restricted access Between Performative and Performance: Translation and Theatre in the Canadian/Quebec Context
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Between Performative and Performance:Translation and Theatre in the Canadian/Quebec Context BARBARA GODARD One of the most fecund, as well as the most under-articulated, of such crossings has been the oblique intersection between perfonnativity and the L oose cluster oftheatrical practices, relations, and traditions known as peiformollce. - Parker and Sedgwick 1 Translation and theatre. The relations between these two spheres of activity are fraught, embedded as they are in profound contradictions generated by the long-standing tension between literal and figurative that haunts all representation with the paradox of the unlike likeness. The representational paradox informs the (im)possibility of translation within theories of equivalency and fidelity even as it fosters an understanding of theatre as event, albeit as simulation. What emerges as an issue in both spheres of representation is the problematic relation of truth-telling to action. Does truth inhere in repetition ? How does sign relate to event? Beyond the complications within each of these systems of signification, the contradiction complicates any theorization of the relation between them, especially of translation in theatre. Translation is increasingly cast in the metaphor of theatre: for instance, Hans Sahl, a theoretician of theatre, writes that "[tJranslating is staging a play in another language" (qtd. in Pavis, Theatre 147). Conversely, metaphors of translation are frequently used to describe performance of a text: Pirandello rages about the pain' he feels when attending rehearsal where the "translation [of his textJ into material reality" does not correspond to his own conception (qtd. in Bassnett, "Still Trapped" 91). In this ·essay, I want to explore these entangled practices through the categories of the performative and performance that, within the so-called "linguistic tum" and a subsequent "cultural tum" (both aspects of a semiotic tum), have introduced paradigms for the discursive constitution of reality and, conversely, for the non-verbal unfolding of social behaviours. I shall then follow their turns and Modern Dramo, 43 (Fall 2000) 327 328 BARBARA GODARD twists in some cases of French to English translation for the theatre in the Canadian/Quebec context. TRANSLATION AND THEATRE: BEYOND CORRESPONDENCE THEORIES Metaphor drives attempts to make correspondences between these different fields of activity, metaphor that, as figure for forging resemblances across differences , derives from metapherein. Greek for "translation." Repetition is one point of contact: drama and translation have converging paradigms in which repetition performs simultaneously acritical and a creative process. Repetition as reflexivity and transformation challenges the descriptive fallacy of language , its purported ability to adequately (re)presentthe world in language. In both theatre and translation, repetition entai1s a movement from one medium into a different one in a process willi affinities to "mapping," Umberto Eco's term for the social labour of sign production (semiosis) that results from a network of interacting forces (246). "[TJwice-behaved behavior" is how Richard Schechner describes performance (36). "Strips of behavior" from everyday life are framed, edited, rehearsed, and otherwise worked over in ritual or theatrical performances. As a process of "deconstruction/reconstruction" (33), such repetition combines negativity and subjunctivity in a liminal space-time where temporary transportation may become a pennanent transformation. The liminality of an in-between that both is and is not has affinities with the "trace" archived in translation, according to Jacques Derrida (L'oreille de ['autre 2IO). "Through translation, a lived experience is transformed into another" (182).' Even as "transformation" (210), translation retains the memory of what it has effaced in a kind of intersemiotic "crypto-translation" (144). Consequently, translation is a "fictional practice" (209) in the subjunctive mode of "as if." Through the "work of repetition," translation is both connected to and disconnected from "re-citation" (209). This poststructuralist embrace of a Nietzschean over the Platonic repetition that informed traditional mimetic theories of meaning has advanced an understanding of translation as a self-legitimating perfoIT:lative (a "promise") linking languages in regard to language's self-referentiality, not in relation to an external truth (Derrida, " Tours de Babel" 200). Translation now is perceived not as a copy governed by rules of correspondence in a restricted economy of loss but as an original and creative act, "a proper symbolic event" (200), within a general economy of differentiated proliferation. What, though, does...


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