, all aspects of what we know as history involves translation. In this essay I aim to isolate a few key critical moments in the history of translation and to identify key people who have paved the way for translators in the modern world. French postage stamp depicting the translation martyr, Étienne Dolet   One of the most interesting characters in the history of translation is Étienne Dolet. A French translator, Dolet aligned himself against the modus operandi. His dissidence, obviously backed with intellectual strength and passionate commitment to his work, made him persona non grata with the leading educational establishment in France. The Sorbonne would be the natural enemy of Dolet and as powerful and intimidating as it was, the battle could only ever end in defeat for the individual. Dolet, as an intellectual, formed part of the Ciceronian group of translation scholars. They believed that Latin should be written in the ancient style of Roman orators and writers such as Cicero; a classical Latin. They disagreed with the church-influenced modern Latin, en vogue with scholars such as Erasmus and the predominant style of European writing and thinking. Dolet was a purist and felt that the original Latin thinkers and creators of the language and its culture were not misdirected by the linguistic needs of the later movement that was Christianity. Ultimately, this passion for classicism led Dolet to the stake. Religion was taken seriously in the Middle Ages and blasphemy was a heinous offense. In his efforts to translate Plato, Dolet, paid no heed to the Christian…

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