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INTRODUCTION The urgent, political need for skilled translators became abundantly clear in the tragic wake of 9/11, as institutions charged with protecting national security scrambled to find linguistically proficient specialists to decode intercepts and documents. Translation and global diplomacy seemed never to have been so mutually implicated. As America’s monolingualism was publicly criticized as part of renewed calls for shared information, mutual understanding across cultural and religious divides, and multilateral cooperation , translation moved to the fore as an issue of major political and cultural significance. No longer deemed a mere instrument of international relations, business, education, and culture, translation took on special relevance as a matter of war and peace. It is in this political situation that The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature took shape. The book aims to rethink translation studies—a field traditionally defined by problems of linguistic and textual fidelity to the original—in a broad theoretical framework that emphasizes the role played by mistranslation in war, the influence of language and literature wars on canon formation and literary fields, the aesthetic significance of experiments with nonstandard language, and the status of the humanist tradition of translatio studii in an era of technological literacy. Structuring my lines of inquiry has been an awareness of the contradictory process by which globally powerful languages such as English, Mandarin Chinese, Swahili, Spanish, Arabic, French simultaneously reduce linguistic diversity and spawn new forms of multilingual aesthetic practice. While it has become commonplace, for example, to bemoan the hegemony of global English as the lingua franca of technocracy, there has been insufficient attention paid to how other global languages are shifting the balance of power in the production of world culture. Chinese, for example, is now a major language of Internet literacy and is taking on English as never before. An underlying premise of this book has been that language wars, great and small, shape the politics of translation in the spheres of media, literacy, literary markets, electronic information transfer, and codes of literariness. The field of translation studies has been accordingly expanded to include on the one hand, pragmatic, real world issues—intelligence-gathering in war, the embattlement of minority languages within official state cultures, controversies over “other Englishes”—and on the other, more conceptually abstract considerations such as the literary appropriation of pidgins and creoles, or multilingual experimentalism among historic avant-gardes, or translation across media. Translation studies has always had to confront the problem of whether it best serves the ends of perpetuating cultural memory or advancing its effacement. A good translation, as Walter Benjamin famously argued, makes possible the afterlife of the original by jumping the line between the death of the source language and its futural transference to a target. This death/life aporia leads to split discourses in the field of translation studies: while translation is deemed essential to the dissemination and preservation of textual inheritance, it is also understood to be an agent of language extinction . For translation, especially in a world dominated by the languages of powerful economies and big populations, condemns minority tongues to obsolescence, even as it fosters access to the cultural heritage of “small” literatures, or guarantees a wider sphere of reception to selected, representative authors of minoritarian traditions. There is a Malthusian dimension to this ecology of endangered languages and literatures. In works like David Crystal’s Language Death (2000) or Andrew Dalby’s 2002 book, Language in Danger: The Loss of Linguistic Diversity and the Threat to Our Future, the analogy is drawn between the fragile survival prospects of animal and plant species in environmentally threatened habitats, and the prospects of threatened languages. In California alone, for example, of the ninety-eight Native American languages that were once spoken, not one is likely to survive. According to Dalby, “of those 98 languages, 45 or more have no fluent speakers left at all, 17 have only one to five speakers left, and the remaining 36 have only elderly speakers. Not a single California Indian language is being used now as the language of daily communication.”1 In the work of Dalby and Crystal, translation emerges as one of many enemies to the continued vitality of living languages, no matter how well it might preserve ethnic memory or mitigate cultural amnesia. With their primary interest and expertise located in linguistic anthropology , Dalby and Crystal represent an ecological/environmentalist approach within translation studies, operating at the juncture of “fieldwork” 4 I N...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400841219
Related ISBN
9780691049977
MARC Record
OCLC
763160833
Pages
312
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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