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Reviewed by:
  • Translation and the Arts in Modern France ed. by Sonya Stephens
  • Sara Kippur
Translation and the Arts in Modern France. Edited by Sonya Stephens. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. xi + 272 pp., ill.

Though not a festschrift in the strictest sense of the word, this compilation of essays emerges from conference proceedings honouring the work of Rosemary Lloyd, the celebrated scholar of nineteenth-century French poetry and the visual arts. Lloyd's work has focused on Baudelaire and Mallarmé, and in her most recent book, Shimmering in a Transformed Light (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005), on the figure of the still life as it migrates between painting and text. While only a handful of essays make explicit reference to Lloyd's scholarship, they are all engaged, as the title of the volume suggests, in questions related to art and — though less pivotal in Lloyd's work — translation, both terms that are purposely conceived broadly so as to encompass a range of topics. In its focus on the arts, the volume addresses what Sonya Stephens identifies in the Introduction as an 'interart aesthetic' (p. 2), a notion she borrows from Peter Dayan to emphasize the critical importance of intermedial exchange that came to characterize much French cultural production after 1830. The majority of essays centre on intersections between visual and literary culture in the nineteenth century, although some venture into topics further afield, such as Emma Wilson's essay on Julie Bertuccelli and contemporary cinema. By translation, the volume's title refers not just to interlingual translation — a subject that is treated in a select few essays, such as Mary Ann Caws's personal reflections on translating René Char's poetry, Heather Williams's discussion of the French translation and reception of Breton literature, or Clive Scott's plea for tabularity as a radical alternative to linear translation — but, more prominently, to the idea of transposition. Stephens often discusses 'translation and transposition' as a conjoined unit (see, for example, pp. 1 and 152), and indeed, several essays offer a particularly persuasive analysis of the intersection between them: L. Cassandra Hamrick, for instance, argues convincingly for reading Baudelaire's commissioned translation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha (1855) for musical performance as 'a multidimensional work whose different, but interconnected, parts are designed to be experienced as a living whole at the moment of performance' (p. 61). In a poignant commentary on ideas of homage and indebtedness in contemporary art, and in suggesting that transposition 'foreground[s] our relation to aesthetic experience' (p. 239), Catherine Bernard subtly echoes the volume's own debt to Lloyd's scholarship. Indeed, reflections on the role of the art and literary critic function as a suggestive undercurrent across the volume, from Wendelin Guentner's focus on Marc de Montifaud's art writing as critical to the 'communicative chain' of aesthetic experience (p. 116), to Robert Lethbridge's analysis of Zola's art criticism, to Janet Beizer's admirably self-reflexive meditation on the inseparability of biography and literary criticism in reading Colette's life/work. With the overall high quality of its essays, and its innovative focus on intermediality as a lens through which to theorize translation, this volume makes a thoughtful contribution to ongoing discussions in translation studies and nineteenth-century literary history.

Sara Kippur
Trinity College, Hartford, CT


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