The Manipulation School: André Lefevere

Topics: Translation, Literature, Culture Pages: 14 (5205 words) Published: August 16, 2008
The Manipulation School: André Lefevere

On every level of the translation process, it can be shown that, if linguistic considerations enter into conflict with considerations of an ideological and / or poetological nature, the latter tend to win out. (André Lefevere) One of the criticisms that has, sometimes, been levelled at the polysystem theory is that it tends to disregard the ideological factors, which have a considerable impact on the translators' decisions. It is true that they are mentioned by the translation scholars working within polysystem, and Toury's preliminary norms refer to translation policies carried out by different institutions favouring the selection of particular literary works for translation on ideological grounds. Yet, it was rightly felt, even in the "early" days of Translation Studies, that ideological manipulation through translations could well become a fundamental area of investigation of its own, providing a considerable amount of data for the development of the discipline. As has been shown, the name of "Manipulation School" was given by the title of an anthology of essays edited by Theo Hermans (1985), The Manipulation of Literature. Studies in Literary Translation, which gathers a number of studies by scholars such as José Lambert, van Gorp and André Lefevere, sharing the conviction that both translators and readers are manipulated. In the preface, the editor claims that From the point of view of the target literature, all translation implies a degree of manipulation of the source text for a certain purpose. (1985: 9) However, the translation scholar who has contributed in most significant ways to research along these lines is André Lefevere, whose name is closely related to the beginnings of Translation Studies and the Low Countries Group. He subsequently moved to the United States and continued to be extremely active in the field until his untimely death in 1996. In fact, Lefevere defines translation in terms of manipulation, as one of the processes of literary manipulation whereby texts are rewritten across linguistic boundaries and rewriting takes place in a very clearly inscribed cultural and historical context. (cited in Bassnett 1990: xv) Lefevere is mainly interested in the practice of translation, in case-studies from various cultures that illustrate how different kinds of ideological constraints have operated on translators, thus explaining processes of manipulation throughout history. Together with Susan Bassnett, he adopts a more cultural - less formal - approach, focusing on different institutions that construct such ideological discourses, and examines the various extra-textual factors that come into play in translation. Lefevere distances himself from the polysystem theory to which he objects, among other things, its excessive interest in jargon and diagrams. He also finds superfluous its distinction between "primary" and "secondary" activities and its abstract categories, which are not related enough to concrete results. However, he still resorts to a systemic approach and devises his own set of terms and categories, which enable him to analyze translations - as empirical facts in target cultures - in a more deductive manner. Lefevere's overall purpose is to dispel the idea that the translator's main goal when performing a translation is to produce an equivalent text in the target culture, "in a neutral, objective way". Instead, he claims, translators are "artisans of compromise", being constrained by "the times in which they live" (i.e. historical-ideological factors), "the literary traditions they try to reconcile" (i.e. literary factors), and the features of the languages they work with (i.e. linguistic factors). At the same time, since they are familiar with two cultures and two literatures, translators wield the power (of subversion) of the image-makers, being able "to construct the image of one literature for consumption by the readers of another"....
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