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  • From Translation to Transduction: The Glassy Essence of Intersemiosis by Dinda L. Gorlée, and: Semiotranslating Peirce by Douglas Robinson
  • Horst Ruthrof
Dinda L. Gorlée
From Translation to Transduction: The Glassy Essence of Intersemiosis
Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 2015.
Douglas Robinson
Semiotranslating Peirce
Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 2016.

It makes sense to review these two books together since they both address the concept of semiotranslation, Dinda L. Gorlée extending her previous writings on the subject by adding intermedial intertextuality argued as 'transduction', and Douglas Robinson subjecting semiotranslation to a sustained critique before offering his own icotic position.

In agreement with her previous publications, Gorlée rejects any notion of translation as a simple substitution of linguistic expressions. Instead, the translation process and its results are seen as non-symmetrical, forever changing over time and between cultures. 'Translation' now encompasses a broad spectrum of transformations from intralingual paraphrase to intermedial transduction. At the level of transduction, the author brings semiotranslation up to date by applying the concept to intertextuality amongst nonverbal works of art. Nonetheless, even if different media generate different relations between original and its translation, the target text will always be a 'rediscovery of the source text'. (68) At the same time, Gorlée views all forms of translation as manifestations of transculturation. In arguing for her concept of transduction, she leaves behind the traditional conceptions of translation as semantic equivalence and linear progression from source to target text as fallacious. Furthermore, in intermedial transduction, equivalence is ruled out by the principle of the non-equivalence of intertextual relations.

In her discussion of the relations between verbal and non-verbal signs, Gorlée seems to imply, at least to this reader, that we could also take the opposite route, that is, returning from intermediality to the theorization of language itself by way of a radically transductive [End Page 434] argument in favour of linguistic meaning viewed as a hypoiconically imaginable, community sanctioned process. The identification of the nonverbal in the verbal would provide the tertium comparationis between linguistic translation and Gorléean transduction. When the author comments on 'conceptual blending' in the work of Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, there would have been yet another opportunity for addressing the necessary presence of the nonverbal in language, a relation without which the entire post-Lakoff enterprise would make little sense. Accordingly, transduction could be argued to occur always already also within language, as that which makes language meaningful in the first place.

This is where Gorlée's mention of Peircean hypoiconicity, that is, the transformation of the Firstness of resemblance relations in the image into the Secondness of their schematizing reduction we perform in diagrammatic interpretation and into the Thirdness of metaphor as displacement deserves special attention in the interest of the author's trajectory of ideas towards her elaboration of transduction. (CP 2.277; EP 2.22.276f; 26) It is a pity that she only marginally deals with this hypoiconicity as a central concept for arguing Peirce's 'degree of vividness' (CP 1.305) at different levels of abstraction. When she does provide a central quotation of Peirce's notion of hypoiconicity, (88) repeated in footnote 38 on page 96, she once more misses the chance of arguing transduction in hypoiconic terms. Likewise, hypoiconicity is missing in her otherwise rich summary of Peirce's triadicity. (56ff.) The relevance of the hypoiconic triad to Gorlée's project becomes evident in her analysis of Dali's Venus with Drawers in Chapter 5, where all three grades of Peircean resemblance are shown to interact. Direct similarity allows us to immediately recognize the intertextual relation with the Venus of Milo; analogous, diagrammatical relations are grasped via hypostatic abstractions as dictating Dali's reduced format; while the parallelisms between the two sculptures are seriously disrupted by the metaphoric displacement accomplished by the addition of drawers and pompoms. Never again are we able to view idealised Greek art without at the same time musing about its possible distorting interpretants.

In spite of some such lacunae, Gorlée's book is a rich resource for readers inclined to venture beyond standard accounts of...


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pp. 434-440
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