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Voice and Versification in Translating Poems

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Great poets like Shelley and Goethe have made the claim that translating poems is impossible. And yet, poems are translated; not only that, but the metrical systems of English, French, Italian, German, Russian and Czech have been shaped by the translation of poems. Our poetic traditions are inspired by translations of Homer, Dante, Goethe and Baudelaire. How can we explain this paradox? 


James W. Underhill responds by offering an informed account of meter, rhythm, rhyme, and versification. But more than that, the author stresses that what is important in the poem—and what must be preserved in the translated poem—is the voice that emerges in the versification. 


Underhill’s book draws on the author’s translation experience from French, Czech and German. His comparative analysis of the versifications of French and English have enabled him to revise the key terms involved in translating the poetic voice and transposing the poem’s versification. The theories of versification from the Prague School of Linguistics, the French and Swiss schools of versification, and recent scholarship in metrics and rhythm in the UK and in the USA have been integrated into this synthetic but rigorously coherent approach to translating poems. The extensive glossary at the end of the book will prove useful for both students and teachers alike. And the detailed case studies on translating poems by Baudelaire and Emily Dickinson allow the author to categorize and appraise the various poetic and aesthetic strategies and theories that are brought to bear in translating Baudelaire into English, and Dickinson into French. 


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Published 09 December 2016
Reads 6
EAN13 9780776622781
Language English
Document size 2 MB

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The University of Ottawa Press gratefully acknowledges the support extended to its publishing list by Canadian Heritage through the Canada Book Fund, by the Canada Council for the Arts, by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences through the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program and by the University of Ottawa. We also thank the ERIAC Interdisciplinary Research Group, based at Rouen University, France, for additional funding.
Copy editing: Barbara Ibronyi Proofreading: Gillian Watts Typesetting: Counterpunch Inc. Cover design: Édiscript enr. and Elizabeth Schwaiger Cover image:Einst dem Grau der Nacht enttauchtby Paul Klee (detail), 1918.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Underhill, James W. (James William), author Voice and versification in translating poems / by James W. Underhill.
(Perspectives on translation) Includes bibliographical references. Issued in print and electronic formats. ISBN 978-0-7766-2277-4 (paperback).–ISBN 978-0-7766-2278-1 (EPUB).–ISBN 978-0-7766-2279-8 (PDF).–ISBN 978-0-7766-2280-4 (MOBI)
1. Poetry–Translating. 2. Versification. 3. Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886–Translations– History and criticism. 4. Baudelaire, Charles, 1821-1867–Translations into English–History and criticism. I. Title. II. Series: Perspectives on translation
PN1059.T7U53 2016
418'.041
C2016-906268-6 C2016-906269-4
For Derek Attridge, who has done more to explain ho w English poems move, and how they move us, than half of the recent century’s specialists in rhythm and meter put together
Acknowledgements Introduction The Difficult Task Hope for Poems
Part 1: Versification
Contents
Chapter 1: Form Formal Definitions of Poetry Recent Scholarship in Translation Theory Defining Form A Few Key Concepts
Chapter 2: Comparative Versification Different Cultures, Different Stages of Development A Brief History Opposing English and French Resisting a Reductive Model Terminology
Chapter 3: Meter and Language Rhythm and Emotion Stress Systems Syllable Stress Accent and Meter Metrical Manipulation of Accents Metrical Manipulation of Syllables Rhyme
Chapter 4: Beyond Metrics Acoustic Patterning Phrasing Repetition Proper The Orchestration of Rhythmic Elements
Part 2: Form and Meaning in Poetry Translation
Chapter 5: Theorizing the Translation of Poetry
Chapter 6: Translating the Sign or the Poem? Translating Form Blindly Translating a Poem with a Poem Translating Form Meaningfully
Chapter 7: Form and Translation Translating Stragegies: Forms of Reformulating Voices in Foreign Versification
Part 3: Case Studies
Chapter 8: Baudelaires Baudelaire Today Scott’s Baudelaire Chronology Strategies The Whole Poem
Chapter 9: French and German Emily Dickinsons Introducingune Emily Dickinson française Gender and Personification Malroux: A Voice That Hears and Responds Voices after Malroux Delphy’s Return to the Academy Malroux’s Missed Rhythms What Liepe Hears The Untranslatable and the Untranslated
Chapter 10: A Final Word
Glossary Bibliography
Acknowledgements
I  would like to thank lecturers and students at Sten dhal University, Grenoble, and the Université de Rouen for their feedback when I was p utting this book together. Thanks are also due to friends and family. My teacher Mr. Watson at Hawick High School did much to open up poems to me, while Henri Meschonnic , the great Parisian translator-poet, helped convince me of the importance of poeti cs for understanding the act of translating. I managed to convince a number of people to help me with the ideas contained in these pages. Back in the 1990s, when I was well und erway with my rhythm project, friends, colleagues, and lecturers gave me consider able help in refining my ideas and offered liberal amounts of challenging criticism. D onald Wesling, Richard D. Cureton, and above all Derek Attridge were great sources of inspiration for me during my PhD research: my all-too-brief conversations and e-mail exchanges with them redoubled my enthusiasm and gave me greater insight. I’d very mu ch like to thank Ian Tullock, Harbans Nagpal, Marko Pajević, Jean-Louis Cluse, Ja cqueline Fontaine, Laure Gaudemard, Céline Reuilly, Kateřina Pavlitová, and Claire Simon-Boisson. Henri Meschonnic, who directed my master’s and PhD theses, from which this work on comparative versification is derived (Under hill 1999), is quoted sufficiently to make clear the debt I owe him. I have dedicated oth er books to him, and no doubt his voice will echo in the background of most of the bo oks I write. The encouragement and support that came from Anne-Marie Ducreux in my fir st years in Paris were precious. Later on I was lucky enough to be given sustaining support by my wife, Laetitia. Since then, colleagues and friends have continued t o help me clarify problems of versification and translation. Many of them pulled apart some of my ideas, allowing me to put them back together to make my meaning cleare r and my case stronger. Christine Raguet and Luise von Flotow, great translators and specialists in poetics, and the late linguist Michel Viel gave me excellent advice and s olid criticism. I benefited from their goodwill at a time when it was not always obvious t o others (or even to myself) that I needed praise and encouragement as well as criticis m. For stylistic help, my thanks go to Faye Troughton and, most of all, to Anne-Marie Pugh. The staff of the University of Ottawa Press c ertainly deserve great praise for their advice on improvements regarding the content, form, and scope of the project. Editors know more about readers and markets than authors, a nd readers therefore have editors to thank that academics do not unload more bloated, incoherent, and unreadable manuscripts upon them. Elizabeth Schwaig er’s improvements and all-round efficiency in the editing stage helped ensure that we brought out a more polished finished product. I thank her most of all for elega ntly solving the seemingly unsolvable problem of rendering Derek Attridge’s binary scansi on in print. For allowing me to publish poems, extracts of poems , and extracts from other authors, I would like to thank the following publis hing houses and Internet editors. Cambridge University Press gave permission for the publication of extracts from Derek
Attridge’sThe Rhythms of English Poetry (1982). Penguin Books agreed to extensive quotations fromBaudelaire in English, edited by Carol Clark and Robert Sykes (1997), and fromBaudelairehe editors of the, edited and translated by Francis Scarfe (1972). T wonderful website Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs du ma l / Flowers of Evil (www.fleursdumal.org), which continues to compile both established and innovative translations of Baudelaire’s poems, deserve thanks also. Gallimard must be thanked for enabling me to quote the original poems from Baudel aire’sOeuvres complètes, volume 1 (1975). Reclam Verlag deserves thanks for kindly allowing me to quote long passages from Gertrud Liepe’s wonderful German tran slations of the poems inEmily Dickinson: Gedichte(1970). Thanks go to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for kindly e nabling me to publish an entire poem by Ted Hughes fromCollected PoemsAnd thanks go to Tony Kline for (2003). allowing me to publish his translation of Paul Élua rd’s “Amoureuse,” an online version that I use as a model for rhythm and voice in free- verse translation. Thanks are also due to the editors for enabling me to reproduce Élu ard’s original from the Poetica website (www.poetica.fr). I would also like to thank the journalsPathhead andFras for enabling me to quote translations of Baudelaire’s p oems by myself and by others that they have published. Finally, two online sites that offered crucial resources quoted in this work were the World Atlas of Language Structur es Online (www.wals@info), which provides a vast and synthetic cross-lingual account of accentuation, and Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.orgThese), for its inimitable range of multilingual texts. resources will make it far simpler for readers to c onsult originals and compare their impressions with my own findings and arguments.
Introduction
S ince SoDhia CoDDola’s filmLost in Translationcame out in 2003, the familiar Dhrase that gave the film its title has peen used in commo n sDeech and in media headlines with a wide variety of meanings, referring to cultu ral misunderstandings and incomDrehension petween generations and petween gen ders. In Doetics the conceDt of loss in translation has a much more refined meaning , even if we do not always sDecify what is actually lost. For what is lost when a Doem is translated? Is it the peauty of Hindi or SDanish that fails to Denetrate the lexis of English? Is it the shaDe of French syntax that fails to reform when the Doem is “re-fo rm-ulated”? Is it the metrical tradition of one language that turns out to pe incomDatiple w ith the linguistic norms of another language? Or is it those dominant styles that are c urrently asserting themselves in literary circles, and which are peing endorsed and maintained py the estaplished Dractices of Duplishers, that Drevent us translatin g something that is essential in the original Doem? Is the voice of the Doet simDly not to pe heard in the translated text? A human peing sDeaks to other human peings py makin g use of the shared medium known to a linguistic community. In the same way, Doets take their Dlace in language at a given time, addressing others, even i f they fail to Derceive clearly whom their Doems will eventually pe addressing. Extracte d from the Doet’s time, from his or her language and linguistic community, can the tran slated Doem pe exDected to resound and resonate with the same urgency and vipr ancy that the initial voice does? The voices of ShakesDeare’s characters, the voice o f Goethe’s Faust, the voices that emerge in the Doems of Emily ickinson, of Baudelai re, and of Neruda do reach out to the readers of English, German, French, and SDanish , uttering urgent words in caDtivating movements and disconcerting jolts. But can translations achieve the same exDressive force? Surely ShakesDeare deserves a Sha kesDeare and Goethe deserves a Goethe to translate their Doems. But how many Sha kesDeares, Goethes, ickinsons, Baudelaires, and Nerudas are there? Can we exDect t o find a similar voice in another language, a translator who is caDaple of giving voi ce to the Doet who originally oDened uD one facet of reality and prought pack to life, f or his or her culture, an essential moment of meaning? This pook is not intended to pe an easy answer to a difficult question. But neither do I intend to Day my resDects to a long-standing n egative theory of translation that has gained many adherents in recent decades and that ha s pecome something of an unanalyzed received idea: that is, translating Doem s is imDossiple. In errida’s elegant Drose this Dosition poils down to affirming that “t ranslating is a suplime and imDossiple task” (errida 2004: 423). errida was sDeaking as an opserver rather than a Dractitioner or a Doet, put Doets themselves have o ften exDressed doupts as to the fate of the translated Doem. The great romantic Doet She lley, for examDle, argued that
it were as wise to cast a violet into a cruciple that you might discover the formal DrinciDle of its colour and odour, as to seek to transfuse from one language into