Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The potentiation of meaning through translative reading: Poetic translation and the case of Gottfried Benn
by Morgan, Ian Egon, Ph.D., Stanford University, 2009, 155; 3364508
Abstract (Summary)

The theory of literary translation has been plagued by a disregard of the comprehensive aspect of the task since its inception, largely focusing on the challenges of the expressive aspect instead. This development throughout the history of translation—with the notable exceptions of Martin Luther and Friedrich Schleiermacher—has led to considerable disagreements and colliding notions regarding the process of translation, the purposes of theory, the parameters of translation criticism, and the question of untranslatability.

However, even those translation scholars who recognize the significance of the comprehensive task preceding the reverbalization in the target language have never stipulated what the specific parameters of such an understanding could or should be.

In order to establish such parameters for approaching a poetic work with the specific intent of translation, I have created seven categories for the process I call 'translative reading'. These categories are intended to help structure and supplement a thorough comprehension of the source on its own terms, independently of the target language, and thereby establish a template to be used for the final formulation. A purpose-driven engagement with a poetic text naturally differs from other approaches and can be used to exclude potential errors as well as take translational liberties with greater faithfulness to the author.

Following the theoretical explication of the translative reading, I have selected the poetry of Gottfried Benn as exemplary case study. The three poems Ein Wort, Untergrundbahn, and Berlin represent a generous cross-section of the work of this twentieth century poet whose work has frequently been described as untranslatable. In addition, Benn's specific relationship with the intellectual, cultural, and political forces around him, the evolution of his forty years of poetry throughout four political systems and two world wars, and his inferior representation in other languages—despite his status in Germany—were strong reasons for the choice of this poet.

Through the application of the translative reading and the subsequent translations with commentaries, I demonstrate the practical value of the process and subsequently argue for a reversal not only in the approaches to translation but also in the methods of evaluation.

Indexing (document details)
School: Stanford University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Germanic literature, Rhetoric
Keywords: Benn, Gottfried, History of translation, Poetic translation, Poetry, Translation, Translative reading
Publication Number: 3364508
ISBN: 978-1-109-24300-0
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