Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies [1 ed.] 9781443854146, 9781443849135

The aim of this work is to share information on two very interesting, yet debatable issues within the field of Translati

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Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies [1 ed.]
 9781443854146, 9781443849135

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Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies

Edited by

Eleonora Federici and Vanessa Leonardi

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies, Edited by Eleonora Federici and Vanessa Leonardi This book first published 2013 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2013 by Eleonora Federici, Vanessa Leonardi and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-4913-8, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4913-5


Introduction ................................................................................................ 1 Eleonora Federici and Vanessa Leonardi Chapter One ................................................................................................. 4 Gender and Translation: A New European Tradition? José Santaemilia Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 15 Translating Dolls Oriana Palusci Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 32 Early Modern Translators ‘Juggling with the Word of God’ June Waudby Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 42 Aphra Behn: The Visible Translator Annamaria Lamarra Chapter Five .............................................................................................. 52 Rivera Garretas’s Translation of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: To What Extent Does Practice Meet Theory? Susagna Tubau Chapter Six ................................................................................................ 63 Can We Translate Ambiguity? Vanessa Leonardi Chapter Seven............................................................................................ 75 Woman-identified Approach in Practice: A Case Study of Four Chinese Translations of the Novel The Color Purple Elaine Tzu-Yi Lee



Chapter Eight ............................................................................................. 86 “Ah wants tuh utilize mahself all over”: Feminist Strategies in the Italian Translations of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God Manuela Coppola Chapter Nine.............................................................................................. 98 ‘Thought of by you all day, I think of you’: Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian Floriana Marinzuli Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 112 Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice Mirko Casagranda Chapter Eleven ........................................................................................ 122 Translating Gender on Screen across Languages: The Case of Transamerica Alessandra De Marco Chapter Twelve ....................................................................................... 133 My Place/La mia Australia: Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic and Gendered Text into Italian Eleonora Federici Chapter Thirteen ...................................................................................... 150 Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors in Italian Translations of Katherine Mansfield’s At the Bay Katherine Russo Postface .................................................................................................. 163 Gender and Translation, and Translation Studies: An Ongoing Affair Luise Von Flotow Notes on Contributors.............................................................................. 165


The aim of this work is to share information on two very interesting, yet debatable issues within the field of Translation Studies, namely gender and translation in an attempt to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Given the important relationship between translation and gender since the beginning of the theoretical debate in Feminist Translation Studies, the aim of this edited volume is to determine and analyse how this relationship has been approached in different countries, not only in Europe but also worldwide. Feminist translation is undoubtedly a very interesting and widespread phenomenon, which includes and combines questions of language, culture, gender, identity and sexual equality. Feminist Translation Studies have established themselves as a solid field of research and practice in many countries and their purpose is to reverse the subordinate role of both women and translators in society by challenging and fighting against what is perceived as patriarchal language. Although Feminist Translation Studies were born in Québec in the 1980s, as a direct consequence of women writers’ experimental writing wishing to reinscribe femininity in language and to deconstruct the dominant patriarchal discourse through conscious manipulation of language, Canada and Spain seem to be two of the most important countries where the problems inherent to translation and the category of gender have been most fruitfully discussed by eminent scholars such as Barbara Godard, Sherry Simon, Luise von Flotow and José Santaemilia, among others. These theorists have given prominence to the translator, whether woman or man, to their choices and to the strategies outlined in order to unveil the gender-related aspects in translation. In Italy, however, the situation is different and a gap seems to exist between theory and practice. Aware of these differences in our country, it was our intention to explore what is the current situation of feminist translation practices also in other countries, to investigate what are the positions of translators who have dealt with gender issues and to determine whether there are translators who deliberately and openly proclaim themselves as feminist translators.



Many are still the issues that can be taken into account focusing on translation and gender and this volume intends to be part of a wider discussion on Translation Studies. The discussion on translation and correlated wider issues is very important in this moment of transformation and transition in TS. The major scholars in TS are underlining the necessity to take into account the ethics of translation and the competence of translators in an era of globalisation and massive movements of people around the world. Today, translation means intercultural exchange with a profound awareness of cultural difference and linguistic boundaries. Translation requires skills that go beyond the linguistic aspect because we know, as also acknolwedged by feminist scholars, that it determines national and social identities. Translation is a discursive practice that forms and trasnforms gender identities and helps reconsider the notion of sexual difference. The concept of self-translation, the use of the term translation as a metaphor for writing and the widening of theoretical perspectives outside the Western world also make us reconsider the debate on gender and translation. Translation theory and practice need an interdisciplinary approach involving various areas of research: sociolinguistics, pragmatics, literary studies, media studies, semiotics and cultural studies among others. This work is a collection of papers, some of which presented at an international conference held at the University of Calabria in September 2011 and are aimed at addressing the issue of the gap between theory and practice through several different approaches including topics such as: feminist translation and translators through time, women translators as feminist translators, diachronical perspectives of the same text in different translations by men and/or women, the existence of different practices of translation (with a focus on gender), the translation of gender related topics, the translation of grammatical gender and the translation in different genres and gender related issues. After a theoretical insight, the essays follow a diachronical perspective from early modern translators, Aphra Behn, translations of Virginia Woolf’s works, translations of contemporary British, Africa-American, Aboriginal and New Zealand authors and audiovisual translation. The essays follow some of the main areas of research in translation and gender: theoretical approaches, historical studies, the revision of the canon, the recovering of translators’ works, the anlysis of linguistic markers of gender, the representation of femininity/masculinity. The contributors show how grammatical, semantic and social gender are entangled in the creation of stereotypes and how gender bias can be retraced in literary genres but also visual texts such as movies.

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies


The volume intends to outline how scholars in various contexts have approached the question of gender and translation, the use/misuse of the term feminist translation, the problematic issue of bridging the gap between theory and practice and to open a new discussion on this field of research, which we believe is still a very interesting one to exploit. Eleonora Federici Vanessa Leonardi


Gender and Translation: An Overview A Question of Names Gender and translation is a very active, increasingly diverse field. It is expanding its theoretical tenets as well as the range of its applications into a diversity of fields and disciplines, and prompting a significant redefinition of the concepts and areas involved. If we compare seminal papers like Maier (1995) or Chamberlain (1988) with more recent publications in Palusci (2010, 2011), Flotow (2011), Federici (2011) or Santaemilia & Flotow (2011), we become aware of a change in perspective or, rather, of a widening of perspectives. A few questions quickly spring to mind: Are we dealing today with the same issues as three or four decades ago? Does the gender and translation field have the same academic (or popular) presence as four decades ago? And the same geographical boundaries? We are still in an ambiguous territory, difficult to define or delimit, yet at the same time full of possibilities and dangers too. Both gender and translation have proved to be flexible, courageous fields going far beyond their disciplinary boundaries and searching hard for new horizons and affinities. Although it may seem that gender and translation is an apt label for the field, the reality turns out to be more complex and the name of the discipline is still an unresolved question. There is not a single concept –to the exclusion of all others– that is accepted by all researchers. This can be an index of – among other things – academic instability or lack of agreement, and even of a growing field that has not found its definite shape or direction. Yet, at the same time, we can affirm that it has acquired some sort of institutionalisation, as conferences, research projects or edited

Gender and Translation: A New European Tradition?


volumes proliferate. Without a doubt, the field is growing, acquiring new overtones and developing specific strands. Little by little it is becoming recognisable – in its origins, in its main objectives, in its truly crossdisciplinary character, in its recognition of woman’s central role, in its commitment to justice and sexual equality, and even in its language and rhetoric, in its idiom. A cursory look at the different labels used to name the field reveals a variety of interests and the growing popularity of a discipline which, though sometimes pulling in different directions, seems to offer ways towards the elimination of subordination and prejudices. A tentative ‘word cloud’ elaborated statistically from a small number of published papers will graphically show us the relative importance of a series of phrases that are becoming increasingly lexicalized:

A question of names (Word cloud)

Fig. 1. The ‘gender and translation’ field (word cloud)

Main theoretical concepts Though incomplete, Fig. 1 is interesting in that it shows the important lexical density of certain catch phrases. A number of conclusions can be put in place. Firstly, the growing presence of women in translation studies, to the point that some phrases (‘Woman and translation’, ‘Translating women’) sometimes stand for the whole area of study. Secondly, the


Chapter One

importance of feminism as an essential driving force (e.g. ‘Feminist translator’) which brings about a (re)feminisation of the translation profession (‘Traductrices’, ‘Traduttrici’ or ‘Translatress’). Thirdly, the unstable relationship between ‘gender’ and ‘translation’, with the existence of several phrases that have some currency (‘Gender and translation’ ‘Translation and gender’, ‘Gender in translation’, ‘Translating gender’, ‘Translation of gender’), perhaps indicative that the grammatical and/or conceptual relationships between both are far from clear-cut. And fourthly, the appearance of ‘sex’ as complementary to ‘gender’ as part of the contemporary feminist theorizing of identities. I know that this analysis is rather limited, as it is based on a small number of papers in the field, but I believe that in a rapidly expanding field, it would be worth analyzing what we mean when we say i.e. gender and translation, as well as what future developments are likely to be. A more rigorous analysis would be more than welcome. A more inclusive list of widely used terms can help us reveal the origin of a series of terms of art which are progressively being identified as the (common) idiom of gender-and-translation publications. As it is recognized today, the field – though perhaps lying dormant for centuries – was initiated in Quebec, in Canada, more than three decades ago, with a a group of feminist, experimental writers (Louise Bersianik, Nicole Brossard, Denise Boucher, and many others) who attempted to subvert the dominant patriarchal language, and with a group of feminist translators (Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood, Barbara Godard, Luise von Flotow and others) who worked closely with the authors they translated. This phenomenon – which we now know as feminist translation – was a fortunate result of a crossroads which brought together the Canadian écriture au féminin, the second wave of feminism (Anglo-Saxon feminism coupled with French feminism which centred on écriture féminine), the cultural or ideological turn in translation studies, post-structuralism and deconstruction. These origins have left traces in the main theoretical concepts dealt with in most gender and translation publications, making the field a complex interdiscipline bringing together a number of heterogeneous traditions and terms of art, thus giving the impression – sometimes – of a variegated and inarticulate language. Second-wave feminism is, then, one of the main sources of inspiration for gender and translation scholars, and this is clearly felt in terms like écriture féminine, difference, identity or woman (as a singular and unified concept). Feminist translation, in the same vein, added absolute terms like womanhandling, transformance, hijacking or manipulation. Gender studies has been contributing many concepts and dichotomies, among

Gender and Translation: A New European Tradition?


which we can mention domination, sex/gender, gender/sexual identities, nature/culture, among others. Some of these terms, however, may seem outdated today, as they do not reflect the plurality of identities and discourses of our age. The theory of performativity (Butler 1990, 1993) gradually gains more currency in understanding the notions of gender and sex, which are basically conceptualized in terms of performance or display. Feminism and gender studies themselves have to go periodically through a process of redefinition and adaptation to new social, cultural and ideological realities. A revision of their critical idiom is needed in order to open up meanings and identities to a plurality of configurations and influences. Deconstruction and post-structuralism have also been influential in the gender/ translation interdiscipline. From a deconstructionist point of view, translation can be used to challenge the limits of language, writing, reading or identity. Poststructuralism has directed attention “away from the authority of the author towards the role of the reader, as well as undermined the notion of the “original” as a stable, objectively transferable entity”.1 Both paradigms have proved highly influential in the language of gender and translation researchers, with the incorporation of terms such as original/originality, (re)writing, author/authority and many others which have been essential in contemporary theories of translation that reclaim the visibility of translators (and translatresses). Terms like archaeology or genealogy are derived from the poststructuralist work of Michel Foucault, who views subjectivity and identity as dynamic, discursive and historical constructions. All these terms – and others like resisting reader or positioning, which come from feminist-oriented stylistics – are instrumental to the main objectives of gender and translation studies, which can be summmarized like this:2 1. 2. 3. 4.


Rereading the traditional, misogynist metaphors of translation An ideological transformation of texts Claiming a new authority over source text and translation Translation as ‘feminine’/‘female’ solidarity and genealogy

Wallmach, “Feminist Translation Strategies: Different or Derived?”, 5-6. See Santaemilia, “Feminists Translating: On Women, Theory and Practice”, 2011a. 2


Chapter One

A Wealth of Metaphors Translation is an ideal breeding ground for a multiplicity of metaphors – in fact, translators have been compared to travellers, discoverers of intertextual maps, nomads by obligation, creative artists, puzzle solvers, musical arrangers, honest brokers, magicians of illusions, and many others.3 In particular, the connection between translation and women has generated a wealth of metaphors in the past, and an intense re-reading in the present and – presumably – in the future. What Chamberlain (1988) calls ‘gender metaphorics’ in translation is a sort of ‘metaphorical trap’ which subverts all gender-related or sex-related identities, and condemns women to sexual/textual subordination and derogation. Such a popular paradigm as les belles infidèles reflects “widely held beliefs and stereotypes about fidelity, both in marriage and in translation, and long centuries of double standards during which only women and translators, not men and “original” texts, could be guilty of the crime of infidelity”,4 thus delineating the metaphorical boundaries set by tradition on women in many areas of life and creativity. In recent years, however, feministoriented scholars working with translation have been: subverting and deconstructing some old metaphors, but also inserting a web of connections with the act of translation. Translation is a way of writing/reading/interpreting women’s voices. In their theoretical discussions, feminist scholars have created new metaphors for translation and translators: translation has become a practice of translation/performance, ‘transformance’, a performative act, a daring act which requires courage and faith, ‘a living process, ever beginning anew’, an act of skilled ‘manipulation’, an assertive practice. Feminist translators have visualized metaphors of territory, translators working in the ‘contact-zone’, translations as political acts, and translations as archaeological works.5 While in the past two millennia the metaphors that defined women and feminity were deeply sexist (see Chamberlain 1988), in the last two decades the association between gender and translation studies is generating new metaphors that see women as a positive force: translation as a feminist practice that lies at the margins, at the border (Godayol 2000); Pandora as a multiplicity of meanings (Littau 2000, von Flotow 2007); translation as a ‘metramorphosis’ that, in the form of a female matrix, allows difference, creativity and interdependence (Shread 2008, von Flotow 2008). Thus translation can help either to consolidate an identity or to demolish it, either to reinforce a stereotype or to disclose its artificial 3

See Federici “The Visibility of the Woman Translator”, 2011a. Garayta, “(M)othering the Text or The Feminist Critique of Translation”, 71. 5 Federici, Translating Gender, 17. 4

Gender and Translation: A New European Tradition?


and contingent nature. Today translation is, undoubtedly, emphasizing the agency of women in every text or creative act.

A Gender and Translation ‘Map’ The gender and translation field shows a split between, on the one hand, a well-defined theory or discourse, and on the other hand, a more or less heterogeneous practice, which is mainly based on the use of certain paratexts (book covers, prefaces and introductions, footnotes, and others).6 Nevertheless, in spite of this gap – which seems only obvious, with theory usually being more articulate and homogeneous than practice –, the gender/translation interdiscipline, with its ups and downs, its advances and its contradictions, has been generating a new, dynamic map over the last few years. Although the connection between gender (or woman) and translation has existed since the beginning of time, it was not made explicit until the 20th century. In this regard, a key role was played by Canadian women authors and translators, who reclaimed a more central role in the culture of both translation and women, both underrated throughout the centuries. Lori Chamberlain (1988) denounced the traditional sexualization of translation and women, and challenged the “patriarchal notions of translation”7 that had been put forward until late in the 20th century. Other Canadian translators – such as Barbara Godard, Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood or Luise von Flotow, to cite just a few – also became researchers of their own overtly feminist project, and explained and justified the right to intervene in the texts they were translating. They coined a new tradition (‘feminist translation’), with a strong commitment to both writing and translating, that vindicated translation as (re)creation, manipulation, and (woman)handling. After significant books by de Lotbinière-Harwood (1991) or Krontiris (1992), this Canadian focus (impulse) became more than apparent when two key publications appeared in the late 90s: Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission (1996), by Sherry Simon; and Translation and Gender: Translating in the Era of Feminism (1997), by Luise von Flotow. In a way, both texts inaugurated the gender and translation discipline, as they provided both a theory and a practice of identity issues in translation, from a feminist perspective and focusing particularly on women translators. 6

See Santaemilia, “Virginia Woolf’s Un cuarto propio: Feminist Translation, from Practice to Theory”, 2011b. 7 Arroyo, “Fidelity and the Gendered Translation”, 153.


Chapter One

The contribution of Canadian authors and translators – particularly from Québec – to the emergence of a new field of practice and research has been fundamental. Since the late 90s, though, this presence seems to have vanished or lost its momentum. With the new (21st) century, the focus has shifted to Europe, where a number of initiatives have taken up and extended the initial research. After review articles by Nikolaidou & López Villalba (1997) or reconceptualizations of the ethical limits of feminist translation by Vidal (1998), I would like to underline the appearance of Espais de frontera: Gènere i traducció (2000), by Pilar Godayol, who adopted a post-structuralist approach to translation and generated new metaphors that considers woman and femininity as positive and regenerative forces. The 2010s saw a series of conferences and seminars that gave rise to publications by Grbic & Wolf (2002), Santaemilia (2003, 2005), Palusci (2010, 2011) or Federici (2011). Particularly relevant is the case of Catalan, a national language without its own state, with leading research by Pilar Godayol and colleagues, and where a complete genealogy of women translators has been unearthed over the last decade. Over the last three or four years, it is in Italy where we find a renovated impulse that is interrogating writing and translating at a European level. Two very recent projects (Flotow 2011, and Santaemilia and Flotow 2011) originated in a proposal I made to the new MONTI periodical – a joint initiative of the universities of Alicante, Valencia and Castellón – and that has fuelled a rediscovery of a new and rapidly expanding (European) gender-and-translation geography that leads us to hitherto unknown territories such as Galicia, Turkey or Russia, and even China (Santaemilia and Flotow 2011). Though in many places of the world, both women and translation studies are still subjected to prejudices and taboos, it is also true that a clearer, less fragmentary map (particularly, a European map) of the field is emerging.

A New European Tradition? I will devote now a few lines to elucidate (or rather to pose) the question of whether there is or isn’t a new European tradition in gender and translation studies. Lack of time and perhaps perspective prevents a more definite answer.

Tradition? Gender and translation has existed ever since translation was born – it is a clear example of a discipline avant la lettre, mainly because of the special

Gender and Translation: A New European Tradition?


and privileged connection of males to translation and the absence of women. Though translation has historically been considered a ‘feminine’ profession, women have accessed it in a position of subordination; or, as Chamberlain put it, “in some historical periods women were allowed to translate precisely because it was defined as a secondary activity”. 8 Gender and translation, then, as a field, bears witness to a long, unrecognized tradition of women (as translators, and also as writers) neglected, ignored or censored.

European? As mentioned earlier, the 2010s have represented a definite focus on Europe as a rich and heterogeneous area of research for a new generation of young women and men who believe in equality and are ready to approach the discipline with clear and unprejudiced eyes. A number of European universities (Graz, Valencia, Vic, Napoli, Calabria, Málaga) have been home to meetings and seminars that are giving visibility to women, men and translation. We may not be able to speak of a European tradition, but at least we can speak of a renovated impulse – one which is shifting from an exclusively feminist concern to a wider, less political interest perhaps, but which involves a more widespread interrogation of the categories of woman, man, gender and translation. This (new) European thrust is offering now a dynamic panorama, with a synthesis of literary and non-literary traditions, and with a variety of critical paradigms that have progressively empowered women and women’s work (i.e. gender studies, translation studies, deconstruction, postcolonial studies, and so on).

New, Really? What is new, then? The fact that there are women translating? Or women translated? Neither. Women have been translators and translated for a long time. Whereas Chamberlain’s 1988 seminal paper hinges on a basic opposition between writing (“original and masculine”) 9 and translating (“derivative and feminine”), and derives a political interpretation from it, gender and translation studies, in contrast, makes explicit the bond – or the continuity – between writing and translating. It is not clear or obvious where translation stops and original writing begins; the only sure thing is 8 9

Chamberlain , “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, 470. Chamberlain, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, 454.


Chapter One

that both belong to a common category (‘texts’) whose main existential trait is that they depend on previous texts and are the origin of unending future texts. As for women, they were virtually non-existent in translation until very recently, with just a few having entered the canon; what is new nowadays is the unprecedented scale in which women are translating and being translated, and, what is more, the strong identification between women translated and women translators (Santaemilia 2011a).

Finale The association of gender and translation, and the consolidation into an academic discipine, has proved useful in many ways. Firstly, women have become more visible, and so have the dialectics between men and women. Secondly, women have been progressively reclaiming an authorial space, be it as writers or translators, or both. Thirdly, this association has brought about a positive, full-scale re-reading of the traditional misogynistic metaphors about translation. Fourthly, it has generated a wealth of positive metaphors focusing on women’s bodies or skills. Gender and translation studies has definitely broken away from the traditional dichotomies that have stalled Western life and thought for centuries. As a result of this, women gain a new authority – i.e. on the one hand, they acquire the status of authors, (co)creators of meaning, and on the other hand, they can show their authority, that is, their social and cultural power. One immediate consequence of this visibility process is the discovery of a genealogy of women (whether translators or not) who, for at least three or four centuries, have used translation to claim varying degrees of presence in social, literary, cultural or political scenarios. This paper also claims that Europe is gaining ground in the field of gender and translation, as exemplified in – inter alia – Godayol (2000, 2011), Santaemilia (2003, 2005), Castro (2009), Palusci (2010, 2011), Santaemilia & Flotow (2011), or Federici (2011). That does not mean denying the initial impetus from Canadian women writers and translators (‘feminist translation’) or the impressive work that has been carried out by researchers and/or practitioners such as Luise von Flotow, Barbara Godard or Sherry Simon. This new European thrust is offering enthusiasm, seriousness and a growing richness of perspectives. We should look attentively at what the future has in store for us.

Gender and Translation: A New European Tradition?


Bibliography Arrojo, R. 1994, “Fidelity and the Gendered Translation”, TTR 7(2), 147164. Butler, J. 1990, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York: Routledge. —. 1993, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, New York: Routledge. Castro Vázquez, O. 2009, “(Re)examinando horizontes en los estudios feministas de traducción: ¿Hacia una tercera ola?”, MONTI 1 (Special issue on ‘A (Self-Critical Perspective of Translation Studies’), 59-86. Chamberlain, L. 1988, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, Signs 13 (3), 454-472. Federici, E. 2011a, “The Visibility of the Woman Translator”, in E. Federici, ed., Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang, 79-91. —. Ed., 2011b, Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang. Flotow, L. von. 1997, Translation and Gender: Translating in the ‘Era of Feminism’, Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing/University of Ottawa Press. 2007, “Gender and Translation”, in P. Kuhiwczak and K. Littau, eds., A Companion to Translation Studies, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 92-105. —. 2008, “Postface: Contested Gender in Translation: Intersectionality and Metramorphics”, Palimpsestes 22 (Traduire le genre: femmes en traduction), 245-255. —. (ed.) 2011, Translating Women, Ottawa: Ottawa University Press. Garayta, I. 2004, “(M)othering the Text or The Feminist Critique of Translation”, Identidades (Revista interdisciplinaria de estudios de género), 2 (2), 69-80. Godayol, P. 2000, Espais de frontera: Gènere i traducció. Vic: Eumo Editorial. —. 2011, “Gènere i traducció en català. Bases arqueològiques per a un estat de la qüestió”, MONTI 3 (special issue on Woman and Translation / Mujer y Traducción), J. Santaemilia and L. von Flotow, eds., Alicante: Universidad de Alicante / Universitat Jaume I / Universitat de València, 53-73. Grbic, N. and M. Wolf, eds., 2002. Grenzgängerinnen: zur Geschlechterdifferenz in der Übersetzung. Graz: Institut für Translationswissenschaft. Littau, K. 2000, “Pandora’s Tongues”, TTR – Traduction, Terminologie, Rédaction 13 (1), 21-35.


Chapter One

Lotbinière-Harwood, S. 1991, Re-Belle et Infidèle: La traduction comme pratique de réécriture au feminine / The Body Bilingual: Translation as a Rewriting in the Feminine. Montréal/Toronto: les editions du remue-ménage/Women’s Press. Maier, C. 1985, “A Woman in Translation, Reflecting”, Translation Review 17, 4-8. Nikolaidou, I. and M-L. Villalba 1997, “Re-belle et infidèle o el papel de la traductora en la teoría y práctica de la traducción feminista”, in J.P. Arias and E. Morillas, eds., El papel del traductor. Salamanca: Colegio de España, 75-102. Palusci, O. ed., 2010, Traduttrici. Questioni di gender nella letteratura in lingua inglese, Napoli: Liguori. —. ed., 2011, Traduttrici: Female Voices across Languages, Trento: Tangram Edizioni Scientifiche. Santaemilia, J. ed., 2003, Género, lenguaje y traducción, Valencia: Universitat de València/Dirección General de la Mujer. —. ed., 2005, Gender, Sex and Translation: The Manipulation of Identities, Manchester: St. Jerome. —. 2011a, “Feminists Translating: On Women, Theory and Practice”, in E. Federici ed., Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang, 55-77. —. 2011b, “Virginia Woolf’s Un cuarto propio: Feminist Translation, from Practice to Theory” in O. Palusci ed., Traduttrici: Female Voices Across Languages, Trento: Tangram Edizioni Scientifiche, 133-146. —. and L. von Flotow, eds. 2011, Woman and Translation: Geographies, Voices and Identities - MONTI (Monografías de Traducción e Interpretación) 3, Alicante: Universidad de Alicante / Universitat Jaume I / Universitat de València. Shread, C. 2008, “La traduction métramorphique: entendre le kreyòl dans la traduction anglaise des Rapaces de Marie Vieux-Chauvet”, Palimpsestes 22 (Traduire le genre: femmes en traduction), 225-242. Simon, S. 1996, Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission. London/New York: Routledge. Vidal Claramonte, M.C.A. 1998, El futuro de la traducción: Últimas teorías, nuevas aplicaciones, Valencia: Institució Alfons el Magnànim. Wallmach, K. 2006, “Feminist Translation Strategies: Different or Derived?” JLS/TLW 22 (1-2), 1-26.


Gender and Translation: an Introduction The introductory section of this paper briefly deals with gender and grammar, in terms of Suzanne Romaine’s Communicating Gender, 1 an indispensable book on the gender and linguistics debate. Considering both a definition of gender as a communicative process and the awareness of the grammar of gender, will be functional to the application of these concepts in translation. The further step will be to relate theory and practice through some examples taken from contemporary English and American literary texts.

Gender: a Communicative Process In the chapter “Doing Gender”, Suzanne Romaine gives the following definition of gender: Gender is […] an inherently communicative process. Not only do we communicate gender […], but we also “do it” with our words. Because we construct and enact gender largely through discourse, this book is about the crucial role of language in particular and communication more generally in doing gender and displaying ourselves as gendered beings’.2

The question of gender is relevant to the issue of communicative competence as Penelope Eckert and Sally Mc-Connell-Ginet also stress:


Romaine, Communicating Gender. On language and gender, see also, among others, Holmes and Meyerhoff, The Handbook of Language and Gender. 2 Romaine, Communicating Gender, 2.


Chapter Two People develop their linguistic competence in use, and along with the linguistic system or systems, they learn how to put the system(s) to work in social situations. What they develop, then, is not simply linguistic competence but also a wider communicative competence. […N]either language nor the social world comes ready-made, and neither language nor the social world is static. […] They are both maintained – and maintained mutually – in day-to-day activity. And they change – mutually – as well.3

Given the strong nexus between women’s oppression and discourse, language is pivotal to women’s positioning in social landscapes: If women’s oppression has deep linguistic roots, then any and all representations, whether of women, men or any other group, are embedded first in language, and then in politics, culture, economics, history, and so on.4

Romaine further introduces two essential elements structuring language in the communication of gender, i.e., the deployment of gender stereotypes, namely “sets of beliefs about the attributes of men or women”,5 and the function of context, suggesting that “[a]lthough language is central to our constructions of the meaning of gender, much of language is ambiguous and depends on context for its interpretation”.6

Grammar and Gender Anyone who has studied a European language other than English has had to deal with gender as a grammatical category. Languages such as French, German, Spanish, and many others have two or three so-called “genders”, masculine, feminine, and neuter. These can be understood simply as noun classes. All nouns, however, not just those referring to males and females, must be either masculine or feminine. Gender extends beyond those nouns so that articles, adjectives, or other modifiers that go with them must be marked accordingly. This includes pronouns.7

Grammatical gender manifests itself when words related to a noun (determiners, adjectives, pronouns) inflect according to the gender of the 3

Eckert and Mc-Connell-Ginet, Language and Gender, 52-53. Romaine, Communicating Gender, 3 (italics mine). According to Heiko Motschenbacher, “natural gender is […] unable to explain all linguistic gendering mechanisms” in English (Language, Gender and Sexual Identity. Poststructuralist Perspectives, 63). 5 Romaine, Communicating Gender, 4. 6 Ibid., 5. 7 Ibid., 68. 4

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noun they refer to. When we find gender agreement between a noun and other modifiers, we deal with a language that employs gender as a ‘grammatical category’; the circumstances in which this occurs, and the way words are marked for gender vary across languages. Modern English8 is said to incorporate “natural gender”, relying “more or less straightforwardly on the criteria of humanness and biological sex”,9 that is, nouns such as man, boy, male animals are in fact biologically male, while woman, girl, female animals are biologically female. We must add that a conspicuous list of nouns are of common gender, that is the same name is used for male and female, such as friend, person, student, teacher, child, friend. On the other hand, objects are neutral, unless they are represented as persons. With a few exceptions, nouns are uninflected for case (except for possession, for instance girl/girl’s), adjectives are invariable, while English pronouns are declined. Some pronouns, like I, you, them, do not make gender distinctions, third-person personal pronouns and adjectives have a number of forms, named in accordance with their typical grammatical roles in a sentence. In fact, English has three gender-specific pronouns and adjectives in the third person singular, as well as three possessive forms: masculine he/his/him, feminine she/her(s), neuter it/its and the common gender one/one’s.10 Besides, in English the gender of an adjective or of a pronoun coincides with the gender of its referent (Kate and John live together in his house. The house is his; i.e., Kate is not the owner), in place of the grammatical gender of the noun, as it happens, for instance, in Italian (Kate and John vivono assieme a casa sua. La casa è di lui; i.e. sua is declined in the feminine in accordance with the noun casa while the owner is male). Henceforth while English is a ‘neutral’ language, with no productive gender markers, Italian (also French, German and Spanish) is a language with grammatical gender, which continuously draws the listener’s attention to the issue of gender through agreement on a syntactic level.11 Therefore, when speaking or writing in English, feminists often use or 8

Old English had a fully productive inflectional category. Romaine, Communicating Gender, 73. Greville Corbett employs the term ‘pronominal gender’ in place of ‘natural gender’ for those languages, such as English, where pronouns present the only markers for gender (Gender, 5). 10 Also the reflexive form is gender-specific: himself, herself, itself. 11 For a comparative analysis of gender across languages see Hellinger and Bußmann, Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men. The editors enucleate four different categories of gender (grammatical, lexical, referential and social). 9


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manipulate linguistic signs to make social meaning, they blur the boundary between semantics and pragmatics in order to stress what they want to say; suffice it to mention the playful word formation with her (a de facto neologism), such as herland or herstory.

Translating Gender Gender is without doubt a cultural construction, but first of all it is conveyed (marked) through language. Since the 1980s, definitions of the translation process have insisted on the linguistic and cultural passage from one linguistic and cultural context (source text) to another (target text), underlining how a translator manipulates and re-writes a text in order to make it available to another language reading public. This opened the way to the fruitful encounter between feminism and translation, adding a broader perspective on language, sex and power relations. I think that one of the first issues in translating gender (an issue which is not sufficiently considered, according to me, by translators) is the basic question of the implications, both ideological and linguistic, raised by the passage from a natural language (English) to a grammatical system (Italian). Only after solving this issue, the social and cultural gender differences between the two systems can be dealt with. In addition, this practical exercise of comparative gender spotting is a good way of detecting linguistic behavior patterns, offering an insight into the two linguistic systems in relation to gender.

Practice: Translating the ‘I’ from English into Italian I would like to apply the aforementioned discussion on gender to the translation of pronouns. I will use samples from feminist literary texts pertaining to different narrative genres in British and American English, comparing them to the respective Italian translations, in order to weave a possible web enveloping theory and practice in the translation of gender. Such a connection is often set aside or underestimated. The examples chosen are willingly provocative, out of norm, in order to un-mask how language can be overcharged with gender stereotypes. My first quotation is taken from a 1992 British novel in which the author uses a first person narrator, who remains ambiguously impossible to label a ‘she’ or ‘he’. As we know through translation studies, the translator must first read and decode the whole text before actually

Translating Dolls


translating it. In this case, the use of the “unnamed autodiegetic narrator”12 jumbles up the reader’s perception of sex roles and of sexual relations. As the writer explains on her website: All my work is experimental in that it plays with form, refuses a traditional narrative line, and includes the reader as a player. By that I mean that the reader has to work with the book. In the case of Written on the Body, the narrator has no name, is assigned no gender, is age unspecified, and highly unreliable. I wanted to see how much information I could leave out especially the kind of character information that is routine - and still hold a 13 story together.

The writer is Jeanette Winterson; her novel, Written on the Body, published in 1992, is a story about love and passion.14 We should bear in mind that the narrator is given neither name nor gender. Generally, when there is an I – first person narrator — the name and gender are sooner or later revealed by other characters. Here the narrative focus and gaze belong to a genderless I/eye. Obviously, Winterson wants to test gender prejudices and presuppositions in the construction of the self and the other. For instance, when we read “I had a girlfriend once who was addicted to starlit nights” (WB 19), we immediately assume the I to be male, giving ‘his’ heterosexuality for granted. By eliminating the gendered possessives, the writer easily succeeds in concealing the protagonist’s gender. What then should the grammatically gender-oriented Italian translation be? How can the sex of the I remain undeclared? Example # 1 Poor me. There’s nothing so sweet as wallowing in it is there? Wallowing is sex for depressives (WB 26) Me infelice! Non c’è niente di più dolce che crogiolarsi, no? Crogiolarsi è il massimo di eccitazione sessuale per i depressi. 15 12

Lanser, “Sexing the Narrative: Propriety, Desire, and the Engendering of Narratology”, 85. 13 Jeanette Winterson, online at: 14 Winterson, Written on the Body. All references are to this edition, with the page references in the body of the text, abbreviated as WB. Emphasis mine. For an introduction to Winterson’s novel, see, among others, Andermahr, Jeanette Winterson: A Contemporary Critical Guide. 15 Winterson, Scritto sul corpo, 24. All quotations are from this edition, abbreviated as SC. Emphasis mine.

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Poor me in English is genderless. The Italian version, in order to avoid the disclosure of the gender of the nameless protagonist through the equivalence (poor = povero/povera) easily adopts the ungendered form infelice (unhappy).16 In the next sentence, though, the generic masculine form is re-established through the use of the male plural noun depressi. Does this imply that the masculine form includes everyone, both males and females, or are only male persons depressed? Example # 2 I considered her. I didn’t love her and I didn’t want to love her. I didn’t desire her and I could not imagine desiring her. These were all points in her favour (WB 26). Cominciai a pensarci sul serio. Non l’amavo e non volevo amarla. Non la desideravo e non riuscivo a immaginare di desiderarla. Erano tutti punti in suo favore (SC 25).

In this passage, the feminine possessive her stands out: it is repeated 6 times in 4 short sentences. The emphasis on the female gender of the beloved person is crucial in Written on the Body, and it is in contrast with the genderless I whom the writer plays with by dwelling on linguistic tricks of veiling/unveiling gender. Even when the source text insists on the use of the female marker, the translator dilutes the tension by opting for the use of the gendered suffix la, which is correct in Italian, but not emphatic enough to represent the obsessive repetition of her. A possible solution, in order to make her central to the I’s discourse, would include the seemingly unnatural repetition of the pronoun lei (her). For instance: “Non amavo lei e non volevo amare lei”. Example # 3 Over the months that followed my mind healed and I no longer moped and groaned over lost love and impossible choices. I had survived shipwreck and I liked my new island with hot and cold running water and regular visits from the milkman (WB 27). Nei mesi che seguirono la mia mente guarì. Non ero più triste, né mi lamentavo per l’amore perduto o per scelte impossibili. Ero reduce da un naufragio e mi piaceva la mia nuova isola con acqua corrente calda e fredda, e visite regolari del lattaio (SC 26). 16

The Italian language has adjectives ending in -e, which are the same for the masculine and the feminine singular. In the plural, the -e changes to -i.

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In example # 3 the translator recurs to conscious strategies in order to conceal the I’s gender by employing once again an ungendered adjective in Italian (triste and reduce). In both cases, the substitution is clear with the shift to a nominal phrase in order to delete the final gender vowel markers. Example # 4 I was rigorous, hard working and … and…what was that word beginning with B? ‘You’re bored,’ my friend said. I protested with all the fervour of a teetotaller caught glancing at a bottle. I was content. I had settled down (WB 27) Ero inflessibile. Solo lavoro e … e… qual è quella parola che comincia con la N? «Noia, ecco di cosa si tratta» disse uno dei miei amici. Protestai con l’ardore di un astemio scoperto a fissare una bottiglia. Provavo un senso di appagamento. Avevo trovato una sistemazione (SC 26)

The nominal form (I was rigorous; You’re bored) is gendered in Italian. Once again rigoroso/rigorosa (rigorous) is left aside in favour of an adjective ending with –e (inflessibile), a strategy used all through the translated text. The same strategy would not work, though, for You’re bored, where bored (annoiato/annoiata) is gendered, so the translator adopts a reduction and a class shift (from annoiato to noia) and then recurs to addition (ecco di cosa si tratta). Anyhow, the translator is like Sisyphus, who tries hard in his effort, but unreluctantly fails, when, for instance, the Italian translator needlessly introduces a questionable uno (one) to translate my friend: uno dei miei amici (one of my friends) to avoid marking the gender and ends up emphasising the male gender of the protagonist’s friend. Instead, a possible way out could have been mi disse un’anima amica, which is genderless. The word teetotaller is gendered in Italian – astemio/astemia. Here, as in example #1 for depressed, the masculine generic form is used, consequently inflecting the indeterminate article and the past tense (un astemio scoperto a fissare). A possible alternative could have been: di chi ha rinunciato all’alcol e sta lì a fissare). In order to avoid the gender marker in translating I was content, the translator recurs to a periphrasis (Provavo un senso di appagamento), while in the following sentence she recurs to substitution: I had settled down (mi ero sistemato/sistemata), switches to Avevo trovato una sistemazione.


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Translating Written on the Body is quite a Sisyphean task. Winterson’s I shares both female/male attitudes. The translation should reflect her experiment on grammar-gender-sex without unduly clarifying the text. Is the I male or female? That is not the question. Winterson is saying (hopefully the target text as well) that there are profound mental frames in the construction and in the perception of gendered bodies.

Practice: Upsetting the Grammar of Gender My next literary text explores gender as socially constructed in the juxtaposition of two worlds, one before (the present of the novel, preserving the use of he and she) and one in the far future, after a radical revolution of sex roles and behaviours. In the future utopian universe the traditional pronominal system has been replaced by the epicene (commongender) neologisms person and per. 17 Pronouns have been reformed, because in this alternative world individuals are not neatly divided into male and female: sex-role differentiations have been drastically reduced through mechanical brooding, and thanks to the handing over of mothering to both sexes, as men are also able to lactate. The protagonist from present day New York ‘mentally’ visits the utopian Mattapoisett, a village in Massachusetts, the outcome of a decentralised, anarchic, cooperative and ecological community in 2137. In a peaceful land devoid of taboos and of laws, based on the principles of responsibility and of consensus, the society is modelled as an extended family without biological links while the biological traits between the two sexes have vanished. Mattapoisett exemplifies a cultural project based on radical social, biological and cultural transformations matched by the creation of a new language. The visitor is Consuelo/Connie, a poor unemployed Chicano woman, the victim of ethnic, class and sexual discriminations. We see her, at the beginning of the plot, locked in a mental hospital. The novel is Woman on the Edge of Time by the American writer Marge Piercy, published in 1976.18 Piercy’s novel is a continuous reflection on language, grammar and gender. The first difficult task for the Italian translator lies in the rendering of the title Woman on the Edge of Time, which becomes Sul filo del tempo19 where the ‘woman’ (donna) disappears, leaving the Italian version 17

Livia, Pronoun Envy: Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender, 159. Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time; all quotations are from this edition, abbreviated as WT. 19 Piercy, Sul filo del tempo. All quotations are from this edition, abbreviated as FT. 18

Translating Dolls


without a subject. The Italian translator has added a long “Nota del traduttore” at the beginning of the Italian version of Woman on the Edge of Time in which he remarks on the abundance of linguistic inventions in the novel and on the role of invented terms, which he has tried to translate by capturing the lexical origin of the word. Sometimes he has left the most difficult items in the source language, as if they were culture-bound words. However, he regretfully explains that there was one linguistic invention (per) that he felt forced to ‘neglect’ because unable to work it out into the Italian language: that is the elimination of all gender connotations in Mattapoisett, since in Italian expressing the subject can be avoided (egli/ella or lui/lei), and that the possessive (suo/sua) does not inflect according to the subject, but to the gender of the object it refers to. My first example is on the encounter between Connie and Luciente, two inhabitants of the same world far away in time. Example # 5 “I’m here. I’ve been trying to reach you. But you get frightened, Connie”. Luciente grinned. Really he was girlish. (WT 40) “Ma io sono qui. Sto cercando di raggiungerti. Tu però ti spaventi, Connie”. Luciente sorrise. Era davvero effeminato. (ST 49).

Connie is convinced, because of her stereotypical ideas on power and gender, that Luciente is a man. It is true that in Italian the pronoun he can be omitted, but here it is arguably essential to underline Connie’s belief that Luciente is male. Besides, the Italian translation Era effeminato alludes to homosexuality. A solution could be to translate he into Italian and make another word choice for girlish: Lui si comportava come una ragazzina. Example #6 Her arm grazed his. He was real enough, his arm muscular through the leather jacket […] No, he didn’t walk in a swishy manner. He had a surefooted catlike grace. He moved with grace but also with authority (WT 41) Con un braccio sfiorò il suo. Non sembrava affatto un’allucinazione il braccio muscoloso sotto il giubbotto di pelle. […] No, non aveva un incedere da checca. Aveva una camminata sicura, da felino. Si muoveva con grazia ma non senza autorità (FT 49).

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Even in the above quotation, Connie’s gender stereotypes are at work, showing how prejudiced she is. The Italian translator Buzzi avoids any trace of ambiguity and puts in Connie’s mouth the word checca (derogative for homosexual) in the attempt to substitute swishy manner, where swishy is the sound of a skirt when someone is walking. Once again, as in #5, the Italian translator is making the protagonist react as if she were homophobic. A gendered translation would be: Lei sfiorò il braccio di lui. Lui era lì in carne ed ossa, si intravvedeva il braccio muscoloso sotto la giacca di pelle. […] No, non aveva movenze effeminate. Camminava con la grazia di un felino. Si muoveva con grazia e con autorità. Example # 7 “Now person is very old. It’s time for per to die.[…] Per body has weakened since Wednesday” […] “We have a five-minute limit on speeches. We figure that anything person can’t say in five minutes, person is better off not saying” (WT 150) “Ora è molto vecchia. E’ arrivato il suo momento” […]. Il suo corpo ha cominciato a indebolirsi da mercoledì” […] “C’è un limite di cinque minuti per intervento. L’idea è che se uno non riesce a esprimere il proprio pensiero in cinque minuti è meglio che non lo esprima affatto” (FT 168169)

Connie’s exploration of Luciente’s future coincides with the discovery of a linguistic system that abolishes gender markers, using ‘the common gender pronouns to reinforce the egalitarian nature of that society’. 20 I would insist that person/per be left in the target text as the expression of common gender, the sign of a linguistic ‘monstrum’ which attracts attention and makes the reader wonder about its significance. The following could be an alternative translation which does not domesticate or delete the linguistic innovation of the future land, yet highlights the changes in the pronoun system by preserving the neologism which is present in the source text: Ora per è molto vecchia. E’ arrivato il momento di per di morire” […]. Il corpo di per ha cominciato a indebolirsi da mercoledì.” […] “C’è un limite di cinque minuti per intervento. L’idea è che se persona non riesce a esprimere il per pensiero in cinque minuti è meglio che persona non lo esprima affatto.


See Livia, Pronoun Envy: Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender, 158.

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Indeed, Woman on the Edge of Time is based on a complex interplay between the two pronoun systems, making the clash more evident. This is all totally lost in the Italian translation, as the following passage confirms: Example # 8 “I’m not Claud. Maybe I look like Claud did. Maybe I move like per. You feel so.” His voice rumbled. “Maybe I am potentialities in per that could not flourish in your time. But I am also me, Bee, friend of Luciente, friend of yours” (WT 189) “Io non sono Claud. Forse somiglio a Claud. Forse mi muovo come lui. Sei tu che senti così”. La sua voce si fece profonda. “”Forse in me si sono realizzate quelle potenzialità che nella vostra epoca non poterono fiorire in lui. Ma io sono sempre io. Bee, amico di Luciente, amico tuo” (FT 210).

Translation is a process of mediation which does not rise above ideology, but works through it. “The translation dialogue becomes an intercontextual and intercreative process, a meeting point not only of different or similar contexts, of skills, cultures, but also of perceptions and cognitions”.21 Despite his efforts, by gendering the common gender noun friend in the male form and by deleting persona/per, Andrea Buzzi has unwillingly eradicated the gender issues structuring Piercy’s subversive project, utterly diminishing the equality between sexes expressed through the word friend and the epicene per. I propose the following translation: “Forse mi muovo come persona. Sei tu che senti così”. La sua voce si fece profonda. “Forse in me si sono realizzate quelle potenzialità che nella vostra epoca non poterono fiorire in per. Ma io sono sempre io. Bee, persona amica di Luciente e di te”. The gender game is ultimately missing once the epicene per is translated into the generic male. This is an instance of what I call translating transgressive gender into a dummy or doll template or copy, that is making the target text sound nice, readable, obviously heterosexual, familiar, yet a pale neutered imitation of the feminist source text.

Translating Dolls Another problem connected to translating gender is related to objects which reproduce the human form, in primis dolls, acting as a sort of 21

Loffredo and Perteghella, Translation and Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies, 8.


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double of the human figure. Thus, the last example is a short story, and its Italian translation, which deals with dolls or rather with the tangled symbolic relation between human beings and dolls through the use of pronouns. Being an object, the noun doll is neutral and should be called it, but it is exceptionally gendered when represented as a person. Generally a doll is seen as reproducing the feminine form as a toy for little girls. The noun doll is a common gender noun, yet paradoxically we may find a male dolls, but there is no need to say a female doll, as if the generic, in this case, were female. In Italian bambola is female. The word implies being a beautiful creature, but also a passive being, that is a submissive girl or young woman (as in Patty Pravo’s La bambola, a famous Italian song). The Doll is a short story by the Irish writer Edna O’Brien first published in 1979.22 It opens with the arrival of a doll at a girl’s house, an object referred to as it: Every Christmas there came the present of a doll from a lady I scarcely knew. She was a friend of my mother’s, and though they met rarely, or accidently at a funeral, she kept up the miraculous habit of sending me a doll. It would come on the evening bus shortly before Christmas and it added to the hectic glow of those days when everything was charged with bustle and excitement (TD 57).

The title has been translated as La bambola, but in the second paragraph we read that the dolls are of both sexes. Once the male dolls are introduced, the (female) dolls shift from it to she: They were of both sexes. There was a jockey in bright red and saffron, there was a Dutch drummer boy in maroon velvet, there was a sleeping doll in a crinoline, a creature of such fragile beauty that I used to fear for her when my sisters picked her up clumsily to make her flutter her eyelashes. Her eyes were suggestive of beads and small blue flowers, having the hunting color of one and the smooth glaze of the other. She was named Rosalind (TD 57).

In English, objects are neuter, with the exception of things which can contain people, such as ships, vehicles, countries or tornadoes, often referred to as she. “The Doll” is a short story in which pronouns play an essential role in the binary opposition between subject/object and animate/inanimate. O’Brien decides to turn the use of pronouns upside down by contextually upgrading the object from inanimate to animate (the

22 O’Brien, The Doll. All quotations are from this edition, with page references in the body of the text, abbreviated as TD.

Translating Dolls


doll is she) and slowly downgrading the girl to an object (it).23 Ironically, one could toy with the fact that translating dolls should require much more than translating dolls – I mean the awkward translators themselves – who dress up the original text so as to silence the clamour of the gendered discourse embedded in the fabric of the source text. The plot is concentrated on the seventh doll, which is to the narrating I “the living representation of a princess”, almost lifelike, with whom she has long conversations (TD 58). The unnamed protagonist of the story recalls her childhood memories intrinsically connected with her favourite doll; so much so that she projects herself onto the doll. It is through the memory of the doll that she revisits episodes of her childhood and her difficult relationship with her teacher and her family. As Kitti Carriker states, “In O’Brien’s narrative of abjection, the narrator and the doll stand in an uneasy juxtaposition which is exemplary of Freud's notion of the Uncanny”. Besides, “Kristeva’s concepts of abjection, dejection, and displacement illuminate the narrator’s crisis”. 24 The doll was uncanny (TD 58): “Aveva un aspetto inquietante”.25 The doll is not inquietante (back translation terrifying), she is uncanny, i.e. perturbante. Anyhow, the doll is not an automated being (that would be another paper) and this is not a fairy-tale, yet the doll comes alive, is charged through the eyes of the innocent child: Her flaxen hair was like a feather to finger, her little wrists moved on a swivel, her eyelashes were black and sleek and the gaze in her eyes so fetching that we often thought she was not an inanimate creature, that she had a soul and a sense of us. Conversations with her were the most intense and the most incriminating of all (TD 58).

The doll is considered a living person: on a grammatical level, no longer an it, but a she, the child’s double, her ideal mirror image. In English literature, the doll symbolises a set of values and codes. We should remember that in the second half of the nineteenth century the doll embodied Victorian middle-class values. One can recall the collections of Victorian doll stories for children or, on the other hand, the figure of Jenny Wren in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1865), who cares for her drunken father – Mr Doll – and is a doll’s dressmaker, herself an odd doll being disabled (she is a hunchback). Jenny is like a doll that must be repaired. 23 On the concept of upgrading and downgrading in grammar see Romaine, Communicating Gender, 75. 24 Carriter, Created in Our Image, 106. 25 O’Brien, La bambola, 5-13. All quotations are from this edition, abbreviated as LB.

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She and her are repeated obsessively in “The Doll”. How to translate it and she as embodiment of values? How to work out this prevalently female plot disseminated with she and her in the Italian translation? The following passage makes the writer’s intention clear: it is the child who, for her female teacher, is nothing more than an it: # Example 9 She made jokes about my cardigan or my shoelaces or the slide in my hair, and to make the other girls laugh, she referred to me as “It”. She would say, “It has a hole in its sock,” or “It hasn’t got a proper blazer,” or “It has a daub on its copybook” (TD 58). Mi canzonava per il cardigan che indossavo, o per i lacci delle scarpe, o per i miei capelli in disordine e, per far divertire le mie compagne, mi chiamava «quella». Diceva frasi del tipo: «Quella ha le calze bucate» oppure «Quella non indossa una giacca adatta» o, ancora, «Quella ha il quaderno macchiato» (LB 6-7).

She, her, it, its are used in two ways: according to grammar rules but also to stress the objectification of the girl and the implicit power of the teacher over her. The translator has substituted it with quella (back translation that), which conveys a slightly pejorative connotation. In Italian the third person pronoun to refer to animals and objects is esso (male) essa (female). I would have translated it with essa: “mi chiamava essa”. The problem is complicated by the possessives, which disappear in the Italian version. In order to leave a trace of its, the last sentence could be: C’è una macchia sul quaderno di essa. The teacher’s double behaviour – she teases the girl, convinces elder students to play a joke on her by giving her fruit lassatives, downgrades her school achievements while she is sweet with her sisters – deploys her incapacity to cope with such a complex yet obedient female model. In this story replete with female bodies – the protagonist, her mother and sisters, the teacher, the doll – the turning point is the ‘public’ appearance of the narrator’s beloved doll. The doll is chosen “to make a most beautiful Virgin” in the Christmas school play. Edna O’Brien subtly engages a battle for power over the doll (the doll alias the girl?) between the domineering teacher and the student. The teacher is jealous of the girl and would like to ‘keep’ her budding power. Instead what she does is to keep the girl’s doll, she takes her away, making it inaccessible to the girl. By imprisoning the doll (the teacher confiscates it and closes it in a china cabinet in her house), the protagonist herself is reduced to a doll.

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The forgetting of the doll (and of the self) and of the teacher: the life of the protagonist after the doll’s confiscation is briskly summed up. Her life is described as if she were a doll, a lifeless body. At this point the translation presents yet another problem, this time regarding the pronoun I. She and her are now referred to the teacher and are obsessively repeated by the self-centred I after the loss of her doll to the teacher. The female teacher morphs into a diabolic figure, but gets replaced (in the same way as dolls do). The doll, though, seems to take revenge on her: we must not forget that the doll has played the role of the Holy Virgin, when first publicly taken to the school Christmas crèche. In fact the teacher dies a slow death, and “wastes to a thread through cancer” (TD 61). By imprisoning the doll, the teacher unmistakably believes she can be a doll, while the girl who has lost the doll and has lived without her understands, once grown up and exiled from her community, that she has not lived. Moreover, when the protagonist encounters the doll after years when she goes back to her home town for her aunt’s funeral, not by chance, the caretaker is the teacher’s odd son: Example # 10 There in the overstuffed china cabinet is my confiscated doll, and if dolls can age, it certainly had. Gray and moldy, the dress and cloak are as a shroud, and I thought, if I was to pick her up she would disintegrate (TD 62). Lì, nella vetrinetta strapiena c’è la mia bambola confiscata e, se è vero che le bambole possono invecchiare, lei è invecchiata certamente. Grigi e ammuffiti, l’abito e il mantello sembrano un lenzuolo funebre. In quel momento ho pensato: «Se la prendessi in mano, si sbriciolerebbe» (TB 11).

The doll returns to be an object – it – as in the incipit of the story, before being animated by the child herself. In the above quotation, the shift between it and she for the doll entails the separation of the adult from the object in human form, but not from the abjection that the doll embodies in her place. Thus, the Italian translator should mark the change of pronoun. A gendered translation would be: Lì, nella vetrinetta strapiena c’è la mia bambola confiscata e, se è vero che le bambole possono invecchiare, essa è invecchiata certamente. Grigi e ammuffiti, l’abito e il mantello sembrano un lenzuolo funebre. In quel momento ho pensato: «Se la prendessi in mano, ella si sbriciolerebbe».


Chapter Two

Final Remarks In translating from a neutral language (English) to a gendered language such as Italian, gender markers are constant. In radical feminist texts, as in the two novels dealt with, the translator must be twice as vigilant when translating pronouns so as to avoid to disambiguate the gender issues as in the case of Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, or to tame the linguistic invention which is so fundamental in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. The Italian translations analysed fail to reproduce the appropriate gender markedness of the source text. The third example employs Edna O’Brien’s short story “The Doll” to elicit a subtle point on the practice of translating gender. As “The Doll” shows, and its translation into Italian, it is easy to pass from subject to object, from awareness of translating gender to mechanical obedience to a target-oriented project. Thus, translating dolls are those translators who are arguably not well aware of the weight of the grammar of gender in contrastive linguistics and prefer, to yield to the male generic.

Bibliography Andermahr, S. 2008, Jeanette Winterson: A Contemporary Critical Guide, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Carriter, K. 1998, Created in Our Image. The Miniature Body of the Doll as Subject and Object, Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press. Corbett, G. 1991, Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Eckert, P. and S. Mc-Connell-Ginet eds., 2003, Language and Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Hellinger, M. and H. Bußmann eds., 2001-2003, Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, (3 vols). Holmes, J. and M. Meyerhoff 2003, The Handbook of Language and Gender, Oxford: Blackwell. Lanser, S. S. 1995, “Sexing the Narrative: Propriety, Desire, and the Engendering of Narratology”, Narrative 3 (1), 85-94. Livia, A. 2001, Pronoun Envy: Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Loffredo, E. and M. Perteghella 2006, Translation and Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies, London: Continuum. Motschenbacher, H. 2010, Language, Gender and Sexual Identity. Poststructuralist Perspectives, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Translating Dolls


O’Brien, E. 1982, The Doll, in Returning. Tales, London: Weindenfeld and Nicolson. —. 1994, La bambola, in Rose d’Irlanda, Roma: Edizioni e/o, (translated by E. Bruscella). Piercy, M. 1987, Woman on the Edge of Time, London: The Women’s Press. Piercy, M. 1990, Sul filo del tempo, Milano: elèuthera, 1990 (translated by A. Buzzi; preface by O. Palusci). Romaine, S. 1999, Communicating Gender, Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Winterson, J. 1996 (1992), Written on the Body, London: Vintage. —. 1993, Scritto sul corpo, Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori, (translated by G. Marrone).


To Theo Hermans, the cultural value of translation lies in its ‘lack of neutrality [...] its density, its specific weight and added value’. 1 The texture of interwoven voices, which he terms ‘hybridity’, is precisely what is of interest, particularly in the case of works which have been translated several times, leading to a certain rivalry between translators. As he points out, the facade of direct transference – which serves to conceal the translators’ discursive presence – can be ruptured by translators’ active dialogue with earlier works. The intervention, labour and artistry of the translator is then, if not foregrounded, at least acknowledged and offered for scrutiny. These concepts are particularly pertinent in discussion of the fraught disputes generated by early modern religious translations. This field is complicated not only by competing discourses of authority but also of cultural theories of gender inequality. Briefly outlining some of the more general differences of opinion relating to early modern practices of translation, this essay will go on to examine one woman’s creative solutions to prevailing cultural and theological prescriptions. Until the sixteenth century St Jerome’s Bible – the Latin Vulgate – had been accepted by Christians throughout Europe as the inviolable Word of God. The European Reformation of the Church, sparked by Martin Luther’s demands for debate, generated many localised demands for vernacular Bibles to be available to the common people, however. To the reformers it was essential that everyone was able to read and understand the Scriptures, in order to actively participate in her or his own salvation. Translation was obviously central to this endeavour. In a time when religion was a vital part of individual and national identity, however, the 1

Hermans, Paradoxes and Aporias in Translation, 5.

Early Modern Translators ‘Juggling with the Word of God’


translation of sacred works was often a controversial and dangerous activity. Saint Jerome himself had debated difficulties inherent in transposing material from one language to another, arguing for free representation, except ‘in the case of the Holy Scripture, where even the syntax contains a mystery’. 2 Amid the 16th Century religious controversies, Sir Thomas More warned also that some parts of the Scriptures were ‘corrupted with miss-writing’. His concept of ‘mis-writing’ was not solely a comment on the linguistic skills of the translators; it also alluded to the contentious issue of the right of interpretation. Orthodox ecclesiastical endorsement of the scriptural message relied upon tradition to demonstrate verity, a point strongly contested by the reformers. In Pierre Bourdieu’s terms this ‘doxa’, that which is ‘beyond question’, is revealed by the apprehension of competing modes of discourse. He points out that orthodox opinion effectively censors and discredits, defining legitimate and illegitimate opinion.3 The superficial unity of the Bible accepted today is the result of the vision of the many translators, all of whom attempted to impose order on – and define the parameters of – an essentially disparate collection of writings, according to their own religious bias. Under the English Tudor monarchs of the sixteenth century the endorsed state religion ranged from Roman Catholicism through to European-style Protestantism and intermediate states between. Heterodox religious opinion was severely punished in each reign, prompting high levels of disquiet in some translators. For this reason, epistles and prologues often preface their translations, explaining and justifying their methodology. Apart from the inherent problems encountered in translating between languages, and there being relatively few dictionaries and grammars to assist with the task, there was also the daunting aspect of the mysterious power of God’s Word and question of its preservation in translation. A topic of debate and source of profound anxiety for many of the early sixteenth-century translators was the retention of this innate spiritual quality. Sir Thomas More followed Jerome in considering the Bible to be ‘pluribus foecunda mysteriis’, to the extent that ‘the very order of words is a mystery’.4 Erasmus, further claimed that the Greek sources of the Bible 2 Carroll, The Satirical Letters of St. Jerome, 133, cited Robinson, Western Translatology: Jerome and Augustine, 14. 3 Bourdieu, “Structures, Habitus, Power: Basis for a Theory of Symbolic”, in Dirks, et al. eds., Culture/Power/History: a Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, 164. 4 Lawler, T. M. C., Marc’hadour, G. and Marius, R. eds., The Complete Works of Sir Thomas More, 509.


Chapter Three

contained the dynamic force of Christ’s presence, by which the sacred message was ‘inscribed’ on the heart of the hearer.5 The vulnerability of the supra-literal element of the message clearly could present difficulties for translators; their shortfall may not be a matter of factual information but of the essential sacred core carried within the language used. Close phonemic transference would seem the best method of retaining these spiritual qualities, embedded within the text, but may damage the literary style, perhaps its coherence – and so purpose – of the work. An alternative, interpretive, approach may assist in comprehension but may negate the spiritual dimension and – on a more secular level – also left the translator open to claims of selective representation and deliberate corruption of the work. Vehemently criticising a translation of St Paul’s words to the Galatians, for example, the reformer William Tyndale accused Bishop John Fisher of promoting Catholic doctrine in his, ‘juggling and conveying the sacred words craftily’.6 Despite this concern, Tyndale’s lexical choices often deliberately sought to release the words of the Scriptures from their Catholic significations, emphasising the human interpretation of the holy works. Antoine Berman points out that the ‘underlying networks of signifiers’ which may not at first seem apparent, become so when the entire scheme is transposed, as in Tyndale’s translation. The ‘half-hidden keywords, keynotes, key ideas [...] heavily loaded with their connotations’7 arise in his meticulous use of a lexicology arising from reformed doctrine. Tyndale acknowledges his intervention, drawing attention to alternative ‘significacions’ and providing a list of terms that he has substituted for the more orthodox interpretations.8 His prime concern is always to convey the content of the material as simply as possible in the target language, to explain unfamiliar usage and ‘help with a declaration where one tongue taketh not another.’9 Interestingly, he does not always translate vocabulary in exactly the same way, seeming to try perpetually to reach a new and greater explication of his sources; inevitably his substitutions encourage interrogation of the tenets and doctrines of the Catholic faith and expose the ‘field of opinion, the locus of the confrontation of competing discourses – whose political truth may be overtly declared or may remain


Cummings, The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace, 109. Cummings, The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace, 191. 7 Berman, A. et al. eds., Les tours de Babel, essais sur la traduction, 59 cited in Boitani and Torti, eds. Interpretation: Medieval and Modern , 95. 8 Tyndale, “Epistle to the Reader”, in Works of Willim Tyndale, 28. 9 Ibid. 6

Early Modern Translators ‘Juggling with the Word of God’


hidden’.10 Clearly, Tyndale used language subversively to abrade orthodox interpretation and, in its place, to confirm the doctrines and practices of the reformed faith. This is not then, simple transference, but demonstrates in an overt manner the processes of selection and bias present to some degree in all translation. His translations attracted fierce condemnation, due to the unconventional rendering of his sources and his overt authorial intention. His controversial departure from orthodox terminology sought to reestablish what he saw as pre-existing lost truths, however, he did not argue for a multiplicity of interpretations. The debate regarding authentic reflection of embedded ‘truths’ is, of course, dualistic and hierarchical. In the terms of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, it is typically concerned with ‘ranking and linear progression’.11As Janine Hopkinson points out, within the field of translation such an ‘arborescent’ philosophy promotes a ‘relentless dichotomy of writer-ascreator and translator-as-scribe’ with an insistence that the translation is ‘[a] mere copy, engraving, [and] shadow, [...] of the original’.12 In fact, for conservative early modern translators, although they did not agree on the interpretations, this ‘arboreal’ model of transference was considered an ideal to emulate. In excavating works produced by early modern female translators, Feminist scholars search for inscribed signs of agency and autonomy, these are clearly compromised in an economy which does not value the contribution of the translator and encourages self-effacement. Deleuze and Guttari’s Mille Plateaux proposed alternatives to this ‘arborescent’ model, which celebrate continuous development, to the impact of external cultural and political factors. This is a useful concept in consideration of early modern women’s translations and the circumstances of their production. Deleuze and Guttari’s term ‘rhizomic’ extends the horticultural terminology to indicate a philosophy which is more egalitarian and: ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social

10 Bourdieu, “Structures, Habitus, Power: Basis for a Theory of Symbolic”, in Dirks, et al. eds., Culture/Power/History: a Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, 163. 11 Hopkinson, “Deterritorialising Translation Studies: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux”, 1. 12 Hopkinson, “Deterritorialising Translation Studies: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux”, 2.


Chapter Three struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive. 13

Women translators of these times experienced additional problems of expression to those already outlined, attributable to a phallocentric ideology which defined women as being bereft of the ‘masculine’ capabilities of discretion, reason and fortitude. Due to women’s hypothetical inheritance of the failings of Eve, rigorous strictures were imposed upon their public identities, curtailing display and self-expression. Although some educators condoned religious translation as a private intellectual activity, entry into public discourse through publication of their work left women particularly vulnerable to criticism: whether for their immodesty in the undertaking – or doubts regarding the quality and veracity of the translation itself. Unsurprisingly, authorial anxieties are often evident in women’s preemptive paratextual claims that the work is defective – due to lack of skill or knowledge – but especially in the assertions that that the work lacks personal interpretation and claims that it is a direct ‘truthful’ equivalent of the source text transposed into English. Despite male translators of the Reformation promoting alternative readings to orthodox Catholic interpretations, women translators nonetheless had no authority to propose original readings of the religious texts. In this economy the value of female-authored translations lay only in notions of veracity to a proto-text, again bringing into play familiar concepts of mimicry, binaries, and ‘authentic’ interpretation. In order to sustain the validity of the work, a female translator needed to disclaim her own contribution; effectively the integrity of the text depended upon her effacement and disenfranchisement. It might be expected then, that female translators would conform to received prescription by concealing their presence within the work, thus raising problems for the feminist scholars intent upon finding their fingerprints. Against this backdrop we might measure one woman’s acknowledgement and negotiation of these constraints. Anne Vaughan Locke was raised in an ardent Protestant family from Cheapside, the merchant district of London. In 1557, the state religion had reverted back to Catholicism under Mary I, and she entered voluntary exile, with her two young children, in the independent city-state of Geneva. In John Calvin’s theocracy she translated four of his sermons on Isaiah 38, which were delivered during her two-year residence. Her volume was published early in 1560, upon her return to London, and was entitled Sermons of John Calvin Upon the


Deleuze and Guattari, translated by Massumi, A Thousand Plateaus, 7.

Early Modern Translators ‘Juggling with the Word of God’


Songe that Ezechias made after he had bene sicke, and afflicted by the hand of God. Locke’s desire not to deviate from her sources is indicated in her prefatory claim that the translation of the sermons is as, near as possible to ‘the verie wordes of [Calvin’s] texte’.14 It cannot be said, however, that she is a wholly invisible translator, nor that she does not intend to make her mark upon the work, as is evidenced in her extensive, although minor, remodelling of the material and the method of presentation. In the main she takes the entire sentence as the unit of translation, usually remaining close to Calvin’s and, where possible, maintaining a word-equivalence to the extent of employing cognates in almost every sentence, as might be expected. 15 For example, she renders Calvin’s ‘il est impossible que l’homme desire de changer son estat’ as ‘it is impossible for man to desire to change his estate’, and his ‘chacun s’apreste quand sa foy sera asprouvé’ as ‘every man may prepare himselfe against the time when his faith shelbe proved’. 16 In the second example, ‘tested’ would have provided a more intuitive alternative to ‘proved’ for example. In fact, this strategy sometimes does result in unnatural syntax as shown in her, ‘we can not half (as a man may say) open our mouth to praise God’. 17 Although generally Locke strives not to impede Calvin’s Scriptural message by altering the vocabulary of his biblical exegesis, she does not abide slavishly to his syntactical structure, occasionally removing phrases or altering punctuation to alter focus or add emphasis. 18 According to Louise Schleiner’s model of ‘Translation Modes’, a tool to map evidence 14

Locke, Prefatory Letter, l. 203, 8 in Felch ed., Collected Works of Anne Lock, 8. (NB. the name is transcribed variously, as ‘Lock’, ‘Locke’ and Lok’) 15 Locke’s sources were the French hand-written scribal notes and the edited version of these, prepared for the press, which appeared in a 1562, after her publication. These are reproduced in Ioannis Calvini Opera (Corpus Reformatorum) (Brunswick Schetschke, 1887) and Supplementa Calviniana, vol. 3, Sermons sur le Livre d’Esaïe Chapitres 30-41, F. M. Higman, T. H. L. Parker and L. Thorpe eds., 1995, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsvereins. 16 Locke, “First Sermon”, l. 71, in Felch ed., 10. 17 Her translation of ‘Nous pouvons pas ouvrir la bouche à demi (par maniere de dire) pour louer Dieu’, Locke, “Fourth Sermon”, l.46, in Felch ed., 50. 18 Although it is recognised that it is possible that the punctuation may have been altered by the printer, John Day, Felch is of the opinion that Locke most probably oversaw the printing of her volume when she returned to London. Collected Works, introduction, lxxv. The Corpus Reformatorum (Opera) punctuation does not always remain faithful to the sixteenth-century original, either, but in some cases has been altered by the nineteenth-century editors. See T.H.L. Parker, Calvin’s Preaching, Preaching, Edinburgh: T. T. Clark, 1992, 142.


Chapter Three

of authorial identity, Locke’s work registers at a mid-point on a scale of the nine identified types, ‘closely reproducing the source text’s lexicon and usually its grammar and syntax, but with the translator taking liberties, as these might give a more effective result’.19 A typical example of this syntactical manipulation occurs in the first sermon. In her source Calvin underlines the fundamental difference in the relationship between God and mankind and the recipricosity demanded by the relationship between a temporal ruler and his subjects: Il ne demande aucune recompense de nous: il n’est pas comme un home qui mettra des serviteurs en sa maison: cas c’est pour faire valoire ses terres, et en avoir le profit. Ce n’est pas aussi comme un grand prince lequel demandera l’avoir beaucoup de subjets, car il sera maintenu, et au besoin il en aura secours.20

In Locke’s translation the punctuation divides the section into two parts, as in the source text, but she creates the much shortened first sentence to emphasise a decisive point of Protestant doctrine: He asketh not any reward of us. He is not lyke unto a man that setteth servauntes in his house: for that wer to empowr his lands, and make profit thereof, nether is he like unto a great prince which requireth to have manaye subjectes, for that he is to be maintained and succoured by them when he hath need. 21

Locke’s punctuation emphasises the point that God requires nothing from us, and by doing so she subtly undermines the Catholic doctrine of good works. In other places evidence of her subtly altering Calvin’s sentence, to extend a message of hope, can be found. Whereas Calvin’s sermon advises the believer to take hope that God will deal with her/him as He did Ezechias (‘ne laissons pas pourant d’esperer que Dieu [...]’22), Locke’s translation substitutes a greater degree of certainty and firmer message of God’s care:


Schleiner, Tudor and Stuart Women Writers, 56. Opera, 567; Supplementa., 440, ll. 33, 34. The Supplementa’s version differs only in the omission of ‘aussi’ and the inclusion of ‘aura’ prior to the final ‘secours’. 21 Locke, ll. 57-61, in Felch, ed. Collected Works, 50. 22 Supplementa., 373a, lines 33-36, 413. Added emphasis. 20

Early Modern Translators ‘Juggling with the Word of God’


god shall show us some tokens of his wrath so as if then we seme in maner destróyed, yet we cease not therfore to truste that God will geve us an end of our troubles, as he did this good king.23

Despite the claim that she rendered the text in, ‘so plaine Englishe as [she] possibly might’,24 Locke is also given to adding emphasis in the rhetorical figure of exergasia, repeating the same idea twice or three times in slightly different terms. She uses this kind of doubling and even tripling, often, a typical example from the first sermon translates ‘et soyons aneantis’ as ‘be brought to naught, and cease to be’.25 Whether this is her attempt to clarify terms, because she feels that her words do not adequately convey meaning in the first attempt, or a deliberate literary strategy is not clear. Nonetheless, it does draw attention to her presence as a translator and interpreter of Calvin’s words. Gathering together these examples – of which there are numerous examples – we can begin to catch a glimpse of Anne Locke’s fingerprints in the work. As the impetus in the undertaking seems to have been to use her linguistic skills to assist her co-religionists, possibly in Geneva, but also at home in England, it is reasonable to assume that the sermons were written before the other complementary sections of her publication. As Locke progresses to these supplementary sections of the volume her presence is easier to determine. Although her title refers only to the translated sermons, in fact, this central core is encased in two of Locke’s original compositions. She not only tempers Calvin’s sermons, as observed, she also extends their message into two different genres: on the one hand the religious polemic of her Prefatory Letter and, on the other, the sonnet cycle meditation. The kernel of the volume is literally presented abutted by the two other sections. The focus of the sermons is the three-fold process of King Hezechiah’s life-threatening sickness, his reflection upon his sinful state, and his joy when he is redeemed. These themes are extended in the Prefatory Letter, which is an engaging allegory on spiritual sickness; and the penitential meditation, which explores the psychological disturbance and despair of an individual labouring under this malaise, and provides a self-help template. The additional sections interpret and re-configure Calvin’s

23 Locke, “First Sermon”, ll. 69-74, in Felch ed., Collected Works, 10. Added emphasis. 24 Locke, “Prefatory Address to the Duchess of Suffolk”, l. 3. in Felch ed., Collected Works, 8. 25 Supplementa., l.43. 413; Opera, 527; Locke, l. 83, in Felch, Collected Works, 11.


Chapter Three

serious doctrinal message, reaching from Calvin as the Genevan core of her religion to the outside world of her brethren. This characteristic of diversification and expansion can be discovered further in Locke’s penitential meditation. It is based upon Psalm 51, The Miserere, which is keyed into the margins of the poem. 26 Critics frequently claim that this is Locke’s own translation of the Psalm 27 but, in fact, close examination of her sources reveal that it is a pleached, or braided, compilation of the translations of revered male co-religionists: William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale and Anthony Gilby, all of whom she had personal acquaintance with. Her own original composition – the Meditation – is therefore interwoven with existing male-authored translations, which are embedded within the text that she provides to assist the reader’s own personal devotions. Her own contribution is therefore absorbed into the Reformation cause of her co-religionists on equal terms. The reformers urged their followers to found their lives on Scripture, to use the biblical material as a guide for life and Locke’s volume can be considered a tool to facilitate this process. The extended messages contained in its many layers can be absorbed and transformed into new meanings by its readership and, in this way, it can truly be considered polyphonic. Rather than the austere model of source-oriented translation, recommended by her male contemporaries, Locke’s own perceptual structure is multivalent. In her Song that Hezechias made. the inter-related sections together interpret, confirm and extend the central message. For this reason her volume aligns well with Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomic models, presenting, ‘Principles of connection and heterogeneity’ 28 Calvin’s ‘verie words’ form a rootstock from which lateral rhizomic shoots emerge, propagating his message throughout Europe.

Bibliography Boitani, P. and Torti, A. eds., 1993, Interpretation: Medieval and Modern, Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer. Cummings, B. 2002, The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. 1980, Mille Plateaux (translated by B. Massumi 1987 as A Thousand Plateaus). Retrieved from: 26

Verses 1 and 5 are divided to create 21 ‘verses’ from the biblical 19. See Felch, “Introduction” to The Collected Works, lvi-lvii. 28 Deleuze and Guattari, Mille Plateaux, translated by Massumi, 7. 27

Early Modern Translators ‘Juggling with the Word of God’

41 Dirks, N.B., Eley, G., Ortner, S.B. eds. Culture/Power/History: a Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press. Felch, S. ed. 1999, The Collected Works of Anne Vaughan Lock, Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in conjunction with Renaissance English Text Society. Hermans, T., 2002, Paradoxes and Aporias in Translation. Retrieved from: Hopkinson, J. 2003, “Deterritorialising Translation Studies: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux”, Traduction: mediation, manipulation, pouvoir. Post-Scriptum.Org, No 3. Retrieved from: Lawler, T. M. C., Marc’hadour, G. and Marius, R. eds., 1981, The Complete Works of Sir Thomas More, New Haven and London: Yale University Press. More, T. 1529, “A Dialogue Concerning Heresies”, The Complete Works of Sir Thomas More, vol. 6, Bk. III, in Lawler, T. et al , eds., 1981, New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Robinson, D. 1992, “Western Translatology: Jerome and Augustin”, Translation and Literature, vol. 1, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 3-25. Schleiner, L. 1994, Tudor and Stuart Women Writers, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. St. Jerome, ND. 1956, “Letter to Pammachius (On the Best Kind of Translator)” in The Satirical Letters of St. Jerome, Chicago: Henry Regnery Publishing (translated by P. Carroll). Tyndale, W. [1526] 1964, “Epistle to the Reader” in Duffield, G. E. ed., Work of William Tyndale, Appleford, Berks: Sutton Courtney Press.


The renewed attention which is nowadays paid to translation is not in minimal part due to the awareness that, in the global world we live in, modernity is not experienced through nationality but through “translationality”. The Western canon itself couldn’t exist without translation; this form of writing is actually largely responsible for the building up of the cultural milieu through which we identify the roots and the peculiarities of what we call Western Thought. Feminist Studies on Translation have revealed the role women have played in this operation, as many examples certify; the first translation of a Greek tragedy into English was by a woman, Lady Jane Lumley (15371578) who translated Euripides’ Iphigenia (The Tragedie of Euripides called Iphigeneia translated out of Greake into Englisshe); the first translation of a Spanish novel into English was by Margaret Tyler in 1578 (The Mirrour of Princely Deedes and Knighthood), the first translation of a French tragedy, La mort de Pompé was by Katherine Philips (16621663), the first European translation of Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes by Fontanelle was by Aphra Behn in 1688: just to quote some early English female translators. Women coming from different backgrounds and with different ideas about themselves and the life they lived found in translation something otherwise reputed strongly inappropriate for them. In different ways translation represented for all of them a sort of compromise, the only way to come to terms both with the desire to be an author and the limits a woman had to subdue herself to. Translation as an activity less male and active in comparison with a creative work was tolerated by male power; in the common view it was connected with passivity which was reputed to be proper of the female sex. Translation as a copy, a second-hand copy of the source text, of the original text, was long considered as something

Aphra Behn: The Visible Translator


imperfect and, as a consequence, it was often represented as feminine. The case of John Florio is indicative of this attitude; in 1603 he translated Montaigne’s Florio and in his foreword he explained that translations were all bound to reveal defects and deficiencies as it was in their nature not to be perfect, consequently they were to be read as feminine.1 So, not by chance, studies on translation from a feminist point of view started from the identification of a strong sexist attitude in this field; the expression ‘les belles infidels’ attributed to translations in seventeenth century France is quoted as an example. Translations like women might be either faithful or beautiful, but not both, and, just like a woman, translation might be faithful or not to an original: a father, a husband, an author; not differently from other cases of female writing, the sexist metaphor “betrays real anxiety about the problem of paternity and translation”. 2 Starting from the late 1980s onwards, together with a severe scrutiny of this sexist attitude, gender studies have provided new categories which throw a new light on the figure of the female translator. Womanhandling the text as opposed to manhandling has been the starting point of a new concept of translation, that is to say in Godard’s words “the replacement of the modest-self-effacing translator. The feminist translator immodestly flaunts her signature in italics, in footnotes, even in a preface”.3 The idea is that the female translator is an active participant in the creation of meaning, a co- protagonist with the author of the original text; in the new perception of this act of writing, translation is meant as co-creation, in opposition to the idea of a mere reproduction of the source. Advocates of translation as creation even go so far as to claim “a subversive translation practice whose main aim is to expose and rewrite oppressively, male, misogynistic texts”.4 Nevertheless, this idea is far from being due to the critical approach of our age; actually we can trace it back in history, as a pioneer in this field demonstrates. Aphra Behn (1640?-1689), the first female professional writer, the only woman playwright of the Restoration, and a pioneer novelist, poet, and translator, was one of the first to assert and to put in operation this role for herself in her translation of Le Bouvier de 1

Quoted in Simon, Gender in Translation, 1. Chamberlain, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, in L. Venuti ed., Rethinking Translation. Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology, 58. 3 Godard, “Theorizing Feminist Discourse/Translation”, in Bassnett and Lefevere eds., Translation, History and Culture, 88. 4 See Levine, “Translation as (Sub)Version: On Translating Infante’s Inferno”, 8593, quoted in Santaemilia, “Feminists Translating: On Women, Theory and Practice”, in Federici ed., Translating Gender, Bern, Peter Lang, 2011, 62. 2


Chapter Four

Fontenelle’s Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes; in her book she does exactly what feminist translators think a woman translator must do in order to claim new authority for herself: she prefaces her text – writing in her Essay on Translated Prose – 1688, the first such essay written by a woman -, she comments it, she expands it, she criticises it. In the original text the French author declares his appreciation of Copernicus, whose theories, at the time, were much discussed and even more frequently questioned. Behn in her preface explains why she is in favour of the new science or natural philosophy, which at the time included physics and metaphysics as well:5 The design of the author is to treat of this part of Natural Philosophy in a more familiar way than any other has done, and to make every body to understand him: for this end, he introduces a woman of quality as one of the speakers in these five discourses, whom he feigns never to have heard of any such thing as philosophy before. How well he has performed his undertaking you will best judge when you have perused the book: but if you would know before hand my thoughts, I must tell you freely, he has failed in his design; for endeauvouring to render this part of natural philosophy familiar, he has turned it into ridicule; he has pushed his wild notion of the Plurality of worlds to that height of extravagancy, that he most certainly will confound those readers, who have not judgment and wit to distinguish between what is truly solid (or at least probable) and what is trifling and airy: and there is no less skill and understanding required in this, than in comprehending the whole subject he treats of [...] The whole book is very unequal; the first, fourth and the beginning of the fifth Discourses are incomparably the best. He ascribes all to Nature, and says not a word of God Almighty, from the beginning to the end; so that one would almost take him to be a pagan. He endeavours chiefly two things; one is that there are thousands of worlds inhabited by animals, besides our earth, and has urged this fancy too far: I shall not presume to defend his opinion, but one may make a very good use of many things he has expressed very finely, in endeavouring to assist his wild Fancy. [...] The other thing he endeavours to defend and assert is the system of Copernicus. As to this I cannot but take his part as far as a Woman’s reasoning can go. I shall not venture upon the Astronomical part but leave that to the mathematicians; but because I know that when this opinion of Copernicus (as to the motion of the earth, and the Sun’s being fixed in the centre of the universe, without any other motion, but upon his own axis) 5

In the first years of the century Francis Bacon intended natural philosophy as “the inquisition of causes, and the production of effects; speculative and operative; natural science and natural prudence”. See A. Johnston ed., Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning and New Atlantis, 88. The Advancement of Learning was first published in 1605, New Atlantis after Bacon’s death in 1627.

Aphra Behn: The Visible Translator


was first heard of in the world, those who neither understood the old system of Ptolemy, nor the new one of Copernicus, said that this new opinion was expressly contrary to the holy Scriptures, and therefore not to be embraced; nay, it was condemned as a Heretical upon the same account: After it had been examined by the best mathematicians in Europe, and that they found it answered all the Phenomena’s and motions of the Spheres and the Stars better than the system of Ptolomy; that it was plainer, and not so perplexing and confused as the old opinion; several of these learned men therefore embraced this; but those that held out, when they saw all arguments against Copernicus would not do, they had recourse to what I said before, that his system was expressly against the holy scriptures. Among this number is the learned Father Tacquit, a Jesuit, who, I am told, has writ a large course of mathematics, and particularly of Astronomy, which is deservedly much esteemed. In the end of this Treatise, he cites several texts of Scriptures and particularly the 19th Psalm, And the Sun Standing Still at the Command of Joshua. I I can make it appear, that this Text of Scripture is, at least, as much for Copernicus as Ptolomy, I hope it will not be unacceptable to my Readers: Therefore, will all due Reverence and Respect to the Word of God, I hope I may be allowed to say, that the design of the Bible was not to instruct Mankind in Astronomy, Geometry, or Chronology, but in the Law of God, to lead us to the Eternal Life; and the Spirit of God has been so condescending to our Weakness, that through the whole Bible, when anything of that kind is mentioned, the Expressions are always turned to fit our Capacities, and to fit the Common Acceptance, or Appearances of things to the Vulgar.6

In this passage, we find a strong urge in favour of what we might nowadays define a nonclerical attitude in epistemological thought. In open defiance of what her age prescribed to a woman, who was supposed to be “still and silent”, Behn takes position in favour of the new philosophy; her explanations resume theories and texts which at the time were reputed not to belong to a woman’s sphere: a real challenge to the common view of most of her contemporaries. Behn firmly asserts the need to distinguish between what is proper of science or natural philosophy and what belongs to the Holy Scriptures; her words remind the reader of the distinction between “truth of religion and truth of science” which Francis Bacon had put in evidence in his The 6

Behn’s text appears for the first time in the volume A Discovery of New Worlds. From the French made English by Mrs Behn, published in 1688. The essay is republished in Histories, Novels and Translations written by the most ingenious Mrs Behn (1700) and in The Theory or System of Several New Inhabited Worlds, written in French by Mons. Fontenelle. Made English by Mrs Behn (1718). The following passage is from the 1700 edition.


Chapter Four

Advancement of Learning. More than once, in his text, Bacon highlighted how scriptures are given by “inspiration and not by human reason”. In the second book of the volume, he concludes “that sacred theology (which in our idiom we call divinity) is grounded only upon the word and oracle of God, and not upon the light of nature”.7 We do not know much of Behn’s intellectual apprenticeship, but, in spite of her vibrant denunciation of the limits imposed upon a woman, many elements in this text point out in favour of her being well-acquainted with the cultural disputes of the age, in particular with Bacon’s works. Her familiarity with what had long been going on in the philosophical arena must have encouraged her to pronounce such a strong deprecation against those who confuse what is proper of science with what belongs to religion. Her condemnation more than once sounds as an echo of Bacon’s words against those “who pretended to find the truth of all natural philosophy in the scriptures; scandalising and traducing all other philosophy as heathenish and profane”.8 In the passage quoted above, Behn summarises fifty years of speculative thought which had been put in motion by the “unfamiliar thought”, as Bacon defined his approach to knowledge; Bacon, in fact, intended it as the only tool which might break through “frozen minds”: “there is no hope [...]”– he explained – “except in a new birth of science; that is in raising it regularly up from experience and building it afresh”.9 Behn’s preface so tells us a lot of the epistemological debate of her age, and of her courage to take position in favour of concepts or philosophies which were still largely opposed and reputed to be against Theology; but, her words tell us something more too: a deep sense of solitude, the recognition of an absence. Not by chance, she starts explaining how she had decided to translate the text not only because of the “eneral applause this little book off the plurality of Worlds has met with, both in France and in England in the Original”, but also in consequence of author’s introduction of a woman “as one of the Speakers in these five discourses”. Indeed, in spite of her success as a playwright and novelist, in spite of the room of her own she had managed to conquer for herself, she must have felt the absence of a female net and tradition to refer herself to. In her works, her awareness of being the first female professional writer of her Country, is exhibited more than once; Aphra was without symbolic mothers, she was in a very different condition from what 7

A. Jonston ed., Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning and New Atlantis, 200. 8 Ibid., 207. 9 Ibid., vii.

Aphra Behn: The Visible Translator


had already happened in France: in the Country beyond the Channel, where Marie de Gournay in 1622 had already written a book where female education was advocated as the way to reach equality among men and women10, and where the précieuses were to give birth to one of the first consciousness- raising groups in women’s history. 11 These groups of women introduced women’s point of view in literature, imagining for them an existence far from the common lot. In the rouelles de l’Hotel de Rambouillet a new code of values started to be assumed that encouraged women’s autonomy from men. Aphra Behn who had travelled abroad and had managed to possess not a slight command of French, must have been acquainted with some of these ladies’ works. Actually, she writes in the precieuses’s style her own free translation of one of the first bestsellers in Europe. Behn rewrites in her own fashion the Lettres portugaises, five love letters from a Portugaise nun to the lover who has deserted her, which Claude Barbin published in France in 1669. In accordance to the new literary fashion of the manuscript discovered by chance, Barbin in a note declared that the text, had been discovered “avec beaucoup de soine et de peine” and offered to the French reader in its unabridged version.12 Bound to became a literary case on which for centuries critics will be debating 13 - the letters represent one of the first cases of a widespread


Armanda Guiducci writes about Marie de Gourney and the précieuses in her introduction to Madame de la Favette, La principessa di Clèves, Milano, Rizzoli, 1993. 11 The précieuses included Madame de Sevigné, Mademoiselle de Scudery, Madame de la Favette, Madame de Lauvergne, Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet. They met in the intimacy of Catherine de Vivonne’s chambre a coucher, inside the famous Hotel de Rambouillet which the Marquise herself had restored. The marquise used to receive her friends in the rouelle: the space near the bed, where far from the anonymous parlours conversatiom became intimate and friendly; it was through these talkings that the politics of the ‘small group’ started and with it a new way of being among women. 12 Claude Barbin (1628?-1698) was a famous editor in Paris under Louis XIV, He was probably the legitimate or illegitimate son of a Claude Barbin who worked under Maria dei Medici and of Anna Picard. His activity as editor was relevant as he published the Fables by La Fontaine (1668), Princess de Clèves by Madame de la Fayette (1678), the first edition of Les Précieuses ridicules by Moliere, noto to forget Lettres Portugaises. The first book where his name as an edito appears seems to have been Le Fantome amoreux by Philippe Quinault (1656). 13 The holders of the autenticity of the letters reconstructed the biography of the protagonist identifying her as Mariana Alcofarado, born at Beja in 1640 from a


Chapter Four

literary success. In the 17th century Europe writing “a la portugaise” becomes a fashion that in a short time reaches Albion and its reading public. Even before the official translation of the letters by Sir Roger L’Estrange (1678),14 numerous imitations of the text appear, reproducing in the English language the new sensibility towards the role of passions in the building up of a subjectivity. In this period letters and love letters in particular, express the new interest in the exploration of the self, the Baroque first reaction to the rationalistic tendencies of the period. A new sensibility emerges from the collection of epistolaries which testify to the general interest towards “this humble branch of literature”15 – as the letter has been defined – in which, for the first time, private life is considered as imbued with truth. What is more, the epistolary monody of the unhappy nun, victim of the amorous passion, contributed to give credit to the image of the woman who puts pen to paper and narrates of herself. Not by chance numerous imitations of the Portugaises letters were printed, simply signed “by a woman”. Aphra Behn is also part of this group of female translators. In 1696, in the first posthumous collection of the her works we find Love Letters to a Gentleman;16 in successive editions17 they were inserted in The Life and Memoirs of Mrs Behn, by one of the Fair Sex, a sort of biographic portrait, which Aphra herself might have written, while cannot be excluded that Charles Gildon the editor of Behn’s works might have put together in his own portrait of Aphra fragments written by the author. Whatever the truth, even these letters can be considered as a literary case – even if much less famous and discussed – on which critics’ opinion appear to be divided. The fact that up to now it has been impossible to fix the

noble Portugaise family, while in her lover was recognized the count of SaintLéger, lord of Chamilly, Noel Bouton. 14 Sir Roger L’Estrange’s translation is included in the volume edited by N.Wurzbach, Told in Letters, London, Routledge- Kegan Paul, 1969. 15 One of the first texts that define the role of letter in literature is by J. Robertson, The Art of Letter Writing, 1942. Still rich of informations: G.F. Singer, The Epistolary Novel, 1933; R. Adams Day, Told in Letters. Epistolary Fiction before Richardson, 1966. 16 The Histories and Novels of the Late Ingenious Mrs Behn, London, Samuel Briscoe, 1696. 17 The editions appeared in 1698, 1705, 1722, 1735, 1751. Among the first to express in favour of the fictional character of the letters is still to be remembered Morgan in her text, The Rise of the Novel of Manners: a Study of English Prose between 1600 and 1740, 1911. Among the holders of the authenticity of the letters are to be mentioned Julia Kavanagh, English Women of Letters, 1863, 23 and R. Adams, 231.

Aphra Behn: The Visible Translator


exact date of publication, has contributed to stoke up the debate on their authenticity.18 The love letters written by Aphra, authentic letters or not, deserve our attention for more than one reason; we can read them as a sort of exercise, of free imitation of the French text according to an idea of translation as “belle infidèle”, which was very popular at the time. But she does something other, in her translation Behn complies with an other category emphasized by many feminist translators: the possibility of hijacking the source text or original text. It is exactly what she does. Her translation is one of the first cases of deliberate misrepresentation of a male text. In her free imitation she completely reverse the feminine model, the abandoned woman, the lamenting woman proposed by the male author, who most scholars nowadays identify with Guilleragues, the supposed male translator. In her monologue the nun disappears, the speaking I belongs to a woman who through her deliberate betrayal of a foreign text builds up a new image of herself. Her dialogue with the absent lover deconstructs the binary code system in which woman represents passivity, nature, heart, pathos in antithesis to the male attributes of culture, mind, intellect, logos.19 The ‘I’ of Aphra’s monologue challenges the common view: she is neither a passive woman, ready to perform what she is asked to be, nor a figure of silence. The absent lover becomes simply a pretext, an opportunity for the ‘I ‘ who in the act of writing finds a new way of telling herself her own story. Mariane’s love words are put aside: to the lover who in the original text “est en France au milieu des plaisirs”, Astrea’s narrator with an ironic tirade wishes “may your women be all ugly, ill-natured, illdressed, ill-fashioned and unconversable; and for your greater disappointment may every moment of your time there be taken up with thoughts of me (a sufficient curse)”.20 Adopting a complex strategy of relationship with the original text, Astrea substitutes rhetoric witticism to Mariane’s pathetic monologue, turning upside down the stylistic features of the Lettres Portugaises. Her heroine answers with irony to her absent lover’s demands:

18 See Lamarra, “The Difficulty in Saying I. Aphra Behn and the Female Autobiography”, in O’Donnell and Dhuicq eds., Aphra Behn (1640-1689). Le Modale Européen, 2005, 1-8. 19 Cixous and Clément, La jeune née, 115. 20 Behn in Todd, 145.


Chapter Four I do but (by this soft entertainment) look in my hear, like a young gamester, to make it venture its last stake. This, I say, may be the danger; I may come off unhurt, but cannot be a winner: why then should I throw an uncertain cast, when I hazard all, and you nothing? Your stanch prudence is proof against love, and all the bank’s on my side. You are so unreasonable, you would me pay when I have contracted no debt; you would have me give and you, like a miser, would distribute nothing. Greedy Lycidas! Unconscionable and ungenerous! You would not be in love, for all the world, yet wish I were so. Uncharitable!- Would my fever cure you? Or a curse on me, make you blessed? I have heard, when two souls kindly meet, it is a vast pleasure, as vast as the curse must be when kindness is not equal; and why should you believe that necessary for me that will be so very incommode for you? Will you, dear Lycidas, allow then that you have less good nature than I? Pry be just, till you can give such proofs of the contrary, as I shall be judge of, or give me a reason for 21 your ill-nature. So much for loving.

Through the rhetorical construction of a fictional self, the private self finds new perception of herself, a new sense of identity, finding out by herself how “we do not write according to what we are, but we are according to what we write”. In the process of writing, Astrea reinvents her unhappy relationship with John Hoyle, a lawyer of Gray’s Inn, an atheist, a swearer and a corruptor of young men according to one of her first biographer; she even manages to accept the idea that truth can be said only in a fictional work as only fiction does not lie. In the passage from Mariane to Astrea le jeu d’amour becomes something totally different; the act of writing “the breaks the conventional representation of a woman. Indeed Behn is a strong and successful example of the use of translation as a powerful tool to publicize women’s views; it “unveils a perception of ‘difference’, while fidelity is directed towards neither the author nor the reader but rather towards the writing project, a project in which both writer and translator participate.22

21 22

Ibid, 148. Federici, “The Visibility of the Woman Translator”, 85.

Aphra Behn: The Visible Translator


Bibliography Behn, A. 1696, The Histories and Novels of the Late Ingenious Mrs Behn, London: Samuel Briscoe. Chamberlain, L. 1992, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, in L. Venuti (ed.) Rethinking Translation. Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology, London and New York: Routledge, 57-64. Cixous, H. and C. Clément 1975, La jeune née, Paris: Union Générale d’Editions. Day, R. A. 1966, Told in Letters. Epistolary Fiction before Richardson, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Federici, E. 2011, “The Visibility of the Woman Translator”, in E. Federici (ed.) Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang, 79-92. Godard, B. 1990, “Theorizing Feminist Discourse/Translation”, in S. Bassnett and A. Lefevere, eds., Translation, History and Culture, London: Pinter Publishers, 87-96. Guiducci, A. 1993, La principessa di Clèves, Milano : Rizzoli. Johnston, A. (ed.) 1605, Francis Bacon: The Advancement of Learning and New Atlantis, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kavanagh, J. 1863, English Women of Letters, London: Hurst and Blackett Publishers. Lamarra, A. 2005, “The Difficulty in Saying I. Aphra Behn and the Female Autobiography”, in M. A. O’Donnell and B. Dhuicq, eds., Aphra Behn (1640-1689). Le Modale Européen, Paris: Bilingua GA Editions, 1-8. Levine, S. J. 1983, “Translation as (Sub)Version: On Translating Infante’s Inferno”, Sub-stance, 42 (1983), 85-93, quoted in J. Santaemilia, “Feminists Translating: On Women, Theory and Practice”, in E. Federici ed., Translating Gender, Bern, Peter Lang, 2011, 62. Morgan, C. 1911, The Rise of the Novel of Manners: a Study of English Prose between 1600 and 1740, New York: Columbia University Press. Robertson, J. 1942, The Art of Letter Writing, Liverpool: University Press of Liverpool. Singer, G. F. 1933, The Epistolary Novel, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Simon, S. 1996, Gender in Translation, London and New York: Routledge. Wurzbach, N. 1969, Told in Letters, London: Routledge- Kegan Paul.


Introduction Gender, which is a category for classification in linguistics2 is natural in English but grammatical in Spanish, a Romance language. This means that in English lexical items are classed according to whether they have sex or not, whereas in Spanish the classification depends on whether they are morphologically masculine or feminine. For this reason, when translating from English into Spanish, the gender of nouns, some pronouns, adjectives and past participle forms has to be questioned. In some cases, gender may not have an impact on the construction of feminist discourse: for example, using the feminine (la/una) almohada or the masculine (el/un) cojín to translate the English word pillow does not affect the portrait of women, men and their relationships. Likewise, using the masculine cojín (instead of the feminine almohada) in a text cannot be considered an androcentric practice. When translating words that refer to entities with biological sex, however, the picture is a very different one. Consider, for instance, the words professor and president. Translating them as masculine ((el/un) profesor and (el/un) presidente in all occasions means ignoring the fact 1 This article is part of the activities of the research group “Estudis de gènere: traducció, literatura, història i comunicació” of the Universitat de Vic (AGAUR, SGR-833) and of the research project “Traductoras y traducciones en la Cataluña contemporánea (1939-2000)” (Ref.: FFI2010-19851-C02-02). 2 De Lauretis, Technologies of Gender. Essays on Theory, Film and Fiction.

Rivera Garretas’s Translation of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own


that a context may exist where these words should actually be (la/una) profesora and (la/una) presidenta. In addition, if these two nouns are pluralised, translating them as generic masculines (i.e. as (los/unos) profesores and (los/unos) presidentes when the referent is a group of people of both sexes) results in the invisibilisation of any female professor or president that is part of the group. The generic masculine, which is commonly used in Spanish discourse, is an instance of androcentric language that contributes to the construction of a world were women are invisible, always hidden behind men.3 As discussed in literature, a series of translation practices exist that (sometimes controversially, though) can be used to avoid androcentric language in translated texts.4 In some cases, however, there seems to be a gap between the translator’s intention to be sensitive to gender issues when doing her/his job and the result.5 However, this is certainly not the case in María Milagros Rivera Garretas’s 2003 translation of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, published in 1929. 6 Bengoechea, who analysed the translation of the pronouns you and we in Borges’s 7 and MMRG’s translation of VW’s essay, concluded that the text by the latter is sensitive to the gender question whereas the former, by contrast, domesticates VW’s text through androcentric linguistic practices that invisibilise women.8 In this essay I expand Bengoechea’s analysis to other linguistic categories such as nouns, adjectives and past participles.9 Besides, Laura 3 Lledó, El sexismo y el androcentrismo en la lengua: análisis y propuestas de cambio and Calero, Sexismo lingüístico. Análisis y propuestas ante la discriminación sexual en el lenguaje. 4 Castro, “El género (para)traducido: pugna ideológica en la traducción y paratraducción de O curioso incidente do can á media noit” and Bengoechea, “Who are you, who are we in A Room of One’s Own? The difference that sexual difference makes in Borges’ and Rivera-Garretas’s translations of Woolf’s essay”. 5 Federici and Leonardi, “Using and Abusing Gender in Translation. The Case of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own translated into Italian”. 6 Woolf, Un cuarto propio, abbreviated as MMRG throughout the text and followed by page references whenever necessary. Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, abbreviated as VW throughout the paper, with page references whenever necessary. 7 Woolf, Un cuarto propio, abbreviated as JLB throughout the text, with page references whenever necessary. 8 Bengoechea, “Who are you, who are we in A Room of One’s Own? The difference that sexual difference makes in Borges’ and Rivera-Garretas’s translations of Woolf’s essay”, 420. 9 Bengoechea briefly addresses the case of nouns, showing that while JLB uses the generic masculine to translate them most of the time, MMRG chooses to either use


Chapter Five

Pujol’s translation of VW’s essay (published in 1967 by Seix Barral) is also included in the analysis.10 The working hypothesis is that if MMRG takes sexual difference into account when translating, as she states she does in the preface, androcentric language should be absent or almost absent from her translation. In other words, any linguistic category that allows the expression of gender should visibilise women if it is clear from the context that VW does not exclusively refer to men. In addition, having been commissioned by a feminist publishing house – horas y HORAS, la editorial– and given that two former translations of the same text already existed, MMRG’s text should show a significantly higher proportion of visibilising language than the other two translations, the use of non-sexist language being the genuine novelty of the third translation of VW into Spanish.

Methodology JLB’s, LP’s and MMRG’s translations of VW were compared systematically through a parallel reading of the three texts. Every different choice made by any of the three translators when dealing with a linguistic expression that allowed gender to be encoded in Spanish was recorded and later colour-coded to ease the task of counting how many instances belonged to (in)visibilising or gender-inclusive language. The results were then used to calculate a percentage for four different categories: generic masculine (i.e. the masculine form is used to refer to both sexes), feminine gender visibilising language (i.e. linguistic expressions that allow feminine gender to be morphologically explicit), gender-inclusive language (i.e. linguistic expressions that can refer to both genders without imposing an androcentric view of the world) and untranslated (i.e. cases where an English word or phrase does not have a Spanish counterpart). The pronouns we, you and one were not included in the analysis, as the different way in which they were translated in MMRG and JLB has already been addressed by Bengoechea.11 Likewise, the cases where the translators made similar choices were not recorded either. This is because the ultimate aim of the study was not to provide the total number of a feminine form or a nominal phrase coordinating the masculine and the feminine. Ibid, 418-19. 10 Woolf, Una habitación propia, abbreviated as LP throughout the paper and followed by page references whenever necessary. 11 Bengoechea, “Who are you, who are we in A Room of One’s Own? The difference that sexual difference makes in Borges’ and Rivera-Garretas’s translations of Woolf’s essay”.

Rivera Garretas’s Translation of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own


androcentric, gender-inclusive or feminine gender visibilising linguistic constructions in a given text; rather, the purpose of the analysis was to uncover to what extent each of the three translations was more androcentric, gender-inclusive or visibilising than the others. The results of the comparison are presented in the following section.

Results and discussion A total of 348 cases were recorded where at least one of the three translators made a different choice with respect to the linguistic encoding of gender in the lexical item(s) used in the Spanish translation. Each example was then classified as generic masculine, feminine gender visibilising language, gender-inclusive language and untranslated. The percentages of each of the four categories have been represented in Graph 1.

Graph 1. Percentages of generic masculine, feminine gender visibilising expressions, gender-inclusive language and untranslated cases in Rivera Garretas, Pujol and Borges (N=348).

As can be seen in Graph 1, the percentage of generic masculine is comparable in the translations by JLB and LP (26.5% and 27.6% respectively), whereas such an androcentric practice is almost inexistent in MMRG’s translation (1.1%). Concerning feminine gender visibilising language, the percentage in MMRG’s translation (62.8%) doubles that in JLB’s and LP’s versions (31.8% and 31.3% respectively), which show very comparable figures. The proportion of gender-inclusive language, on

Chapter Five


the other hand, is slightly higher in LP’s (41.1%) and JLB’s texts (38.8%) than in MMRG’s work (35.6%). These results clearly confirm our working hypothesis: MMRG’s text, where the translator tried to avoid linguistic androcentrism and sexism, shows almost no cases of generic masculine and a remarkably higher amount of visibilising language than the other two translations. Moreover, MMRG opts for gender-inclusive constructions less often than JLB and LP, which is also in line with the translator’s intention to be sensitive to sexual difference: while gender-inclusive language does not discriminate against women, it does not visibilise them actively either. A second finding that results from the parallel analysis of the three translated texts is a list of five different correspondences that relate the categories in Graph 1 and that allow us to compare MMRG’s translation to the other two. These correspondences are the following: (i) where MMRG uses a gender-inclusive expression, JLB or LP use a generic masculine or (ii) a feminine gender visibilising expression, (iii) where MMRG chooses a feminine gender visibilising expression, JLB or LP opt for a generic masculine or (iv) a gender-inclusive linguistic expression, (v) where MMRG uses a generic masculine, JLB (but not LP), choose an instance of gender-inclusive language. Examples of each of the five correspondences are discussed in the following sections.

Gender-inclusive language vs. generic masculine On some occasions, where MMRG uses gender-inclusive language, JLB and LP choose the generic masculine. This is the case in (1), for instance: whereas the relative clause in (1a) can apply to both men and women, as gender is not linguistically encoded, JLB, in (1b), uses a plural masculine noun and LP, in (1c), uses a relative clause which, contrary to the one in (1a), contains a masculine article in the antecedent. Example # 1 the learned (VW, 32) a. quienes saben (MMRG, 50) b. los eruditos (JLB. 31) c. a los que saben (LP,. 38)

Likewise, as had already been observed in Bengoechea’s analysis of JLB’s translation, words such as children are repeatedly translated as niños and

Rivera Garretas’s Translation of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own


hijos in JLB’s and LP’s work.12 MMRG, by contrast, normally uses lexical items that include both genders, such as criaturas. Gender-inclusive language vs. feminine gender visibilising language The examples in this section illustrate cases where MMRG resorts to gender-inclusive language, while JLB chooses a feminine gender visibilising expression. In (2), for instance, the adjective alone has been transformed into a prepositional phrase in MMRG and, hence, the possibility of gender being grammatically encoded was lost. Example # 2 Could we not have dined up here alone? (VW, 23) a. ¿No podíamos haber cenado aquí a solas? (MMRG, 41)13 b. ¿No podíamos haber comido aquí las dos solas? (JLB. 24)

In (3), both JLB and LP kept the past participle of the original text. The word mujer, (woman), therefore, requires the past participle to be in the feminine so that a relation of concordance can be established between the noun and the non-finite verb. In MMRG’s version, by contrast, the past participle was translated as a subjunctive verbal form that does not allow gender to be expressed. Example # 3 any woman born (VW, 63) a. cualquier mujer que naciera (MMRG, 76) b. una mujer nacida (JLB. 56) c. cualquier mujer nacida (LP, 69)

Feminine gender visibilising language vs. generic masculine In several cases, the visibilising language MMRG uses in her translation corresponds to a generic masculine in LP’s and JLB’s versions. As seen in the examples below, feminine gender can be expressed grammatically either by means of a word in its feminine form, as in (4a), or by coordinating the feminine with the masculine, as in (5a) and (6a). Notice that JLB and LP use a masculine in all three cases.

12 13

Ibid, 419. LP, in this case, used the same strategy as MMRG.

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58 Example # 4

a manufacturer of artificial silk (VW, 27) a. fabricanta de seda (MMRG, 44) b. un fabricante de seda (JLB. 26) c. fabricante de seda (LP, 32) Example # 5 of a writer (VW, 31) a. de un escritor o escritora (MMRG, 47) b. del escritor (JLB. 30; LP, 36) Example # 6 the guests (VW, 14) a. las invitadas e invitados (MMRG, 33) b. los comensales (JLB, 16) c. los huéspedes (LP, 20)

In the case of invariable nouns the use of the article is crucial. This is exemplified in (6b-c) above and (7) below, where, despite the context makes it clear that the lecturer VW has in mind is herself, only MMRG chooses a feminine article. Example # 7 of a lecturer (VW, 4) c. de una conferenciante (MMRG, 24) d. de un conferenciante (JLB. 8; LP, 10)

Feminine gender visibilising language vs. generic masculine In this section a few examples are discussed to show how the feminine gender visibilising language in MMRG’s translation sometimes corresponds to gender-inclusive language in JLB’s and/or LP’s versions. This is the case, for example, of the adverb in (8), translated as an adverb in LP’s work and as a prepositional phrase in JLB’s translation. In MMRG’s version, conversely, the adverb is transformed into an adjective, which is a category that can have a feminine form. Such a change is possible because the adverb shamefacedly is modifying the adjective aware (I became shamefacedly aware of), which, in turn, modifies the pronoun I, whose referent is Virginia Woolf.

Rivera Garretas’s Translation of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own


Example # 8 shamefacedly (VW, 24) a. avergonzada (MMRG, 42) b. con alguna vergüenza (JLB. 25) c. tímidamente (LP, 30)

In (9), JLB leaves the subject untranslated, as person and number can be retrieved from verbal morphology. Gender, nonetheless, is only encoded in past participle forms, which means that when the subject is feminine, not including the corresponding feminine pronoun (or a woman’s name, as LP does in (9c), for example) invisibilises women. This is why MMRG chose not to omit the subject. Example # 9 she told me (VW, 25) a. dijo ella (MMRG, 43) b. dijo (JLB. 26) c. dijo Mary (LP, 31)

(Un)faithfulness to the linguistic constructions in the source text can be handled by the translator to favour the visibility of women in her/his text.14 This is illustrated in examples (8) and (9) above. That is, whereas in (8a) Rivera Garretas changes the adverb in the original text into a syntactic category that allows the expression of feminine gender (e.g. an adjective), in (9a) she keeps the subject pronoun, which is always overt in English and often omitted in Spanish. Actually, this kind of textual manipulation extends beyond these two particular cases and is assiduously used in Rivera Garretas’s text. Example (10) is yet another instance of this practice. Example # 10 We cannot have sofas and separate rooms (VW, 26) a. No podemos tener sofás ni cuartos para nosotras solas (MMRG, 43) b. No podemos tener divanes y cuartos propios (JLB. 26) c. No podemos tener sofás ni habitaciones individuales (LP, 32)


Tubau, “Faithfulness to the text: how does it contribute to (in)visibilising feminine gender in the Catalan and Spanish translations of Lessing’s The Golden Notebook?”.

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Whereas in (10b-c) JLB and LP use the adjective in concordance with the noun phrase (‘divanes y cuartos’ and ‘sofás ni habitaciones’), as in the original, MMRG transforms the adjective into a prepositional phrase containing a second person plural feminine pronoun and a concording adjective. This shows that translating a text from a language with natural gender (like English) into one with grammatical gender (like Spanish) allows the translator to participate and contribute to the visibilisation of feminine gender provided s/he is sensitive to the issue and knows and exploits the linguistic possibilities that are available in the target language for feminine gender to be morphologically expressed. A minor category: generic masculine vs. gender-inclusive language Only in one case out of the 348 examples analysed in our corpus does MMRG use a generic masculine where JLB and LP choose a genderinclusive linguistic expression. As seen in (11), MMRG’s translation of VW is more literal than JLB’s and LP’s version replacing the noun novelist (and the genitive ’s) with an adjective that modifies the noun convention. Since there is no sexed referent in JLB’s and LP’s text, it is not possible to visibilise women either. Example # 11 It is part of the novelist’s convention (VW, 12-13) a. forma parte del convencionalismo del novelista (MMRG, 32) b. forma parte de la convención novelística (JLB. 15; LP, 18)

This example is extremely remarkable as it would have not been possible for a translation to be considered ‘feminist’ if the generic masculine had been (ab)used. Among the 348 examples of our corpus, there is also an example where JLB translates the sentence in (12) with a feminine form, whereas MMRG uses a masculine form and LP opts for a gender-inclusive language expression. (12c), however, cannot be considered a generic masculine, as this sentence is found in a passage where VW points out that many men have written about women. The context, therefore, makes it clear that VW is referring to male novelists of the 19th century, only. This clearly legitimates MMRG’s choice over JLB’s and shows that the use of masculine forms with a generic meaning is very restricted in MMRG’s translation of VW. Example # 12 This is not so true of nine-teenth century novelists, of course (VW, 108) a. Esto, ciertamente, no es verdad de los novelistas del siglo XIX (MMRG, 118)

Rivera Garretas’s Translation of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own


b. Eso no es tan cierto de las novelistas del siglo XIX, por supuesto (JLB, 92) c. Esto no se aplica a las novelas del siglo diecinueve, naturalmente (LP, 114)

Conclusion In this article, three translations of Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay A Room of One’s Own were compared to establish which one(s) included more feminine gender (in)visibilising language. Such a comparison revealed that the text by MMRG is not only the one that contains the highest proportion of feminine gender visibilising language and a very significantly low percentage of androcentric language, but it is also an example of how a gap between theory and practice is inexistent. In other words, the percentages of generic masculine, gender-inclusive and feminine gender visibiling language in MMRG’s text demonstrate that she fulfils what she promises in the preface: sexual difference was taken into account when translating and the result is a non-sexist text. Apart from the various amounts of (in)visibilising language in each of the three translations, the methodology used for comparison (i.e. only compiling instances where at least one of the three translators made a different choice) allowed us to establish four main correspondences (and a minor fifth one) between visibilising and invisibilising language that illustrate several strategies that a translator can resort to in order to produce a text free of linguistic androcentrism where women are actively visibilised. The analysis of these various strategies revealed that, in order to avoid sexist language in a translation, the translator has to be (un)faithful to the original text for her/his own convenience and be creative enough to find alternatives in the target language that allow women to be visibilised through the linguistic expression of feminine gender.

Bibliography Bengoechea, M. 2011, “Who are you, who are we in A Room of One’s Own? The difference that Sexual Difference Makes in Borges’ and Rivera-Garretas’s Translations of Woolf’s Essay”, European Journal of Women’s Studies, 18 (4), 409-423. Calero, M. A. 1999, Sexismo lingüístico. Análisis y propuestas ante la discriminación sexual en el lenguaje, Madrid: Narcea.


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Castro Vázquez, O. 2009, “El género (para)traducido: pugna ideológica en la traducción y paratraducción de O curioso incidente do can á media noit”, Quaderns Revista de Traducció 16, 251-264. De Lauretis, T. 1989, Technologies of Gender. Essays on Theory, Film and Fiction, London: Macmillan Press. Federici, E. and Leonardi, V. 2012, “Using and Abusing Gender in Translation. The Case of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own translated into Italian” Quaderns, Revista de traducciò, 183-198. Lledó, E. 1992, El sexismo y el androcentrismo en la lengua: análisis y propuestas de cambio, Barcelona: ICE, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Tubau, S. 2011, “Faithfulness to the text: how does it contribute to (in)visibilising feminine gender in the Catalan and Spanish translations of Lessing’s The Golden Notebook?”, paper presented at the 1st International Conference on Gender, Development and Textuality. Universitat de Vic, 15-17 June 2011. Woolf, V. 1929, A Room of One’s Own, London: Harcourt Brace. —. 1935/36, Un cuarto propio, Madrid: Alianza (translated by J. L. Borges). —. 1967, Una habitación propia, Barcelona: Seix Barral (translated by L. Pujol). —. 2003, Un cuarto propio, Madrid: horas y HORAS, la editorial (translated by María Milagros Rivera Garretas).


Introduction Winterson is a postmodern feminist writer who, in her novels, seeks to deconstruct the dominant patriarchal discourse to consciously and deliberately subvert the authority of patriarchal society. Her novels focus on how gender and gender relations are constructed and are aimed at subverting the traditional gender roles by introducing characters whose gender identity is either unknown or ambiguous as well as characters who are, to some extent, marginalised because of their sexual orientation or grotesque bodies. In Written on the Body, in particular, Winterson manipulates gender and gender roles to the extreme through an ungendered narrator. Her language manipulation is cleverly achieved in her novel, but what happens when translators are faced with this kind of manipulation? Can they easily find a way to maintain such ambiguity in their translated versions? Does it matter whether the source text (ST) ambiguity is lost in the target text (TT)? The aim of this paper is to examine the Italian translation of the narrator’s ambiguous gendered identity in Winterson’s novel Written on the Body to determine whether the sense and degree of gender ambiguity is maintained in the TT.

Who is Jeannette Winterson? Winterson’s novels are undoubtedly known for their feminist/lesbian awareness through which the writer deals with how gender identity is constructed by patriarchy and how it can be deconstructed. The choice of selecting the translation of a feminist postcolonial writer was due to the 1 The financial support of the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (grant research FEM2009-10976) for this research is gratefully acknowledged.


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author’s potential to create texts which are highly subversive in their nature as they are consciously resistant to the dominant discourse of history that patriarchy and colonizers use to suppress the Other(s). Winterson, indeed, offers a variety of alternative versions of history in her novels by foregrounding the otherwise silenced lives, activities and achievements of women in society. Winterson embodies feminist criticism by questioning the dominant patriarchal ideologies which rule how gender is constructed and relegate women to an inferior status in society. As other feminist writers, Winterson focuses on women by marking their presence and visibility in the text as a way to break away from patriarchal power. Among the most influential writers who dealt with how women are treated as silenced and inferior ‘others’, we could refer to Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and De Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième Sexe. The former shows how men treat women as a mirror reflecting their image and thus marking their self-presence and Woolf acknowledges that “Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size”.2 Women, in Woolf’s opinion, are excluded from literal writing and theoretical thinking as the result of the hostile social and economic conditions that have been imposed upon them by the dominant patriarchy. De Beauvoir’s work focuses on women’s role in society along similar lines to Woolf’s argument, but she claims that female gender is the construction of male discourse, and from here her famous claim that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”.3 Leaning heavily on the Modernist tradition for inspiration, Winterson blends autobiography, history, myth, fantasy and fairy tale to create her novels designed to challenge patriarchy and stereotypes about gender and sexuality through language. She questions both the boundaries of patriarchal concepts and the assumption that sexuality is inborn and she deconstructs the binary oppositions created by the Western metaphysics. Aware of the fact that the patriarchal dominant discourse favours heterosexuality over homosexuality and degrades sexuality into a binary frame of oppositions such as masculinity vs femininity and/or male vs female, Winterson, in her novels, seeks an alternative to escape this ideological binarism. In Witten on the Body, for instance, she achieves this aim by creating an amorphous ungendered narrator whose gender and sex cannot be taken from granted.

2 3

Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 295. De Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 295.

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Written On the Body … At first sight, Written on the Body may appear as a romance story of an ungendered narrator who falls in love with a married woman called Louise. However, a closer reading allows us to discover that Written on the Body criticises society’s perceptions and expectations of gender and sex identity. Winterson, ipso facto, deliberately plays on gender and challenges the traditional binary gender system. She accomplishes her task through her ungendered narrator who, to some extent, can be viewed as the realisation of Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity. In line with Butler’s theory (1990), the narrator’s identity is not determined by a specific construct of gender and, therefore, s/he is not defined as a man or a woman on the basis of specific gendered traits or clues, but rather s/he is judged upon other aspects. With regard to Winterson’s novel, Lanser asserts that “[…] whatever the sex of its narrator” Written on the Body “is a queer novel with a queer plot” 4 as it transgresses and transcends the established norms of gender, sex and sexuality through references to alternative sexualities, such as bisexuality, homosexuality and androgyny among others. The distinction between sex and gender has always caused heated controversies and the most influential theories in this respect date back the 1970s. In those years, feminists began to mark a clear-cut distinction between sex based on biological differences and gender which is socially constructed. Butler questions the notion of sex and acknowledges that both gender and sex are culturally and discursively constructed by claiming that: […] what is “sex” anyway? Is it natural, anatomical, chromosomal or hormonal, and how is a feminist critic to assess the scientific discourses which purport to establish such “facts” for us? Does sex have a history? Does each sex have a different history or histories? Is there a history of how the duality of sex was established, a genealogy that might expose the binary options as a variable construction? Are the ostensibly natural facts of sex discursively produced by various scientific discourses in the service of other political and social interests?5


Lanser, “Sexing the Narrative: Propriety, Desire, and the Engendering of Narratology”, 255. 5 Butler , Gender Trouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identity, 9.


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Furthermore, Butler believes that no gender identity exists behind the expressions of gender because “that identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results”.6 The lack of information and/or references to the narrator’s sex gives rise to a series of questions about the author’s own sexual orientation and, from a translation point of view, it can prove to be problematic to keep these ambiguous references ungendered. On the one hand, if readers approach this novel for the first time without having read Winterson’s previous novels and without any information about the author’s sexual orientation, they may read this novel as a story of a male heterosexual love for a married woman and they would probably identify the ungendered narrator with a man. On the other hand, however, if readers already know Winterson’s previous novels and/or are acquainted with her sexuality, they would probably read the novel through a lesbian perspective relating the ungendered narrator with a female lesbian in love with another woman. If explicit gender markers are missing in this novel, how can readers infer the narrator’s gender? Can they make use of implicit clues? Fludernik claims that in narratives biological sex can be constructed either explicitly or implicitly, “[…] explicitly by graphic physical description and masculine/feminine gender (pro)nominal expressions (he vs. she; gendered first nouns); implicitly by the paraphernalia of our heavily gendered culture (handsome vs. beautiful; shirt vs. blouse) and by the heterosexual default structure (if A loves B, and A is a man, then B must be a woman)”. 7 Winterson’s novel, however, is cleverly planned and references to the narrator’s gender are unclear. The only certain fact about the narrator’s gender is that s/he is bisexual as throughout the novel there are several references to former girlfriends and boyfriends. .

Translating Written on the Body Although gender is undoubtedly a cultural construction, it is usually conveyed through language especially in cases where languages are characterised by a grammatical rather than a natural gender. This is why translating Written on The Body into other languages, especially those which are gender-marked, could be challenging. In Italian, for instance, all nouns are either feminine or masculine and, therefore, all agreements should follow gender indications. English, however, is characterised by natural gender and this explains why it is easier to hide gender markers as 6 7

Ibid, 25. Fludernik, “The Genderization of Narrative”, 154.

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in the case of Winterson’s novel. If Italian needs to mark its nouns as either feminine or masculine, how can the translator achieve the same degree of ambiguity as in the ST? What strategies are employed by the translator to avoid marking the narrator’s gender in Italian? As Leonardi rightly acknowledges, “The manipulation of grammatical gender is one of the strategies most commonly used by feminist writers and/or translators”.8 However, translating a feminist author does not necessarily imply the fact that the translator is feminist too. Is it therefore possible to find good strategies to translate this text into Italian without being classified or being necessarily a feminist translator? Yes, it is as the Italian translator, Giovanna Marrone, is not known to be a feminist translator but, as all translators, she managed to find good strategies to deal with this ungendered narrator. It is worth noting that all translations require a strategy or set of strategies which coincides with the translator’s decisions but, as also acknowledged by Leonardi & Taronna “[…] there is no such a thing as a “feminist translation strategy” but rather it is the use of a particular practice which reflects a specific ideological strategy not necessarily associated with any feminist agenda”. 9 Notwithstanding the importance of translation strategies, there seems to be a lack of attention and studies devoted to this issue within the field of TS. This is also partly due to the fact that there exists some confusion over the definition of ‘strategy’. Translation strategies are often referred to as procedures, methods, techniques and even types. 10 Translation strategies play an important role in translation and both scholars and professional translators have proposed different approaches, methods and models to justify their strategies in translation. For the purpose of this article, the translation strategies analysed here are based upon Malone’s classification (1988) which includes: 1) Equation, 2) Substitution, 3) Divergence, 4) Convergence, 5) Amplification, 6) Reduction, 7) Diffusion, 8) Condensation and 9) Reordering. Due to space restrictions, however, only five of these strategies are provided along with three examples per each category.


Leonardi, Gender and Ideology in Translation: Do Women and Men Translate Differently? A Contrastive Analysis from Italian into English, 67. 9 Leonardi and Taronna, “Translators vs Translatresses’ Strategies: Ethical and Ideological Challenges”, 399. 10 The issue of translation strategy requires an in-depth analysis and a more detailed discussion. However, it is not the purpose of this paper to discuss this topic further due to space restrictions.

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1) Equation The following examples belong to the category of equation, which is a sort of one-to-one equivalence, where the translator opts for a direct equivalent in the TT. In these examples, the Italian translator managed to successfully find an easy way out to the ambiguity problem by opting for Italian gender-indefinite equivalents: Example # 1 ST (14) Her lover runs a finger[…]Her lover gets up and goes to the toilet. TT (13) L’amante fa scorrere un dito[…]L’amante si alza e va in bagno. Example # 2 ST (46) […] I’m as guilty as her. TT (46) […] sono colpevole quanto lei. Example # 3 ST (82) I was holding Louise’s hand, conscious of it […]. TT (84) Tenevo la mano di Louise, consapevole di questo atto […].

The problem, however, is to find alternatives to this strategy in cases where gender-indefinite equivalents do not exist. 2) Divergence This strategy consists in choosing a suitable term from a range of alternatives. In this case, the Italian translator opted for ungendered synonyms which require no gender agreement. The equivalent effect is achieved and no alteration is made to the ST expressions. Example # 1 ST (24) I can tell by now that you are wondering whether I can be trusted as a narrator. TT (22) A questo punto vi chiederete senza dubbio se sono affidabile nel mio ruolo di voce narrante. Example # 2 ST (31) I should be glad to do that. TT (30) Dovrei essere felice di farlo. Example # 3 ST (61) I wasn’t happy […] TT (61) Non ero felice […]

Can We Translate Ambiguity?


3) Amplification This strategy consists in the addition of some elements in the TT in order to allow for better understanding. This strategy is normally applied in cases of collocation gaps or if there is a need for a cultural context. For the purpose of this work, the Italian translator opted for this strategy to avoid marking the narrator’s gender and she successfully achieved her task. Example # 1 ST (20) Now, it’s a serious matter to have ‘PERVERT’ written on […] TT (18) Ora, non è una cosa da poco trovarsi scritto SOGGETTO PERVERTITO […]

The term ‘pervert’ could be either a noun as well as an adjective and in both cases in Italian there is a need to make a gender agreement. However, by adding the term ‘soggetto’, which means ‘person’, the translator is able to maintain the same degree of ambiguity as in the ST and the narrator’s gender is left unrevealed. Example # 2 ST (41) I’m a liberal and I believe in free expression. TT (41) Sono un tipo progressista e credo nella libera espressione.

In example 2, the Italian translator opted for a translation which leaves the narrator’s gender ambiguous and, at the same time, she provides the TT readers with a much more direct translation of the term ‘liberal’. The translator, however, could have also literally translated this term with its Italian direct equivalent (sono liberale) without necessarily marking the narrator’s gender. Example # 3 ST (92) I was caught in a Piranesi nightmare. TT (95) Stavo vivendo tra le mura di un incubo alla Piranesi.

Finally, in this example the translator expanded the expression ‘to be caught in a nightmare’ in such a way so as to avoid any gender agreement. In Italian, indeed, even past participles have gender agreements and so the translator opted for a shift in tense from a passive simple past tense to an active progressive form (stare + gerund).

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4) Reduction Malone claims that the reduction strategy can be adopted in order to omit elements in the translated text which are considered to be either redundant or even misleading. This strategy, however, should be carefully thought of by translators who need to take into account possible problems related to their decision to cut things out of the text. The Italian translator, in these examples, adopted the reduction strategy in order to avoid gender agreements, although in some cases, she could have opted for a different strategy: Example # 1 ST (16) I’m going to tell him myself. TT (15) Glielo dirò io.

In this example, indeed, translating myself into Italian meant marking the subject’s gender, this is why the translator decided to omit it. This omission did not affect the ST meaning. Example # 2 ST (23) We were alone on the hedge of the world […] TT (22) Eravamo ai margini del mondo […]

In this example, the translator could have avoided the omission by translating alone as noi due soltanto or solamente noi due in order to stress the fact that there were indeed only the two of them. Example # 3 ST (82) I quivered like a schoolgirl. TT (84) Tremavo dalla testa ai piedi.

Finally, it is felt that even in this case reduction could have been avoided by simply translating the term schoolgirl with its direct Italian equivalent scolaretta. This is because even in the ST the author herself chose to use a gender-marked term, such as schoolgirl, rather than opting for a genderfree term (e.g. school pupil). 5) Diffusion This strategy allows an elaboration of the ST word(s), especially through the use of circumlocutions, without adding extra information. Thanks to

Can We Translate Ambiguity?


this strategy the translator is able to get the meaning across without marking the narrator’s gender. Example # 1 ST (9) […] now I am alone on a rock […] TT (7) […] adesso mi ritrovo nella solitudine di una roccia […] Example # 2 ST (31) By morning I was bad tempered and exhausted. TT (30) Al mattino ero in preda al cattivo umore e alla stanchezza. Example # 3 ST (31) I felt reprieved and virtuous. TT (30) Provai una sensazione di sollievo e mi sentii un esempio di virtù.

The translator makes use of this strategy in an attempt to avoid marking gender in Italian. All the English terms, indeed, require a gender agreement in Italian and since reduction or omission in these cases was not possible, the Italian translator decided to use some circumlocutions, which could provide the same meaning, without marking the narrator’s gender at the same time.

Unsuccessful Strategies? Although it is felt that the Italian translator has been very clever in most of the cases, throughout the text, it is also possible to find cases of unsuccessful strategies where the translator could have opted for different gender agreements or different words in order to maintain ambiguity. The results of the following strategies highlight, to a certain degree, a failure to maintain ambiguity and, in the very last example, the translator clearly opted for an unnecessary gender agreement, which could and should have been avoided. Four examples, in particular, were found to be quite relevant in this respect: Example # 1 ST (69) We were surrounded by hand and faces shifting and connecting, […] TT (70) Eravamo circondati da mani e volti che si allontanavano per poi riunirsi, […]

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72 Example # 2

ST (72) Don’t move. We can’t move, caught like lobster in a restaurant aquarium. TT(73) Non muoverti. Non possiamo muoverci, imprigionati come aragoste nell’acquario di un ristorante.

In examples 1 and 2 the translator opted in both cases for superfluous gender agreements which could have been easily avoided. Although in Italian the plural masculine agreement could include both men and women, within the field of Feminist Translation Studies the issue of sexist language plays a very important role (Leonardi 2007). Italian is, ipso facto, a sexist language where agreements in the masculine plural could refer to both women and men and, as Lepschy & Lepschy (1988) rightly acknowledge, at times it is difficult to make a difference between the marked and unmarked use of the masculine form. In Example 1, for instance, the translator could have opted for either an active form (ci circondavano mani e volti che si allontanavano per poi riunirsi […]) or for a circumlocution aimed at avoiding gender agreements (intorno a noi c’erano mani e volti che si allontanavano per poi riunirsi […]). In example 2, the translator could have opted for either a shift from an adjective to a noun (Non possiamo muoverci, in prigione come aragoste nell’acquario di un ristorante) or she could have opted for a reduction strategy by eliminating ‘imprigionati’ (Non possiamo muoverci, come aragoste nell’acquario di un ristorante). Example # 3 ST (80) I put my arms around her, not sure whether I was a lover or a child. TT (82) L’abbracciai, senza capire se ero l’amante o il figlio di lei.

The world ‘child’ is ungendered in English but its translation into Italian requires the marking of either a masculine or a feminine gender, although, as mentioned above, the masculine form in Italian can, at times, refer to both males and females. The use of ‘figlio’ in the Italian translation, however, seems to contradict the translator’s previous strategies aimed at avoiding marking gender and could have been prevented by using a slightly different word, such as ‘infante’ even though this term refers to a very young child, it can be used in this context as no age is specified and, at least, it does not mark any male or female gender.

Can We Translate Ambiguity?


Example # 4 ST (82) I told him we’d been to bed together. TT (85) Gli ho detto che sono stata a letto con te.

This example is quite surprising since the translator, who has been very clever and very careful not to mark the narrator’s gender throughout the text, in this case opts for a feminine gender marking which does not match the ST equivalent. She could have opted for a more explicit translation, such as Gli ho detto che abbiamo fatto sesso thus avoiding any gender agreement and leave the TT readers with the same degree of ambiguity as in the ST.

Final Remarks Bodies and genders are produced and inscribed by language. For years, feminist scholars have discussed the importance of adopting a ‘woman’s language’, grounded in the body and produced by the body, to subvert the traditionally patriarchal language. Winterson’s language experiment allowed her to produce a text marked by gender ambiguity. The translation analysis of Winterson’s text highlighted how gender ambiguity could be more easily achieved in English rather than in Italian although, as this work showed, the Italian translator, in most of the cases, managed to achieve the same ambiguity as in the source text. In other cases, however, she failed to reproduce this ambiguity and opted for gender markers which: 1) could and should have been avoided, 2) were not necessary in the TT, 3) could ambiguously refer to both men and women 4) marked the narrator’s gender in the TT whereas it was ambiguous in the ST. Finally, it is interesting to note how this text, both in English as well as in Italian, produces different meanings depending on whether readers identify the narrator with a man or a woman. Although ambiguity can be detected both in English and in Italian, as this work has showed, the Italian translator did not always manage to maintain this degree of ambiguity in the TT. Nevertheless, her strategies showed how it is possible to translate a feminist author and how to translate ambiguity without necessarily being a feminist translator or feminist activist.

Bibliography Beauvoir, Simone de. 1988, The Second Sex, London: Picador. Butler, J. 1990, Gender Trouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge.


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Cixous, H. “Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out/Forays.” The Newly Born Woman, Catherine Clément ed., London: I. B. Tauris, 1996. Fludernik, M. 1999, “The Genderization of Narrative”, Graat, 21, 153175. Lanser, S. 1996, “Queering Narratology” in K. Mezei ed., Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology and British Women Writers, Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 250-261. Leonardi, V. 2007, Gender and Ideology in Translation: Do Women and Men Translate Differently? A Contrastive Analysis from Italian into English, Bern: Peter Lang. Leonardi, V. and A. Taronna 2011, “Translators vs Translatresses’ Strategies: Ethical and Ideological Challenges”, MonTI (3), 377-402. Lepschy, A. and G. Lepschy 1988, The Italian Language Today, 2nd edition, London and New York: Routledge. Winterson, J. 1992, Written on the Body, London: Vintage. —. 1993, Scritto sul Corpo, translated into Italian by Giovanna Marrone, Milano: Mondadori. Woolf, Virginia 1998, A Room of One’s Own, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.


Translation is regarded as a constrained activity1 where several factors can influence the translator. According to Chesterman, 2 three conditions, namely, socio-cultural, situational, and cognitive aspects can influence the production of translations. Among cognitive conditions, the gender of the translator can be one of the most influential variables behind each decision the translator makes during the process.3 According to Maier,4 translators can opt for a ‘woman-identified’ approach in their works in order to identify themselves with a woman character, usually the protagonist, or cooperate with female authors to tackle gender issues in the original. Therefore, in this study, we tend to investigate whether four Chinese translators, two females and two males, followed the above-mentioned approach to deal with gender issues in the translation of the novel The Color Purple. Both similarities and differences in the female vs. male translation approach will be analysed with regard to gender issues. Finally, this paper will explore whether there are other variables which exerted a 1

Maier and Holman, The Practices of Literary Translation: Constraints and Creativity, 7. 2 Chesterman, “Semiotic Modalities in translation causality”, 145-158. 3 Henitiuk, “Translating Woman: Reading the Female through the Male”, 469-484; Santaemilia, “The Translation of Sex/The Sex of Translation: Fanny Hill in Spanish,” 117-136; Leonardi, Gender and Ideology in Translation: do Women and Men Translate Differently? A Contrastive Investigation of Translations from Italian into English, 289-302. 4 Ibid., 7.


Chapter Seven

certain degree of influence upon the translators’ ideology and translation practice in dealing with gender issues.

Introduction Published in 1982, The Color Purple quickly became globally renowned as the novel received both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for Fiction in 1983. The author, Alice Walker, has since been regarded as a spokeswoman for African American people, especially African American women.5 By delving into the hardships caused by racial and patriarchal issues prevalent in the Southern United States during the early twentieth century, The Color Purple is truly a feminist work of art. The novel’s protagonist, Celie, is continuously raped by her father. Consequently, Celie has two children born out of incestuous relations, and they are later stripped from her. Moreover, because of her father’s threats, Celie feels incapable of expressing her misery as an incestuous rape victim. Other instances in the story, such as when Celie mentions being used by her husband Albert as a “toilet,” are symbolic of rape. As Celie engages in lesbian relations with her best friend Shug, Albert’s mistress, The Color Purple challenges gender norms and monogamy, subverts the masculine depiction of femininity, and instead portrays femininity from a feminist standpoint.6 Celie’s experiences in the novel lead her to gradually awaken, have a growing sense of self and build her capacity to be in awe of the world. For decades, the implications of specific gender issues have been debated in the field of translation studies. For example, Maier proposed a “woman-identified” approach 7 for translators seeking to tackle the question of the influence of gender in translational practices. The womanidentified approach is used to convey how translators identify themselves with a female character (usually the protagonist), or how they relate to female authors through literary translation. However, gender is only one of several potential influential variables behind each decision made by the translator during the translation process. More important, Baker8 proposed that a translator’s gender should not be regarded as a “given” in a dynamic 5

Harris, “On The Color Purple, Stereotypes, and Silences”, 155-161. Abbandonato, “A View from ‘Elsewhere’: Subversive Sexuality and the Rewriting of the Heroine’s Story in The Color Purple”, 1006-1115. 7 Maier, “Issues in the Practice of Translating Women’s Fiction”, 95-108. 8 Baker, “Contextualization in Translator - and Interpreter - Mediated Events”, 321-337. 6

Woman-identified Approach in Practice


context; instead, gender is always presented in translation as a response to various factors in the target society, often being reshaped with each textual interaction. After its original publication, The Color Purple was translated in Taiwan and mainland China. In this study, we examine four separate Chinese translations, executed by two male and two female translators, to determine if their gender-related ideological stances are manifested in their respective translations. In other words, this study investigates how translators addressed the specific gender issues prevalent in The Color Purple, to determine if and how they identified themselves with the protagonist (Celie) or the author (Alice Walker). Therefore, we also discuss the extent to which the ideological beliefs or respective translators’ gender may have influenced their decision-making during the translation process.

Text Analysis The following text analysis includes examples of heterosexual and homosexual relations experienced by the protagonist Celie in the attempt to pursue her self-identity and independence. In the following text analysis we list two Taiwan versions first and then the other two versions published in Mainland China. Shih and Tao are the female translators whereas Lan and Yang are the male translators.

Sexual Coercion At the start of the novel, Celie is raped and threatened into silence by her stepfather Alfonso, the man she calls father, who forces Celie to do ‘what your mammy wouldn’t,’ when her mother is sick. Celie is treated as an object for male exploitation9 as illustrated in the following extract: Example # 1 First he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy.10 (1a)дӃ‫ע‬д‫ܿޑ‬ՋഗՐ‫ި־ך‬Ǵ۳္य़ᢕ!ฅࡕд‫׬‬Ր‫ޑך‬٢‫܊‬Ǵฅ ࡕ‫ע‬д‫ܿޑ‬Ջഗ຾‫ך‬ԖЛ‫ޑ‬ӦБ22


Waldby et al, “Theoretical Perspectives in Father-Daughter Incest”, 97-98. Walker, The Color Purple, 3. 11 Shih, trans, The Color Purple, 17. 10


Chapter Seven (He firstly puts his thing against my bottom, and digs inside. Then he grabs my breasts plunging his thing in a place with hair. ) (1b)дഗ๱‫ި־ޑך‬ǴόଶӦ‫סס‬ᘍᘍǴ23 (He was pushing against my bottom, and wiggled continuously. ) 24 (1c)д୏ଆЋဌٰ (He starts to move his hands and legs.) (1d)ଆӃǴдǾǾฅࡕǴд΋‫׬ע‬Ր‫ޑך‬٢‫܊‬Ǵௗ๱Ǵ൩ǾǾ25 (At first, he……and then he grabs my breasts, and …..)

In this example, Shih, Taiwan female translator, uses more explicit terms for the body parts and the act in question. Her version may well have been shocking to some conservative readers. Lan, the male translator also from Taiwan, downplays the sexual exploitation thus removing all the descriptions of sexual oppression and, at the same time, he changes events through the use of alternatives. Although readers may have been able to guess what has taken place based on the context Lan provides, this deletion can possibly be seen as a case of self-censorship of acts and their description considered as ‘inappropriate’ for the readers. However, it could also be possible that this manipulation was the result of editorial censorship; that is, the censorship could have been operated by Lan’s editor, rather than Lan himself. Nevertheless, his translation appear an outsider to the gender oppression and sexual violence Celie suffers. Let us now read two translations from China, Tao, the female Chinese translator, downplays the physical exploitation to an even greater extent than Lan does. She only uses a very short sentence to describe the assault and her translation could have been misleading as it implies that Celie’s father was going to beat her up rather than raping her as indicated in the source text. Tao’s translation choice could have been due to either her misunderstanding of the original or misused the term accidentally. However, there could be a possibility that she tries to evade the sexual violence by leading her readers to somewhere else. In a similar way, the mutative shift in semantics Tao makes could be attributed to the translator's will to soften the description which is too strong for her readers. We may be able to gain a deeper insight into her ideological stance and attitude more after analysing a few more examples. As far as Yang, the male translator also from China, is concerned, he also opts for deletion in his version; therefore, his decision to manipulate the text could be a result of self-censorship in order to avoid taboos. But 12

Lan, trans, The Color Purple, 4. Tao, trans, The Color Purple, 3. 14 Yang, trans, The Color Purple, 1. 13

Woman-identified Approach in Practice


unlike others, he manages to mark his presence in the text so as to allow readers to see clearly his deletion strategies. Both translators from Mainland China, in a similar way to the one the Taiwan male translator Lan applies, seem to be detached from the gender and sexual oppression Celie experiences.

Sex Subjugation After being raped by Alphoso, Celie is forced to submit to his will. In the story, in order to protect her sister from the same sexual abuse, Celie tries to divert Alphoso’s attention by sacrificing herself. In her account, we can clearly see Alphonso’s double standards, that is, he manipulates Celie and beats her up while at the same time abusing her sexually: ‘He beat me for dressing trampy15 but he do it to me anyway.’16 Example # 2 (2a)дѺ‫ך‬ᇥ‫ऀך‬ளႽ፠ΓǴόၸдჹ‫଺ך‬Αٗҹ٣28 (He beats me up saying I wear like a bitch, but he does that thing to me) (2b)д༮‫ך‬ᕪᗁΑ೭঺ܺႬǴ‫܌‬аѺΑ‫ך‬΋ႥǶฅԶǴдᗋࢂ଺Αٗ ҹ٣29 (He complains I ruin the clothes, so he beats me up. However, he still does that thing) 2: (2c)д඙‫ך‬ǴӢࣁ‫ऀך‬ளႽঁᑲ஁Ǵёдᗋࢂჹ‫ך‬༸Αٗᅿ٣ (He beats me because I wear like a slut, but he does that thing to me) (2d)дѺ‫ך‬Ǵ‫ऀך܁‬ளᜑٚᜑሁ‫ޑ‬ǶдόᆅӳИǴ൩೭ኬჹࡑ‫ך‬31 (He beats me and blames me for dressing poorly. He doesn’t care if it’s good or bad, and he simply treats me like this)

Two important elements can be raised for a discussion from the example above: Firstly, the term ‘trampy,’ was interpreted differently by the male and the female translators in these four translations. Both female translators’ versions in Taiwan and in China are close to the meaning, “describe women who have many sexual partners,” while male translators Lan and Yang do not detect the connotation of the term as female 15

Lexical items and phrases/sentences selected for this analysis are underlined. The three dots within brackets refer to the text omitted by the translator. 16 Walker, The Color Purple, 9. 17 Shih, The Color Purple, 10. 18 Lan, The Color Purple, 9. 19 Tao, The Color Purple, 7. 20 Yang, The Color Purple, 7.

Chapter Seven


translators, and translate the term based on their interpretations. In this way the subtext of the term ‘trampy,’ along with Alphoso’s contempt for Celie, have been toned down. Perhaps they coincidently missed the figurative implications of the term, and simply found a literal replacement. Nonetheless, by accidentally deleting the gendered subtext in the original, both male translators’ versions remain detached from Celie’s experience and thus fail to identify with the protagonist, or the author. Secondly, the implied sexual activity in the final underlined phrase ‘he do it to me anyway,’ was euphemised by the narrator and, thus, the taboo in the original text was reduced. It is surprising to note how Yang’s choice is rather different from the other three translators’ versions. His version in Chinese adds something and, at the same time, deletes something sexual in the original. In this version Alphoso, Celie’s stepfather, is depicted as a demanding and dominating character. In this way, although his version somehow reinforces the idea of Celie’s subordinate status to the male sex, Yang’s translation choice suggests that the translator’s position could have been a step behind other three translators and this makes him again much detached from Celie’s gender relations.

Extramarital affairs The following example focuses on Shug’s extramarital relations with Albert. Extramarital affairs, as described in the original, may have been intended to challenge the general perception of gender relations existing in society at the time when the source text was published. Example # 3 I used to go round saying, I don’t care who he married to, I’m gonna fuck him. […]. Us fuck so much in the open/ us give fucking a bad name21 (3a)‫ך‬ѐၟӴᇥǴ‫ך‬ωόᆅд୾ፔǴ‫ך‬ाၟд༸!‫ॺך‬Ϧ໒‫ޑ‬༸Ǵ0а ठ‫ܭ‬Ӝᖂ‫׋‬ளࡐᚯ33 (I go to tell her, I do not care whom he marries, and I want to fuck him. we fucked publicly, /so that reputation was very bad) (3b)[Ǿ]!‫ॺך‬࿶தϦ໒рΕǴ0‫ע‬ᠰང೭ҹӳ٣ǴϸԶབԋΑ΋ҹҧ Γ‫ޑ‬٣34 ([Ǿ]We usually go out together in public, /turning this good relationship into an embarrassing thing) 21

Walker, The Color Purple, 111-2. Shih, The Color Purple, 158. 23 Lan, The Color Purple, 140. 22

Woman-identified Approach in Practice


(3c)‫ך‬а߻‫ډ‬ೀჹΓᖱǴ‫ך‬όᆅдၟፔ่ஆǴ‫ך‬ᗋाၟдᅵ᝺!‫ॺך‬Ϧ ໒΋ଆᅵ᝺ǴӜᖂ೿ᚯΑ35 (I used to tell people that I do not care whom he marries, and I still want to sleep with him. We publicise our sleeping together and our reputation goes bad) (3d)‫ך‬а߻ᕴ‫ډ‬ೀᇥǴ‫ך‬όᆅд୾ΑፔǴ‫ך‬ᗋाၟд࣬ӳǶ‫ॺך‬Ϧ໒ ӕۚ೭ሶӭӣǴ‫ע‬ӕۚ‫ޑ‬Ӝᖂ೿བᚯΑ36 (I used to say everywhere that I do not care whom he marries, and I want to be intimate with him. We publicise cohabiting so many times that we make the reputation of cohabitation bad)

In this example, the Taiwan female translator Shih, here, literally opts for quite a strong taboo term to translate the word ‘fuck’ in the original whereas in the other two cases she follows the original closely thus making the sexual behaviour explicit. Her version is rather shocking to read, signalling her determination to confront the dominant ideologies as a feminist translator. Moreover, as the term passes the publisher’s checks before publication, it seems that the publisher is willing to take a risk even if this means facing readers’ criticism. The other Taiwan male translator, Lan manipulated the three terms to a significant extent. First of all, he deleted the term ‘fuck’ in his version. Secondly, Lan also deleted any association with the rough sexual intercourse described in the original and then turned the extramarital affair into a romantic relationship. It seems that Lan’s translation strategies tries to leading his readers away from the immoral extramarital affairs between Shug and Albert. Conversely, both Tao and Yang opt for euphemised meanings to deal with taboo terms instead of avoiding the term like Lan did. While Tao uses ‘sleep with’ to implicitate the term ‘fuck’ in the original, Yang nonetheless applies ‘to be intimate with,’ in his version to handle the ‘fuck.’ However, it should be noted that none of them try to delete the strong taboo in their versions, although the translators’ self-censorship is somehow still at work. It could be suggested from this example that both translators’ reserved stance toward taboo terms and/or descriptions could have been starting reshaped while interacting with the source text as Bakerproposes.26


Tao, The Color Purple, 109. Yang, The Color Purple, 121. 26 Ibid., 321-337. 25

Chapter Seven


Same-Sex Sexuality The intimate friendship between Celie and Shug develops into a same-sex relationship later in the story. The love between the two may be seen as a significant stage in the original, and also the catalyst for Celie’s resisting male domination later in the story, when she regains her power.27 Example # 4 She say, I love you, Miss Celie. And then she haul off and kiss me on the mouth. […] Then I feels something real soft and wet on my breast, feel like one of my little lost babies mouth. Way after while, I act like a little lost baby too.28 (5a)ӴᇥǴ‫ך‬ངգǴШើλ‫ۆ‬ǴฅࡕӴᄘՐ‫ך!ך‬ΨᇥǴ‫ך‬ངգ3: (She says, I love you, Miss Celie. Then she hugs me. I also say, I love you. [Ǿ]) (5b)ӴᇥǺ‫ך‬ང‫ی‬Ǵ༞ಹ!ฅࡕӴᙌଆ‫֍ي‬Α‫ޑך‬য41 (She says: I love you, Celie. Then she turns over and kisses my lips) (5c)ӴᇥǴ‫ך‬ངգǴՋ᜽٥λ‫ۆ‬ǶӴ‫ܩ‬ଆ‫ي‬ηᒃ‫ޑך‬቏!‫ך‬᝺ள‫ޑך‬Ѫ ᓐΞ೬ΞᔸǴӳႽ‫ך‬Ѩѐ‫ޑ‬λ࠱࠱‫ޑ‬λ቏ӧ֏֎! ၸΑ΋཮‫ٽ‬Ǵ‫ך‬ΨᡂளႽ΋ঁ଎ၡ‫ޑ‬λ࠱࠱Α42 (She says, I love you, Miss Celie. She lifts herself up and kisses my mouth. I feel my nipples are soft and wet, just like my lost little baby is sucking. After a while, I become a lost little baby) (5d)ӴᇥǺ‫ך‬ངգǴἃಹλ‫!ۆ‬ௗ๱ǴӴ‫ע‬ЋᕭӣѐǴᒃᒃ‫ޑך‬቏যࡕ ٰǴ‫ך‬᝺ள‫ૅך‬ಢ΢Ԗᗺ೬೬ᔸᔸ‫ޑ‬ǴႽࢂ‫ך‬Ѩပ‫ޑ‬΋ঁλᓻ‫ޑٽ‬቏ ЃǶၸΑ΋཮‫ٽ‬Ǵ‫ޑך‬ՉࣁΨႽঁѨပ‫ޑ‬λᓻ‫ٽ‬Α43! (She says: I love you, Miss Celie. Then, she takes her hands back and kisses my lips. Later, I feel my bosom a bit soft and wet, just like the mouth of my lost little baby. After a while, my behaviour is like a little baby)

The Taiwan female translator Shih offers us quite a rather surprising version in this example. She deletes most of the original material and only retains one sentence. Nevertheless, when she is interviewed, she strongly denies to have deleted an entire passage in her translation and claims that 27

Hooks, “Reading and Resistance: The Color Purple”, 284-295. Walker, The Color Purple, 103. 29 Shih, The Color Purple, 147. 30 Lan, The Color Purple, 129. 31 Tao, The Color Purple, 100. 32 Yang, The Color Purple, 111-112. 28

Woman-identified Approach in Practice


this was done by her publisher.33 However, if this is true, this would imply that a full depiction of a same-sex relationship, if translated properly and faithfully, could not be accepted and/or tolerated by the publisher. Lan, the Taiwan male translator, omitted the entire description of explicit sexual activity in this passage as a result of his self-censorship. Nevertheless, it could also be possible that his deletion could have been carried out by his Christian publisher who could not accept such a sexual practice. Lan only retained the kissing and touching (caressing) scenario between Celie and Shug. On the other hand, both Tao’s and Yang’s versions provide a close and faithful description of the original text events thus showing a deliberate will to make this same-sex relationship clear to their readers. In this way, their versions seem to suggest their effort to fulfil Celie’s goal to find true love and courage thanks to her relationship with Shug. Their versions are close to the source text author’s intention to subvert the masculine narrative of femininity. Their version, therefore, support and identify, to a certain extent, the feminist ideologies connected to homosexual relationships and issues.

Discussion and Conclusion The four translated versions of The Color Purple analyzed in this study were published in Taiwan and mainland China by four translators: two male and two female. We applied Maier’s woman-identified approach to understand each translator’s ideological stance on gender issues, determining whether each respective interpreter identified with either the protagonist or the author, and if this was reflective in their translations. More important, this study also aimed to determine how each translator may address certain gender-related issues. Our results showed that the female Taiwanese translator Shih adopted the woman-identified approach because her ideological stance was manifested in her work. Hence, social acceptance, typically an important factor for translators, appears to have had little influence on Shih, as shown by the few striking examples in this study, only one of which appeared to undergo editorial censorship. Later, strongly advocating the woman’s liberation movement as a pioneer in Taiwan, Shih made her feminist sentiments clear by producing a version of The Color Purple most similar to the original. Shih, in a July 2007 interview, mentioned that the novel empowered her to be a feminist and to openly promote women’s 33

Shih, Ji-qin, telephone interviewed by the author, July 2007.


Chapter Seven

rights. Likely considered an achievement by many feminists, her translation was a challenge to patriarchal members of society. Conversely, Tao’s feminist ideologies appeared to be primarily manifested in her version of the same-sex encounter in The Color Purple. She also later devoted herself to the women’s movement in China as Shih did. In most cases, she tried to graphically euphemize tabooed descriptions. Therefore, much of Celie’s sexual objectification was mitigated in Tao’s version. In this sense, it is fair to say that societal pressures and her target readers’ responses outweighed Tao’s stance on gender issues. Therefore, the woman-identified approach was inconsistently applied in Tao’s version. In addition to domesticating taboo topics for his readers, the male Taiwanese translator, Lan, normalized Walker’s depiction of lesbian sexual desires and extramarital relations. This implies that Lan also shared the conservative view that some people consider reflects the nature of sexual relations in Taiwanese society. Therefore, his moral censure was much stricter; this was especially apparent in his portrayal of the story’s extramarital relations. Similar to Lan, Yang also used a strict method of censorship when addressing the sexual assault that occurs in the beginning of the story. Their deletion not only shows that they were ideologically reserved, but the role they adopted was not one that identified with Celie’s experiences in the story. Therefore, in some cases, the versions of the male translators followed a less direct, more disinterested, and prudish path that is detached from the original version, as shown in Leonardi. 34 Nonetheless, their stance toward gender issues seemed to have reshaped during their interaction with the story. The decision not to apply the evasive deletion, but also to manifest the extramarital, as well as same-sex relationships, suggests that the two male translators might have been willing to take risks in identifying themselves with the protagonist for their readers. The results from our analysis conclude that the translators’ ideological stance on gender issues, rather than their respective genders, may have influenced their decision to apply the woman-identified approach in translation. Factors such as social acceptance and editorial intervention obviously also influence the translation process. These influences constrained the translators to limited translation strategies; however, they also prompted them to respond to Walker’s original portrayal of The Color Purple in their own manner.


Ibid., 289-302.

Woman-identified Approach in Practice


Bibliography Abbandonato, L. 1991, “A View from ‘Elsewhere’: Subversive Sexuality and the Rewriting of the Heroine’s Story in The Color Purple”, PMLA 106/5, 1106-1115. Baker, M. 2006, “Contextualization in Translator - and Interpreter Mediated Events”, Journal of Pragmatics 38 (3), 321-337. Boase-Beier, J. & M. Holman eds., 1999, The Practices of Literary Translation: Constraints and Creativity, Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing. Chesterman, A. 2002, “Semiotic Modalities in Translation Causality”, Across Languages and Cultures 3(2), 145-158. Cutter, M. J. 2000, “Philomela Speaks: Alice Walker’s Revisioning of Rape Archetypes in The Color Purple”, Melus 25 (3-4), 161-180. Henitiuk, V. 1999, “Translating Woman: Reading the Female through the Male”, Meta 44 (3), 469-484. Harris, T. 1984, “On The Color Purple, Stereotypes, and Silences”, Black American Literature Forum 18 (4), 155-161. Hooks, B. 1993, “Reading and Resistance: The Color Purple”, in H. L. Gates, Jr. & K.A. Appiah eds., Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, Amistad, New York, 284-95. Leonardi, V. 2007, Gender and Ideology in Translation: do Women and Men Translate Differently? A Contrastive Investigation of Translations from Italian into English, London: Peter Lang Publishing. Maier, C. 1998, “Issues in the Practice of Translating Women’s Fiction”, BHS vol. LXXV, 95-108. Santaemilia, J. 2005, “The Translation of Sex/The Sex of Translation: Fanny Hill in Spanish”, in Gender, Sex, and Translation: The Manipulation of Identities, eds J Santaemilia, St. Jerome Publishing, Manchester, 117-136. Shih, J. C. trans, 1986, The Color Purple, Taiwan: Da-Di Publishing House. Waldby, C, Emetchi, J & Summerfield, C. 1989, “Theoretical Perspectives in Father-Daughter Incest”, in E. Driver and A. Droisen eds., Child Sexual Abuse: Feminist Perspectives, Hampshire, Macmillan, 97-98. Walker, A. 1982, The Color Purple, UK: Phoenix. —. 1986, The Color Purple, translated by Z. W. Lan, Taiwan: Cosmic Light Publishing House. —. 1986, The Color Purple, translated by J. Tao, China: Beijing Foreign Literature Publishing Hous. —. 1999, The Color Purple, translated by R. J. Yang, China: Shen-Yang Publishing House.


A key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, a writer and an anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston has also been considered as a literary foremother since her “womanist” rediscovery by Alice Walker in 1973.1 In this essay, I will focus on the Italian translations of her most well-known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a milestone in feminist African American literature written in 1937. I will make a contrastive analysis of the two Italian translations of Hurston’s novel, focusing in particular on the translation choices regarding gender and sexuality. Since it is not possible to delineate a single figure of the translatress, I wish to analyze the different strategies adopted in the two translations, distant in time yet sharing common political and cultural concerns, in order to investigate how positionality affects the translatresses’ role. The first Italian translation dates back to as early as 1938 – only a year after the publication of the novel in the United States – in a country oppressed by the Fascist regime and its racial laws in Ada Prospero Gobetti’s pioneering translation – with the literal title I loro occhi guardavano Dio, published by Frassinelli. The subsequent Italian translation appeared fifty years later, in 1998, on the trail of the revived interest triggered by Walker’s essay and by the flourishing of US reprints 1

See Walker, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston”, in Ead., In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. The essay had been previously published in 1975 by Ms. Magazine.

Strategies in the Translations of Their Eyes Were Watching God


of her work through the 1980s and 1990s. The new version of the novel was published by Bompiani and translated by Adriana Bottini, the Italian translatress of most of Virginia Woolf’s non-fiction works and of crucial texts in American feminist theory, as Con gli occhi rivolti al cielo.2 This belated re-discovery in Italy was also marked by a more recent re-issuing of this translation (2009) by a smaller publishing house which recuperated the title used for the first translation, a more literal reproduction of the original. As Goffredo Fofi suggests in his afterword to the 2009 edition, the awkward choice of changing the title into Con gli occhi rivolti al cielo was probably made by Bompiani, since Bottini’s translation of the sentence which gives the title to the novel retains the original. 3 My contention is that despite their differences in historical/cultural contexts, the translation strategies adopted by Prospero and Bottini are a reflection of the translatresses’ political commitment, bridging the gap between theory and practice. The comparison of the feminist-oriented translation of a contemporary professional translatress such as Adriana Bottini with Ada Prospero’s incredibly well-timed timely translation, allowed us to suggest how Prospero was a feminist translator ante litteram, utilizing at times what may be described as proto-feminist translating strategies. Their Eyes Wee Watching God vividly portrays the black rural communities in Florida through the story of Janie Crawford, the unconventional female protagonist. While the narrative parts of the novel are written in Standard English (SE), the community’s voice is expressed through African American English (AAE), thus making orality “audible” on the page.4 In particular, the lexical elements, the structures and rhythms of black speech are used by the characters at various degrees, performing a style-shift along the continuum between SE and AAE. 5 Zora Neale Hurston called the latter “Negro speech”, with a capitalized “n” to distinguish it from the derogatory term, in line with the Harlem Renaissance re-evaluation and celebration of all aspects of “Negro


In 1991 she translated the seminal The Reproduction of Mothering (1978) by Nancy Chodorow and in 1987 Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1987). 3 See Fofi, “Postfazione”, 264-66. 4 For Henry Louis Gates, however, this testifies to a “divided voice, a double voice unreconciled [...] a verbal analogue of her double experiences as a woman in a male-dominated world and as a black person in a non-black world.” Gates, “Afterword”, 193. 5 For a definition of “Style-shifting” see Hudson, African American Female Speech Communities, 3.


Chapter Eight

culture”.6 Nevertheless, in the 1960s and 1970s “Black English” prevailed, and in 1973 the term “Ebonics” was coined by Robert Williams, an African-American social psychologist. Blending the words “ebony” and “phonics”, Williams wished to acknowledge the complex linguistic legacy of the African slave trade and avoid the pejorative connotations of other terms. The term was not adopted by linguists but gained some resonance in 1996 with the Oakland Board School case. 7 “African American Vernacular English” is now widely accepted, although the choice of the word “vernacular” remains problematic as it is often associated with a lower language status.8 Hurston’s linguistic choice, however, was highly controversial as it was considered detrimental to “the Negro cause”, provoking some of her contemporaries’ harsh criticism. Although Hurston is now celebrated for her vivid use of the “language of the folk” and for her crafty reproduction on the page of the rhythms of orality, AAE was not allowed the dignity of a language variety at the time: on the contrary, it was a source of shame and scorn. In his review of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Richard Wright tellingly argues that: “Miss Hurston voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theatre, that is, the minstrel technique that makes ‘the white folks’ laugh.”9 On the other hand, reviewing Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children the following year, Hurston retorted that its author certainly “does not write by ear unless he is tonedeaf”,10 insisting on the troubling aspects of Wright’s language, lacking the musicality and vividness she was able to retrieve during her fieldwork as anthropologist.11


See Alain Locke’s anthology The New Negro. See Williams, Ebonics. On 18 December 1996, the Oakland School Board in Oakland, California, passed a resolution calling for the use of Ebonics to teach Standard US English to African American children. See for example Baumgardner, “Teaching World Englishes”. 8 The term is thus increasingly being replaced with the term African American English (AAE). 9 Wright, “Between Laughter and Tears,” 22. 10 Hurston, “Stories of Conflict,” 32. Quoted in Sollors, Ethnic Modernism. 11 In fact, Hurston’s academic training in anthropology (she studied at Barnard College and Columbia under Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict) paradoxically gave her the necessary distancing in order to fully understand and write about the folklore and its language. Claiming that she was too close to the folklore she was familiar with, she “had to have the spy-glass of Anthropology to look through at that”. 7

Strategies in the Translations of Their Eyes Were Watching God


Quite significantly, Hurston describes “black speech” as “the idiom – not the dialect – of the Negro”, 12 giving this speech the dignity of a language. In this light, contesting the idea that “Negro speech is a weird thing, full of ‘ams’ and ‘Ises’”,13 Hurston powerfully voices her characters, using the rich metaphors and similes, the double descriptive, verbal nouns, and all the other lexical, syntactical and phonological features of this variety. However, the peculiarity of AAE has obviously posed several, interconnected problems of translation, both at a lexical and syntactical level and at a stylistic level (how to render its imagery and visual richness?) leaving, in addition, the translator to mediate between an oral and a written language system. In Sherry Simon’s words, women “understood that the transmission of significant literary texts was an essential, not accessory, cultural task”.14 In this light, Ada Prospero’s translation of Their Eyes Were Watching God also testifies to her interest in progressive social causes. Piero Gobetti’s wife, an intellectual from Turin who was tortured and killed by the fascists in 1925, Prospero was a woman partisan and activist for women’s emancipation in Post-War Italy.15 She combined her political commitment with a restless cultural activity as translatress (introducing the work of Benjamin Spock in Italy), teacher and educationist. In particular, her translation practice played a crucial role during Fascism in terms of cultural resistance.16 Although the context of her translation of Their Eyes Were Watching God is unknown – how did she discover the text? Did she suggest it to Frassinelli or did the publisher propose it to her? – Prospero clearly seems to act as a proto feminist translatress who, as Barbara Godard argued, “immodestly flaunts her signature in italics, in footnotes – even in a preface”.17 Her positionality is, indeed, firmly stressed by her pervasive presence, both in the text and next to it, through a set of paratextual devices: her preface, her translator’s note and a few footnotes, all contemporary feminist strategies used to stress the translatress’ visibility. She thus seems to anticipate a practice which will be used in 12

Hurston in Wall, “Introduction”, 9. Hurston, “Characteristics of Negro Expressions” in Mitchell ed., Within the Circle, 93. 14 Simon, Gender in Translation, 40. 15 Ada Prospero joined the Resistenza (see her Diario Partigiano, Torino, Einaudi 1956) and after the war she committed to politics – as communist deputy mayor of Turin – and became actively involved in the promotion of women’s emancipation in Italy. For a biography of Prospero see Alano, A Life of Resistance. 16 See Mancini, Promuovere movimenti di idee. 17 Godard, “Theorizing Feminist Discourse/Translation”, 88. 13


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feminist translation theory to explain some radical choices, and this approach is particularly noteworthy in a period when signing a translation which did not please the regime could be extremely troublesome. Although Prospero’s translation practice is inevitably devoid of an explicit feminist commitment, she nonetheless addresses some crucial problems of translation, thus contextualizing the novel in the cultural milieu of the post-slavery United States, and foregrounding the problematic notion of textual equivalence. In her preface, for instance, she locates the novel between Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1831) and its idealized portrayal of black victimization, and the European celebration of African primitivism in the 1920s, when “blacks became fashionable”. In the oscillation between these biased and stereotypical representations of black people, Prospero seems to be deeply aware of her role as cultural mediator, presenting Hurston’s novel as a breakthrough, as the “true expression of the black soul”, as she claimed.18 Moreover, in her translator’s note she presents her readers with the complexities of translating a text written in AAE, highlighting the problem of textual equivalence. In the impossibility to be “textually faithful”, Prospero explained that she opted for a translation that would reproduce the text’s “alterity” by rendering “the tone and atmosphere” of what she recognized as a language proper which was starting to gain its literary dignity. Unwilling to fall into the grotesque rendering of the “Negro idiom” with an arbitrary Italian dialect, Prospero recognizes the literary legitimacy of the language used by Hurston, and she finally concludes her note claiming that “fidelity to words does not make any sense if it is not rooted in an intimate spiritual participation”. Quite significantly, as in many contemporary feminist translations, Prospero claims a link and foregrounds an emotional identification with the writer and her world, in a way that resonates with Rosemary Arrojo’s statement that “the only kind of fidelity we can possibly consider is the one we owe to our own assumptions, not simply as individuals, but as members of a cultural community which produces and validates them”.19 On a lexical and syntactical level, however, the novel presents the translator with a series of problems. While the French translatress could resort to Caribbean French to retain some of its syntactical and lexical structures in the TT, Prospero and Bottini grapple with the impossibility to reproduce the syntactical features of AAE in Italian.20 As a consequence, they both necessarily opt for a translation which seeks to recover its 18

Prospero, “Prefazione,” xii-xx. Arrojo, “Fidelity and the Gendered Translation”, 160. 20 Brodsky, “La traduction du vernaculaire noir ”, 173-174. 19

Strategies in the Translations of Their Eyes Were Watching God


rhythm, without using a “broken” version of Italian to create literal correspondences but rewriting the text in Standard Italian, thus inevitably erasing the style shift performed by the characters, who often move along the continuum between SE and AAE. However, whenever the translatress needs to convey cultural difference, the strategies adopted greatly differ. While Prospero chooses to explain through paratextual devices, Bottini opts for a literal rendering of the ST and avoids footnotes or glossaries. Moreover, Prospero was aware of the many risks implied by a literal translation of the African American culture, ranging from intelligibility to Fascist censorship, and often tends to ‘neutralize’ most culture-bound terms and expressions to make them more comprehensible for her Italian readers. On the other hand, Bottini seeks to produce a constant tension in the language, thus providing some interesting insights into her practice and her theory of translation. A self-conscious feminist translatress, Bottini chooses to preserve the culture-specific images and expressions of the ST, retaining its foreignness and complying with the strategy Lawrence Venuti termed “resistancy”.21 In her much-quoted essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Hurston observes that one of the main features of “black speech” is its rich figurative and evocative power. Emphasising the ‘visual’ character of Negro speech, Hurston explains the use of compound words like “cookpot”, “sitting-chair”, suggesting that “the white man thinks in a written language and the Negro thinks in hieroglyphics”.22 This pictorial quality is consistently preserved by Bottini, who reproduces the use of compound words, typical of AAE, whenever possible, whereas Prospero chooses not to conform to the SL lexical structure, often even eliding its original meaning: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

that grass-gut, liver lipted nigger (40) quel vigliaccone infingardo di un negro (32) quel mangiaerba, labbra di salsiccia di un negro (51)

Culture-bound words and expressions are thus preserved in Bottini’s translation while they are somehow adapted in the previous translation: ST TT (Prospero)

21 22

Dat’s just de same as me ’cause mah tongue is in mah friend’s mouf (17) Per me è lo stesso, perchè la mia lingua parla per bocca della mia amica. (11)

Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility, 24. Hurston, “Characteristics of Negro Expressions”, 80.

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92 TT (Bottini)

Sarebbe come se lo facessi io, perché la mia lingua è nella bocca della mia amica. (31)

Prospero preserves the idiomatic expression ‘tongue and mouth’ image but she replaces the (possibly unusual for an Italian reader) static image of one’s own tongue in somebody else’s mouth (epitome of intimacy and, in this case, female friendship and absolute trust), with a mouth speaking for her friend. Choosing a more literal translation, Bottini gives back the same powerful images used by Hurston, introducing cultural difference in the TT. In fact, as she privileges a “foreignizing”23 translation by retaining the original – albeit unusual – images and expressions of the ST, the translatress invites the Italian reader to a constant confrontation and interrogation. Taking on the risks of unintelligibility, probably because her audience is much more used to a difference-oriented translation, she nonetheless contributes to effecting cultural change in the target language. A further example is the translation of the “muck”, the place in Florida where Janie and her third husband, Tea Cake, move in order to work on the plantations: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

Down in the Everglades there, down on the muck (18) Laggiù nelle Everglades, laggiù nella Piantagione (12) Laggiù negli Everglades, nelle paludi (33)

In the footnote, Prospero provides an explanation which approximates the original meaning. Although she acknowledges that the word “muck” literally means “mud”, “manure”, she uses what she terms the “generic” term “piantagione” to indicate “una distesa di terra straordinariamente umida e fertile (fangosa) in quella parte della Florida meridionale che vien chiamata Everglades”. However, this supplementary information eludes the fact that the word “piantagione”, “plantation,” somehow involuntarily evokes the context of slavery, though the capitalization might suggest a different use of the word. On the other hand, Bottini keeps the original sense of “muddy place” by translating “muck” as “paludi.” Although Bottini apparently makes herself invisible, as she does not use footnotes nor prefaces, at least in the 2009 edition, she intervenes at various degrees in the text, slightly manipulating it through cases of addition. When Janie meets her future second husband, Joe Starks, the man flirts with her claiming: 23

Venuti, 19-20.

Strategies in the Translations of Their Eyes Were Watching God ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)


You behind a plow! (49) Voi dietro a un aratro! (40) Una bambolina come te dietro un aratro (58)

Prospero opts for a literal translation using the Fascist-imposed “voi”, the deictic pronoun which forcibly replaced “lei”, the formal way of addressing people considered as “foreign, servile and feminine”.24 On the other hand, Bottini introduces the word “bambolina” in order to stress the man’s macho approach, whose patronizing attitude will be revealed further in the novel. Moreover, she often intervenes in the text by feminizing some words in particularly relevant moments, as when Janie’s rhetoric (and implicit irony) is praised before her husband: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

“Yo’ wife is uh born orator, Starks.” (92) “Tua moglie è proprio un oratore nato, Starks” (79) “Tua moglie è un’oratrice nata, Starks” (94)

As a feminist icon ante litteram, not only did Hurston denounce the whites’ oppression over the black, but she also exposed black male oppression over black women. The double burden which will be used by black feminists in the 70s to claim the specificity of their struggles against the white, middle class women’s claims of universalism is thus anticipated in Hurston’s most quoted sentence from the novel: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

The nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. (29) E così, come si vede, la donna negra è il mulo della creazione. (22) La donna negra è il mulo del mondo, da quello che ho visto. (42)

When sex and gender are involved, feminist concerns are more explicitly expressed in Bottini’s translation, free of any kind of censorial restraints. In the opening pages of the novel, for example, Janie’s return to the village alone triggers the female community’s gossip and sexually frank conjectures as to the absence of Tea Cake, the younger man with whom she had fled some time earlier:


Falasca-Zamponi, Fascist Spectacle, 107.

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94 ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

Becha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs (10) Ci gioco che se l’è filata con qualche ragazzetta col latte ancora sulle labbra… (4) Scommetto che se la sta spassando con una ragazzina ancora senza peli. (26)

While Prospero preserved the ST “neutral” meaning (“he off”) with an old-fashioned “se l’è filata”, Bottini forces the text by hinting at a possible sexual enjoyment that seems to be implied in the ST. On the other hand, the original sexual reference to a “gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs” is replaced and domesticated by the naïve and babyish image of a girl with milk on her lips. The indirect reference to the girl’s puberty could have probably sounded disturbing for a 1938 readership under the Fascist regime, leaving us to grapple as to the nature of such erasure: either the translatress’ self-censoring or a direct editorial intervention by the publisher and/or by the Censorship Committee. However, the original reference to sexuality is restored in the following translation, more concerned with a literal engagement with the source text: “ragazzina senza peli”. A similar, even if more nuanced, episode of “smoothing” of the ST appears on the following page: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets (11) Gli uomini guardavano la saldezza dei suoi fianchi, simili a frutti maturi, chiusi nella tuta aderente (5) Gli uomini notarono le natiche sode, come se avesse due pompelmi nelle tasche posteriori (27)

While Bottini privileges a literal translation, using the word “natiche” which has an anatomical connotation, Prospero opts for the more neutral “fianchi” (hips), probably adding ‘tuta aderente’ (tight overall) in order to compensate the neutralization of the sexual image of the buttocks. It can thus be suggested that the omission is the result of the will not to evoke the insisted sexualized image of African women which had been constructed by the Italian colonialist male gaze since the colonial occupation of Libya. It is left to speculation whether a translator would have insisted on this

Strategies in the Translations of Their Eyes Were Watching God


anatomical image, participating in the violent discourse depicting black women as the exotic object of male desire.25 On the other hand, while Prospero sometimes “censors” the explicit sexuality of the AAE speech, by softening some highly marked words and colourful expressions, she nonetheless comes up with some interesting choices. The episode of Janie discovering reproduction and sexuality under a pear tree as a young girl, watching the bees singing and dancing around it, is one of the most intense moments of the novel. Spending a whole spring afternoon lying beneath the blossoming pear tree, Janie describes the visiting bees sinking into the calyxes in an ecstatic and delightful embrace, and she comments thus: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

So this was a marriage! (24) Ecco l’amplesso nuziale! (17) Dunque era uno sposalizio! (37)

Prospero clearly insists on the sexual nature of the embrace imagined by Janie, while Bottini opts for a more lyrical yet literal translation of “marriage”. Moreover, Prospero further “hijacks” 26 the text in the following passage: ST TT (Prospero) TT (Bottini)

Oh to be a pear tree – any tree in bloom! (25) Oh, essere un’alberella di pero… una qualsiasi alberella in fiore! (18) Oh, essere un pero… un albero, un qualunque albero in fiore! (38)

The English neuter word “pear tree” is thus transformed into a female “alberella” which sounds quite odd and unfamiliar in Italian. Although in Italian “tree” is male, “albero”, lacking the neuter case used in English for inanimate nouns, in her translation Prospero manipulates the word and genders it as female to identify the tree with Janie’s sensual fantasy. In this light, the translatress’ surprising “alberella” reveals a sort of hijacking, a deliberate intervention to make gender visible both in the ST and in the TT. 25

In this light, the story of Sarah Bartmann is worth mentioning. Born in South Africa at the end of the eighteenth century, the “Hottentot Venus” was exhibited in Europe between 1810 and 1815 as a curiosity. Bartmann’s identity was reduced to her sexual parts which, morbidly exposed as evidence of her irredeemable difference, contributed to the construction of the black female throughout the nineteenth century and to the subsequent fetishizing of the black woman’s bottom. 26 von Flotow, “Feminist Translation”, 74.


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In conclusion, despite the limitations imposed by the historical and political context, it can be argued that Prospero makes use of some significant feminist translation strategies ante litteram, ranging from paratextual interventions to linguistic strategies of feminisation. In this light, testifying to the plurality and complexity of feminist approaches and practices, both translations uncover the translatresses’ awareness of their responsibility and their critical and ethical attitudes. As their different choices and strategies are revealing of their positionality and deeply affect the target texts, their practice of translation is a political activity highly informed by an engagement with gender, contributing to mapping European practices and theories of translation.

Bibliography Alano, J. 2002, A Life of Resistance: Ada Prospero Marchesini Gobetti (1902-1968), University of Rochester, Department of History. Arrojo, R. 1994, “Fidelity and the Gendered Translation”, TTR, 7 (2), 147163. Baumgardner, R. 2006, “Teaching World Englishes” in B. B. Kachru, Y. Kachru and C. L. Nelson eds., The Handbook of World Englishes, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 661-671. Brodsky, F. 1996, “La traduction du vernaculaire noir: l’exemple de Zora Neale Hurston,” TTR, 9 (2), 165-177. Falasca-Zamponi, S. 1997, Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press. Flotow, L. von 1991, “Feminist Translation: Contexts, Practices and Theories” TTR, 4 (2), 69-84. Fofi, G. 2009, “Postfazione,” in Zora Neale Hurston, I loro occhi guardavano Dio, transl. by A. Bottini, Introduction by Z. Smith, with an Afterword by G. Fofi, Napoli: Cargo. Gates, H. L. 1990, “Afterword” in Z. N.Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, New York: Harper Collins. Godard, B. 1990, “Theorizing Feminist Discourse/Translation”, in S. Bassnett and A. Lefevere eds, Translation , History and Culture, London, Pinter Publishers, pp. 87-96. Hill Hudson, B. 2001, African American Female Speech Communities. Varieties of Talk, Westport CT and London: Bergin & Garvey. Hurston, Z. N. 1938, “Stories of Conflict,” Saturday Review of Literature, April 2.

Strategies in the Translations of Their Eyes Were Watching God


—. 1938, I loro occhi guardavano Dio, transl. A. Prospero, Torino: Frassinelli. —. 1994, “Characteristics of Negro Expressions” in A. Mitchell ed., Within the Circle. An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the present, Durham, Duke University Press. —. 1986 [1937], Their Eyes Were Watching God, London: Virago. —. 1998, Con gli occhi rivolti al cielo, transl. Adriana Bottini, Milano: Bompiani, 1998. —. 2009, I loro occhi guardavano Dio, transl. by Adriana Bottini, Introduction by Zadie Smith, Napoli: Cargo. Locke, A. 1997 [1925], The New Negro, New York: Simon & Schuster. Mancini, M.E. 2006, Promuovere movimenti di idée. Ada Gobetti. Croce, Laterza, Bari: Cacucci. Prospero, A. 1938, “Prefazione” in Z. N. Hurston, I loro occhi guardavano Dio, Torino: Frassinelli. Simon, S. 1996, Gender in Translation. Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission, London and New York: Routledge. Sollors, W. 2008, Ethnic Modernism, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Venuti, L., 2004 [1995], The Translator’s Invisibility: a History of Translation, London: Routledge. Walker, A. 1984 [1983], In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. Womanist Prose, London: The Women’s Press. Wall, C. 1997, “Introduction” in Zora Neale Hurston, “Sweat”. Edited and with an introduction by C. Wall, New Brunswick: Rutgers. Williams, R. 1975, Ebonics: The True Language of Black Folks. St Louis, MO: Institute of Black Studies. Wright, R. 1937, “Between Laughter and Tears”m New Masses, Oct. 5.


Thought of by you all day, I think of you. The birds sing in the shelter of a tree. Above the prayer of rain, unacred blue, not paradise, goes nowhere endlessly. How does it happen that our lives can drift far from our selves, while we stay trapped in time, queuing for death? It seems nothing will shift the pattern of our days, alter the rhyme we make with loss to assonance with bliss. Then loves comes, like a sudden flight of birds from earth to heaven after rain. Your kiss, recalled, unstrings, like pearls, this chain of words. Huge skies connect us, joining here to there. Desire and passion on the thinking air.1

Towards a Poetics of Translation The notion of translation has always stood as one of the most significant leitmotifs throughout Carol Ann Duffy’s long and renowned poetic career, both on a literal and metaphorical level. Not only is translation a key idea in the artistic production of the British Poet Laureate, but its universal trait establishes itself within a much broader contemporary poetry scene, which 1

Duffy, Rapture, 16. For the Italian translation, see Estasi, 61, translated by Marinzuli and Nera. See also Duffy, ‘Lo Splendore del Tempio. Poesie d’Amore’, edited by Marinzuli and Nera, 165.

Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian


appears “fresh in its attitudes, risk-taking in its address, and plural in its forms and voices”.2 The new British poetry thus becomes an interlocutory space where different styles, voices and languages meet, a space set in a renewed social, political and cultural context eager to overcome tedious old concepts of nationalism and identities shaped on stiff and univocal ideas of nation, gender and class. In general, the mainstream poetry of the late thirty years in United Kingdom, and in particular the poetic work of Carol Ann Duffy, gives space to a dynamic intercultural and interlinguistic dialogue, through which the circulation of new ideas contributes to a process of renewal and democratization of the word. By challenging notions such as centre, authority and orthodoxy, the new poets start a decentering process, thus locating their works within a postcolonial, multicultural, pluralist and inclusive frame and offering a new expressive mean to all those who have been deprived of their agency within the public space. The main objective of this new generation of poets 3 is to affirm a distinctive feature outlining a composite identity in opposition to the centre. There is a new desire to deal with issues concerning different aspects of gender, sex and politics, freeing both dialects and Creole languages from the hegemony of the English language. The pluralistic trait, characterizing the new poetic anthologies of the ‘80s and ‘90s, is the result of the dismantling of social hierarchies, values and beliefs that once made stable poetics possible. As the editors of The New Poetry affirm: “In the absence of shared moral and religious ideals, common social or sexual mores or political ideologies, or any philosophy on the conduct of life, plurality has flourished”.4 Accordingly, the work of Carol Ann Duffy fully inscribes itself in this regenerated and revivified lyrical frame and contributes to give voice to those subjects who occupy the borders of society, thus translating into verses their marginal condition of underprivileged and muted selves. Of all the subjects the poet has given voice to, women have been widely represented in her production. By adopting dramatic monologues, metaphorical translations offering representations of the world as given by a kaleidoscope of individuals, Carol Ann Duffy plays with an already pervasive sense of the everyday artificiality of the construction of women’s role within society and


Hulse, Kennedy and Morley, The New Poetry, 16. For a complete list, see Poetry Review, special issue 84, Poetry Society, London, 1994. 4 Hulse et al., 15. 3


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investigates their exclusion from ‘the dominant patriarchal code’. Translation, as Luise von Flotow puts it: [Has] long served as a trope to describe what women do when they enter the public sphere: they translate their private language, their specifically female forms of discourse, developed as a result of gendered exclusion, 5 into some form of the dominant patriarchal code.

Translation, meant as a transformative act of self-redefinition through a process of interrelation with the other, shows the difficulty of breaking the silence in which women have lived for centuries, offering new means to communicate different experiences and highlighting the complex nature of the female identity. In response to the patriarchal language, Duffy, similarly to many other women poets, embraces a plurivocal, dialogic and pluri-stylistic writing in line with a new poetic tendency towards “a promiscuous mingling of materials, an enjoyment of hybrid forms and images, a conflating of voices and perspectives”.6 Committed to bearing witness to women’s experience within society, Duffy engages in dialogue with many voices, often presenting a speaking ‘I’ not as a stable self, but in constant movement between spaces, languages, times and identities. Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out that if by means of the dramatic monologue Carol Ann Duffy explores multiple issues of identity on a public sphere, often giving origin to a heteroglossic language and mastering a plurality of voices, when composing love poetry she escapes to a private realm, exclusively inhabited by the lover and the beloved. Duffy’s extensive production of love poems has highly been praised throughout her career. According to the Poet Laureate, love poetry is the hardest to compose, because it is the most prone to cliché, or as Duffy puts it “saying something which has been said before is the most exciting, the most challenging poetry to write”.7 Before the publication of her seventh collection Rapture, her love poems had mostly dealt with unnamed and ungendered voices.


Flotow, Translation and Gender, 12. Gregson, Contemporary Poetry and Postmodernism: Dialogue and Estrangement, 10. 7 Quoted in Alison Flood, Love Poetry Is The Hardest To Write, The Guardian, 28 May 2009 6

Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian


‘Thought of by you all day, I think of you’: Translating the Inmost Recesses of the Heart Published in 2005 by Picador, Rapture was extremely well received and won the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize the same year. The collection emerges as a mosaic of poems, offering the progressive evolution of a love story, narrated in chronological order, over a whole year (fifty-two poems in total). In an interview with Jeanette Winterson, published soon after the publication of Rapture, Duffy declares: I have published them in chronological order. That’s never happened to me before. I knew I was following the seasons, and when I reached the second Christmas, I decided I would not let myself take them into another 8 year. There was a seasonal and a symbolic ending that felt right.

The narration of the events is modulated within this time frame which gives rhythm, cohesion and coherence to the whole story. Overall, this collection does not align with Duffy’s previous ones. The main theme is love with a more intimate tone, distinguishing the lyrical ‘I’, which strongly conveys passion, desire, ecstatic joy, loss, bereavement and despair. Although defined as autobiographical by the poet herself, Rapture still plays on a film of ambiguity regarding the object of love, who is not given a name nor a specific individuality, thus carrying on a process of exploration and renegotiation of the lovers’ relationship, which aims at subverting the unbalanced division of power between men and women, lover and beloved on which the lyrical tradition has always been constructed. As Deryn Rees-Jones affirms: Duffy’s [love] poems explore new ways of negotiating the relationship between the subject and the object of desire. She refigures heterocentric representations of desire both to affirm and problematize identity, throwing into question ideas of sameness and difference in the relationship of the lover and beloved, and the inadequacies of language to articulate the nature of that experience.9

Rapture is to be considered as a double turning point in her poetic production. On one hand, it is Duffy’s first collection where dramatic 8

Interview with Jeanette Winterson, published on The Times on the 3rd of September, 2005 9 Rees Jones, Carol Ann Duffy, 30.


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monologues are absent and the voice of the poet is to be recognized in the speaking I. The artificiality of the previous personae is here replaced by her true voice, which discloses a deep intimate, confessional and lyrical tone. On the other, it fully explores a homosexual love affair, embodying a female lover that substitutes the androgynous figures of her previous love poems. When translating texts written by women, problems and options are often related to the ideological trait both in feminist and lesbian works and the need for the translator to consider his/her ideological presuppositions and inclinations towards the text. It is crucial for the translator to explore both the source and the target cultural context before disambiguating (or not) a given text. As Myriam Diaz-Diocaretz points out: […] a poem written by a woman is not necessarily female-identified; when the text is ambiguous, only the reader’s act of inferencing can determine whether the persona, or the speaking subject is a woman. In languages such as English that do not have an obligatory differentiation in certain gender markers because of indeterminacy, the reader is the only one to ideate the speaker as either male or female.10

In order to properly include the poems of Carol Ann Duffy in the Italian culture, it is essential to bear in mind how not only is she one of the most beloved British poetical voices, whose recent laureateship brought her to worldwide fame, but she is a poet whose entire work ranges from traditional (non-feminist) to feminist and lesbian discourse. Therefore, by approaching the translation of her love poems, it is necessary to take into account the frequent shifting of perspectives and voices within her whole lyrical production.

Making the feminine visible In the Italian version of Rapture (Estasi, Del Vecchio Editore, 2008) I coauthored together with Bernardino Nera, a significant number of issues concerning poetic translatability were tackled. Since Italian is a grammatically gendered language it seemed unavoidable to unmask the gender of both the speaker and the receiver, thus neutralizing the ambiguity re-created by the author and supported by the gender neutrality of the English grammar system. The translation of this collection proved how an apparently forced choice turned ideologically strategic, giving space for thought on the implications of decoding a source text whose 10

Diaz-Diocaretz, Translating Poetic Discourse, 45.

Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian


gender of its characters is linguistically blurred into a target text where its indefinite gender identities become visible. In this context, the translating act has brought to a regeneration of the text that discloses and marks the feminine presence of both the subject and object of desire. As we approached the translation, we were well aware that we had to negotiate with the text, in a process of mimesis and rupture with it. Translating poetry is, perhaps, closest to the writing of poetry; it requires a process of internalization and receptivity, where an exchange of emotions and feelings between the poet’s voice and the translators’ one occurs.11 Given the intimate, autobiographical and confessional nature of Duffy’s love poems, our priority was to reproduce their lyrical tone but, above all, to remain loyal to the author’s intention of disclosing such a personal experience to her audience. Among the several problems encountered during the translation, one in particular requested a series of crucial linguistic decisions that could not be ignored and whose adoption would have altered the reception of the text accordingly. Since the fifty-two poems included in Rapture unravel themselves as a continuous dialogue between the speaking I and an unnamed and ungendered You, during the translating process the person deixis had to be actualized by selecting specific personal pronouns and consequently unveiling the gender of the addressee. As it happens in all Romance languages, Italian relies on a grammatical gender, a formal property that is not related to meaning, whereas English has “natural gender”, which is attributed not by form but by meaning. In Italian nouns are divided in two genders: masculine and feminine. Adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify and past participles agree in gender and number with the nominative they refer to. Hence, in order to determine the apparently simple category of gender in nouns, adjectives and past participles, we had to bear well in mind the identity of both the speaking subject and the addressee. Before performing the task of translators, first we had to carry out that of readers. To accomplish the whole process of decoding and encoding a particular text in a different socio-cultural context, the translator needs to understand the textual and extra-textual components of the source text, acting as a “model reader”. This expression, coined by Umberto Eco, carries out an interpretative cooperation with the author. Through a series 11

The mirror relation that wants poetry as an act of translation and translation as an act of poetry was already at the basis of Novalis’ thoughts on translation in the Romantic period. According to the German philosopher, the translator is “the poet of the poet”. See Apel, Il Movimento del linguaggio, 14.


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of successive inferences, this kind of reader, “proposes topics, ways of reading, and hypotheses of coherence on the basis of suitable encyclopaedic competence”.12 Thus the translator/model reader turns out to be an active agent in the creation of meaning. It proved useful to bring forth a synchronic reading of Duffy’s production published until then, followed by an extensive reading of reviews, critical essays, contacts with the author and interviews. In particular, the latter turned out to be of paramount importance to determine the identity of the second person pronoun in the Italian translation of Rapture. As mentioned before, this is Duffy’s first collection to be completely autobiographical and thought to be based on Duffy’s relationship with the Scottish poet Jackie Kay, which ended in 2004.13 Leaving the autobiographical and extra-textual references aside, the identity of the speaker becomes more and more distinct within the lyrical texts, until it fully reveals itself in the poem Betrothal. Here the speaking subject unveils her female gender in a lyrical crescendo of rhymes, assonances and metre. Yet, the You remains concealed: I will be yours, be yours. I’ll walk on the moors with my spade. Make me your bride.

Sarò tua, tua. Camminerò per le brughiere con la mia vanga. Fa di me la tua sposa.

I will be brave, be brave. I’ll dig my own grave and lie down. Make me your own.

Sarò coraggiosa, coraggiosa. Scaverò la mia stessa fossa e mi ci coricherò. Fammi tua.

I will be good, be good. I’ll sleep in my blankets of mud till you kneel above. Make me your love.

Sarò brava, brava. Dormirò tra coperte di fango finché non ti ci inginocchierai sopra. Fa di me il tuo amore.

I’ll stay forever, forever. I’ll wade in the river, wearing my gown of stone. Make the one.

Rimarrò per sempre, per sempre. Guaderò il fiume, con indosso la mia gonna di pietre. Fa di me la sola.


Eco, The Role of the Reader, 10-19. In an interview with Melvyn Bragg broadcast on ITV’s The South Bank Show, the poet affirms: «[Rapture] is absolutely autobiographical, not fictional ».


Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian I will obey, obey. I’ll float far away, gargling my vows. Make me your spouse.

Obbedirò, obbedirò. Galleggerò via lontano, gorgheggiando i miei voti. Fa di me la tua consorte.

I will say yes, say yes. I’ll sprawl in my dress On my watery bed. Make me be wed.

Dirò di sì, di sì. Mi sdraierò nel mio vestito Sul mio letto d’acqua. Fa di me una donna sposata.

I’ll wear your ring, your ring. I’ll dance and sing in the flames. Make me your name.

Indosserò il tuo anello, il tuo anello. Ballerò e canterò fra le fiamme. Dammi il tuo nome.

I’ll feel desire, desire. I’ll bloom in the fire. I’ll blush like a baby. Make me your lady.

Proverò desiderio, desiderio. Fiorirò nel fuoco. Arrossirò come una bambina. Fa di me la tua signora.

I’ll say I do, I do. I’ll be ash in a jar, for you to scatter my life. Make me your wife.

Dirò lo faccio, lo faccio. Sarò cenere in un’urna, per te per spargere la mia vita. Fa di me la tua donna.


In this example, even in the Italian version the second person pronoun remains ungendered, due both to the adoption of the simple future tense, which does not require past participles, and the absence of adjectives referring to the addressee. On the contrary, the poem You, soon turned out to be challenging in the translating process: Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head. So I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name, like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables like a charm, like a spell.

Non invitato, il pensiero di te mi si è attardato in testa, così sono andata a letto, sogni di te forti, forti, mi sono risvegliata col tuo nome, come lacrime, molle, sale, sulle labbra, il suono delle sue limpide sillabe, un incanto, un sortilegio.

Falling in love is glamorous hell: the crouched, parched heart

Innamorarsi è un inferno seducente; il cuore rinsecchito, quatto quatto


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like a tiger, ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin. Into my life, larger than life, you strolled in.

come una tigre pronta a uccidere;una fiamma fiera lecca sottopelle. Nella mia vita, più grande della vita, entri con passo trionfale.

I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine, in my camouflage rooms. You sprawled in my gaze, staring back from anyone’s face, from the shape of a cloud, from the pining, earth-struck moon which gapes at me

Mi sono nascosta nei giorni di sempre, fra l’erba alta della routine, nelle stanze mimetiche. Ti sei distesa nel mio sguardo, rifuggendo dal volto di tutti, dalla forma di una nuvola, dalla struggente luna che, sotto l’influsso della terra, mi guarda esterrefatta

as I open the bedroom door. The curtains stir. There you are on the bed, like gift, like a touchable dream.

Quando apro la porta della camera. Le tende s’increspano. Ed eccoti lì a letto, come un dono, come un sogno tangibile.

In the very first lines, the lover is no more than a thought, an abstract idea which gradually shapes itself as a dream. It is evoked by the speaker through the repetition of her name, being uttered as a spell, a charm. Only in the final lines, the beloved shows herself in her human tangible shape. Nevertheless, it was decided not to unveil the identity of the receiver at once, since this would have weakened the gradual manifestation of the lover and consequently the climax of the entire poem. As it can be observed in the following stanza, the verb referring to the second person pronoun in the end is rendered in the Italian present tense in order to avoid a gendered past participle, required to form passato prossimo, an Italian compound tense, which usually translates English simple past: Falling in love is glamorous hell: the crouched, parched heart like a tiger, ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin. Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.

Innamorarsi è un inferno seducente; il cuore rinsecchito, quatto quatto come una tigre pronta a uccidere;una fiamma fiera lecca sottopelle. Nella mia vita, più grande della vita, entri con passo trionfale.

In order to keep the you ambiguous, not only the verbal tense had to be changed (thus avoiding any use of past participles), but also the adjective

Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian


beautiful referring to it had to be translated in a gender-neutral adverbial phrase, that is, con passo trionfale, literally with a triumphal tread. Only in the second part of the poem, as the beloved body shifts from a dream to a physical and corporeal presence in the poet’s gaze, the act of disclosing the woman’s identity of the addressee could be accomplished: I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine, in my camouflage rooms. You sprawled in my gaze, staring back from anyone’s face, from the shape of a cloud, […]

Mi sono nascosta nei giorni di sempre, fra l’erba alta della routine, nelle stanze mimetiche. Ti sei distesa nel mio sguardo, rifuggendo dal volto di tutti, dalla forma di una nuvola, […]

The past tense of the verb to sprawl is rendered with the Italian passato prossimo of the reflexive verb distendersi, in which the adoption of the past participle is gender marked with the singular feminine suffix –a. As the entire course of the love affair from its beginning to its end is unravelled, in the Italian version the woman to woman discourse becomes more and more explicit by applying the feminine gender markers both to the speaking subject and the addressee, whenever required. Here are some excerpts: The moon tossed down its shimmering cloth. We undressed, then dressed again in the gowns of the moon. We knelt in the leaves, kissed, kissed; new words rustled nearby and we swooned.

La luna si è spogliata dei suoi brillanti indumenti. Ci siamo svestite, per rivestirci di nuovo con le vesti della luna. In ginocchio sulle foglie, a baciarci a baciarci; parole nuove frusciavano accanto e noi due in estasi.

From “Forest”

From “Foresta”

Give me, you said, the gold from the sun. A third time, I got up and dressed, and when I came home, you sprawled on my breast for the dazzling story I told.

Prendimi, hai detto, l’oro del sole. Mi sono alzata e vestita una terza volta, e rincasata, ti sei sdraiata sul mio seno per la splendida storia che ho raccontato.

From “Give”

From “Brama”


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If you were made of stone, your kiss a fossil sealed up in your lips, your eyes a sightless marble to my touch, your grey hands pooling raindrops for the birds, your long legs cold as rivers locked in ice, if you were stone, if you were made of stone, yes, yes.

Su tu fossi fatta di pietra, il tuo bacio un fossile sigillato nelle tue labbra, i tuoi occhi marmo cieco al mio tocco, le tue mani grigie che raccolgono pioggia per gli uccelli, le tue lunghe gambe come fiumi bloccati nel ghiaccio, se tu fossi pietra, se fossi fatta di pietra, sì, sì.

From “Answer”

From “Risposta”

All my lover’s words For its dangling charms

Tutte le parole della mia amante Per ciondoli pendenti,

From “Presents”

From “Regali”

By opting for a “feminization” of the translating act, the text has been deliberately shifted from a state of indeterminacy to a state of determinacy. Again, our choice was dictated by our knowledge of previous Duffy’s works and by the social and cultural context in which they were produced. The autobiographical nature of the present collection was central to the interpretation of the poems as rooted in a homoerotic discourse, rather than in a heterosexual one. Re-gendering and re-orienting the text primarily into a homosexual sphere has turned ideologically strategic, since the translation has created a new perception of the text. The text itself gains power and becomes a stronger speech act,14 which is capable of influencing and acting upon its receivers’ consciousness. Especially in the case of feminist and lesbian literature, texts are often conceived as speech acts against the oppressive and patriarchal structure of a language, since the author intentionally aims at subverting patriarchal elements embedded in discursive practices, by performing emancipatory feminist speech acts, which contribute to change not only language but meaning as well, upon which identity is constructed.15 14 Originally theorized by J. L. Austin (How To Do Things With Words, 1962), speech acts are utterances revealing the performativity of language, in which to say something is to do something. Given a particular communicative context, a message can act and influence the addressee upon its reception. 15 The linguistic construction of subjectivity is a key concept for Post-structuralist theorists, who affirm that notions of identity and experience can occur only through language. Thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and, more

Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian


The personal pronouns, I and You, in Italian, as in other Romance languages, gain a stronger political meaning than their English equivalents, whose gender indeterminacy might produce different readings. As a consequence, the misinterpretation of a given text, in the translating process, could mean the neutralization of that specific text for ideological and cultural reasons, if the translator chooses to silence them. As elements of patriarchal ideology are still deeply rooted in the Italian linguistic, cultural and social context, the translation of Rapture itself turned out to be a challenge for us, as translators, since we had a chance to introduce an exclusively woman-identified work, which stands as an alternative to the patriarchal language, hence revitalizing the expression of women’s voices. It is worth underlining that if we had opted for a different translation of the collection, if we had rendered the poems as based on a woman to man discourse, apart from delivering an inexact message, we would have betrayed and repressed the poet’s voice by submissively adopting practices of censorship.

Conclusion As the editing of Estasi came to an end, and the revision step was about to start, we got in contact with Carol Ann Duffy for some elucidations regarding her poems. The cooperation with the Poet Laureate revealed itself crucial for the right interpretation and consecutive decoding process, as she fully confirmed our previous inferences on the female identity of both the speaker and the addressee. It could be argued, though, that by unmasking both the lover and the beloved identity of the texts, the universal trait pervading the love poems in the source text gets lost in the target text. Therefore, while the English work addresses a wide and non-specific audience, its Italian version will probably fail to be assimilated into a more general and conventional poetic discourse. It is, nonetheless, an accepted truth that any translation leads to a series of compromises. By narrowing the poems from a universal to a personal sphere, we were conscious that a portion of the message would have disappeared but our priority, throughout the translating process, was to remain loyal to the recently Judith Butler, claim that identities are produced rather than represented by discourses and their reiteration. See Jane Thomas, “The Chant of Magic Words Repeatedly” in Michelis and Rowland, The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: Choosing Tough Words, 121-142.


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poet and to the love experience she wanted to share, giving shape to her feelings in the most faithful way. Engaging with the translation of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems, both on a theoretical and a practical level, was a unique opportunity to reflect on several new aspects emerging when translating texts whose gender-related issues lead to reconsider and subvert old assumptions, embedded within a patriarchal-oriented social and cultural system of the target text. As translators, we gradually grew aware of our agency and responsibility in the interpretation and construction of meaning, establishing with the collection an intense dialogue which supplied us with new translation insights and strategies crucial for the disclosure of the (somehow hidden) source text’s potential. By strengthening the poet’s utterances and making the feminine/lesbian discourse visible, the translation of Rapture into Italian surely stands as a performance of cultural difference, hence taking part in the fast-growing, fruitful and dynamic debate on Gender and Translation.

Bibliography Apel, F. 1997, Il Movimento del linguaggio, Milano: Marcos y Marcos. Diaz-Diocaretz, M. 1985, Translating Poetic Discourse, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company Duffy, C. A. 2005, Rapture, London: Picador. —. 2008, Estasi, a cura di B.Nera e F.Marinzuli, Roma: Del Vecchio Editore. —. 2012, Lo Splendore del Tempio. Poesie d’amore, a cura di F.Marinzuli e B.Nera, Milano: Crocetti Editore. Eco, U. 1979, The Role of the Reader, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Flood, A. 2009, “Love Poetry Is The Hardest To Write”, Flotow, L. von 2011, Translating Women, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. —. 1997, Translation and Gender, Manchester, Ottawa: St.Jerome Publishing and University of Ottawa Press. Gregson, I. 1996, Contemporary Poetry and Postmodernism: Dialogue and Estrangement, London: Palgrave MacMillan. Hulse, M., D, Kennedy and D. Morley 1993, The New Poetry, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe.

Translating Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture into Italian


Michelis, A. and A. Rowland 2003, The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: Choosing Tough Words, Manchester: Manchester University Press. Rees-Jones, D. 1999, Carol Ann Duffy, Plymouth: Northcote House —. 2005, Modern Women Poets, Tarset: Bloodaxe Books. Winterson, J. 2005, “Interview with Carol Ann Duffy”, s/article561469.ece?token=null&offset=12


Imagine a new version of Tic-Tac-Toe where, instead of noughts and crosses, X and Y – which stand for X-chromosomes and Y-chromosomes – have to be used. In order to win, rather than three marks of the same type in a row, both symbols are needed. In other words, one has to metaphorically shift from the XY combination (male) to the XX one (female), and/or vice versa, in a process that ultimately includes both male and female in a three-figure code that can be read as XYY or XXY. 1 Although in medical discourse the latter is also known as a sex chromosome disorder, namely the Kleinefelter’s syndrome which affects endocrine functions in human males due to an extra X-chromosome in their DNA, what I would like to discuss in this essay is the blurring of the boundaries between genders and their coexistence within the same person and/or the same text.2 In 2009 I had the pleasure of delivering a paper at the University of Calabria, Italy, about trans/gendering translations.3 This essay stems from 1

XXY is also the title of a 2007 Argentine film directed by Lucia Puenzo about an intersex teenager, Alex, who decides to stop taking the medicines that prevent her from developing masculine features and to grow up as a male despite the fact that s/he has been brought up as a female. 2 In this essay, I consider both bodies and texts – and consequently translations – as spaces upon which gender discourses are inscribed and performed, as they both deal with ‘embodied difference, and analyse how such differences are transformed into social hierarchies’ (Stryker, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges. An Introduction to Transgender Studies”, 3). In other words, both bodies and texts “matter” as they are among the privileged spaces where systems of power operate. 3 See Casagranda, “Trans/Gendering Translations?”.

Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice 113

that analysis and tries to focus on the same topic from a slightly different perspective. My theoretical assumptions in that article were based on the nourishing although little debated connections between Transgender and Translation Studies, and between transgender/intersex bodies and transgender texts/translations. In particular, by analysing Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002), I put forward the parallelism between sex reassignment surgeries in intersex subjects and translations into target languages that require a grammatical gender in the pronouns and the suffixes that morphologically mark tenses and adjectives. In the following sentence taken from the novel, for example, the Italian translation by Katia Bagnoli reveals the gender of the speaker by means of the tense morpheme in the first verb, which is gender-neutral in the source text: I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.4 Sono nato due volte: bambina, la prima, un giorno di gennaio del 1960 in una Detroit straordinariamente priva di smog, e maschio adolescente, la seconda, nell’agosto del 1974, al pronto soccorso di Petoskey, nel Michigan.5

Moreover, my thesis in analysing trans/gendering translations was that the protagonist of Middlesex, a pseudo-hermaphrodite, and thus the text itself “refuse the surgical sex reassignment claimed by culturally hegemonic discourses as they perform gender and sex as something that is socially constructed” and I wondered whether translators are sometimes “forced to produce normatively sexed texts”,6 i.e. given a non-gendered source text, what happens when translators have to choose a gendered translation because there is neither a neutral equivalent nor a way of maintaining the ambiguity of the source text? In other words, translation seems to reinforce the medical discourse about transsexual and transgender individuals according to which science manipulates organisms rather than bodies by presupposing that “the transsexual seeks an anatomical change rather than a different embodiment, a body that would reconfigure elements belonging to the categories of the imaginary, symbolic, and real”. 7 If we concur that surgery has to do with organisms – which belong to biology – rather than 4

Eugenides, Middlesex, 3. Eugenides, Middlesex (Italian translation), 11. 6 Casagranda, “Trans/Gendering Translations?”, 210. 7 Shepherdson, “The Role of Gender and the Imperative of Sex”, 95. 5


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bodies – which are socially and culturally constructed, performed and written – translation should mirror the same viewpoint. This means that it should clarify what is ambiguous, assign a gender to what has none, interpret the text in an unambiguous way, which ultimately is a form of epistemic and hermeneutic violence against the transgender text/body. From this point of view, thus, both Transgender and Translation Studies are concerned with the hetero-normative foundations of culture and language that have to be subverted by characters that shift within the gender continuum and by translations that maintain such polymorphism. Indeed, Transgender Studies promotes and supports an intersex/transgender person’s right to refuse a traditional and binary gender role produced by societies and by their clinical extensions, i.e. surgery, while Translation Studies deals with the strategies that can be adopted in the target language to maintain such ambiguity. Consequently, whenever the translator has to embark upon a gender attribution process – which is a form of interpretation too – I assume we are dealing with transgender translations, as the text has to be manipulated in a way that is similar to the manipulation of bodies in medical discourse. However, this type of translation aims at dismantling the social and cultural constructions we create when we “do” gender – which according to Garfinkel is about “doing female and male gender”.8 Indeed, through the translation process another kind of gender – or shall we speak of transgender? – is transferred into the target language, which means that the in-betweenness of the gender continuum of the source text is maintained. Going back to the title of this essay, as the recent debate within Transgender Studies testifies to, the term transgender is not to be used only to refer to those who feel that their gender identity does not match their assigned sex, i.e. the identification imposed by others as male, female or intersex according to their biological sex. Actually, it has been first employed on the one hand to describe those who decide to cross the gender boundaries and go beyond the gender dichotomy by refusing surgical sex reassignment and, on the other, to define those whose gender identity does not mesh with the gender they were assigned at birth. Lately, however, it has acquired another and more general meaning, which includes also every individual who questions and does not conform to gender norms. Indeed, [the term transgender] has established itself as the term of choice, in both popular parlance and a variety of specialist discourses, for a wide range of phenomena that call attention to the fact that “gender,” as it is lived, 8

Kessler and McKenna, “Toward a Theory of Gender”, 175.

Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice 115 embodied, experienced, performed, and encountered, is more complex and varied than can be accounted for by the currently dominant binary 9 sex/gender ideology of Eurocentric modernity.

This implies that not only a transgender individual but also a text may move along the gender continuum whose poles are what we consider as ‘male’ and ‘female’. Consequently, the texts that present a nondichotomous use of linguistic gender may be considered as transgender because they contribute to the subversion of the binary system of the male/female divide. This parallelism is further supported by Sandy Stone’s statement according to which transsexuals should not be constituted “as a class or problematic “third gender”, but rather as a genre – a set of embodied texts whose potential for productive disruption of structured sexualities and spectra of desire has yet to be explored”.10 If we extend this definition to literary texts, we can claim that transgender texts may be considered as a textual genre of its own with unique characteristics and acknowledgeable features that are rooted in the use of linguistic structures that undermine the hetero-normative gender system of contemporary societies. As far as transgender texts are concerned, thus, I believe that they can be divided at least into three main categories: 1.


Texts playing with gendered forms of address and reference, where female forms are employed with male referents and vice versa. It is the case of feminine labels used within and without the gay community, a literary example of which is Armistead Maupin’s novel Tales of the City (1978); Texts using epicene neologisms, such as the science-fiction classic The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin (1969) where androgynous characters are portrayed by means of linguistic innovation;

9 Stryker, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges”, 3. Stryker further states that ‘the field of transgender studies is concerned with anything that disrupts, denaturalizes, rearticulates, and makes visible the normative linkages we generally assume to exist between the biological specificity of the sexually differentiated human body, the social roles and statuses that a particular form of body is expected to occupancy, the subjectively experienced relationship between a gendered sense of self and social expectations of gender-role performance, and the cultural mechanisms that work to sustain or thwart specific configurations of gendered personhood’. (Ibid.) 10 Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back. A Posttransexual Manifesto”, 231.



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Texts introducing genderless characters and/or narrators, such as Love Child by Maureen Duffy (1971) and Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson (1992).

As a full analysis of these three categories would be too long to fit in this essay, I have decided to briefly focus on the latter, where the boundaries between genders are overcome thanks to the gender ambiguity of their characters and narrators. As a matter of fact, as Anna Livia states in her study on the literary uses of linguistic gender: Genderless narrators are more common than genderless characters described in the third person. […] It is less disruptive to the text to conceal the gender of someone who refers to himself or herself in the first person, since I and je are epicene, while third person reference, he/she and il/elle, reveals gender.11

Love Child and Written on the Body are two examples of novels written through the eyes of an androgynous narrator, who can be interpreted either as male or female and who challenges the reader’s assumptions about gender. It should be remembered, however, that even though the narrators are genderless, the characters within the fictional world of the story may be not. In other words, it is the reader only who is not allowed to know their gender, and is thus forced to place him/herself within the gender continuum and read the novel from both points of view as if it were two parallel stories. In Written on the Body, for example, the reader may at first presume that the narrator describing a love affair with a married woman is a man. However, this is never clearly stated and the whole story can also be read from the perspective of a female narrator. I do believe that there are parts in Winterson’s seminal novel that hint at a lesbian interpretation of the love story as the following conversation between the narrator and his/her previous lover, Jacqueline, testifies to: “She’s very beautiful isn’t she?” said Jacqueline “Who?” “Louise.” “Yes, yes, I suppose she is if you like that sort of thing.” “Do you like that sort of thing?” “I like Louise yes. You know I do. So do you.” “Yes.”12 11 12

Livia, Pronoun Envy, 58. Winterson, Written on the Body, 29.

Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice 117

The object of the two characters’ desire and appreciation is a woman, Louise, and, as we know that one of them is another woman, Jacqueline, we may think that also the narrator is a woman because of the second-last sentence, “I like Louise yes. So do you”. When translating the novel into Italian, the translator should maintain the “genderlessness” of the narrator by avoiding the adjectives and tense markers that include gender morphemes as well. Thus, when possible, historic past should be preferred, and constructions with overtly gendered adjectives should be replaced by neutral ones, such as “Poor me”13 translated as “Me infelice”.14 In Written on the body, however, the narrator is pronominalized not only through the first person singular ‘I’, but through the third person as well. This occurs in particular when the narration splits into a script and the narrator’s lover speaks as if she were telling a line written for an actor, while what concerns the narrator is contained in what looks like stage directions: Interior. Afternoon. A bedroom. Curtains half drawn. Bedclothes thrown back. A naked woman of a certain age lies on the bed looking at the ceiling. She wants to say something. She’s finding it difficult. A cassette recorder is playing Ella Fitzgerald, ‘Lady Sings the Blues’. NAKED WOMAN I wanted to tell you that I don’t usually do this. I suppose it’s called committing adultery. (She laughs.) I’ve never done it before. I don’t think I could do it again. With someone else that is. Oh I want to do it again with you. Over and over again. (She rolls on to her stomach.) I love my husband you know. I do love him. He’s not like other men. I couldn’t have married him if he was. He’s different, we’ve got a lot in common. We talk. Her lover runs a finger over the bare lips of the naked woman. Lies over her, looks at her. The lover says nothing.15

The narrator is anaphorically introduced by means of the noun phrase her lover, which in English does not reveal the gender of the ‘owner’, and then with the noun phrase the lover. For the Italian translator, it is impossible to keep the neutrality of the possessive adjective, which would require an article as well – il suo amante or la sua amante. Consequently, something has to be lost here and since the narrator is called ‘the lover’ in the source


Ibid., 26. Winterson, Scritto sul corpo, 24. 15 Winterson, Written on the Body, 14. 14


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text as well, I would opt for the reiteration of the neutral expression l’amante in both cases.16 Elsewhere in the novel, when describing what the narrator has done with one of his/her lovers, s/he includes him/herself in the first person plural: We lay on our bed in the rented room and I fed you plums the colour of bruises. Nature is fecund but fickle. One year she leaves you to starve, the next year she kills you with love.17

Whereas the androcentric generic use of masculine morphemes for two or more people would make sense – despite its sexism – in the case of a manwoman couple, it would sound extremely awkward with two female referents. Hence, the translator should avoid tenses with gendered morphemes in the target language, such as, for example, siamo rimasti/e or past participles like sdraiati/e and choose a gender-neutral tense structure like rimanemmo a letto.18 In experimental novels such as Written on the Body and Love Child, the continuous need for neutral pronouns and non-gendered structures to refer to apparently androgynous characters affects the narration as well in what Livia defines as an identity fragmentation process: It is the presence of nongendered characters described in the third person that most undermine the structures for creating textual cohesion. […] It is [the] character […] whose identity is fragmented […]. This is because the devices that can be used to avoid gender reference in English – repetition of the proper name; reference (i.e., use of a noun phrase description); lexical substitution; ellipsis; and free indirect speech, which omits any introduction to speech that would tie an utterance to a specific character –


In the Italian translation, instead, Giovanna Marrone avoids the repetition of the noun phrase l’amante and opts for an implied subject, which still maintains the gender ambiguity of the text: “L’amante fa scorrere un dito sulle labbra senza trucco della donna nuda. Si sdraia su di lei, la guarda. Non dice nulla” (Winterson, Scritto sul corpo, 13). 17 Winterson, Written on the Body, 17. 18 In order to have a gender-neutral sentence, the Italian translator changes the ST syntax and – quite unexpectedly and unnecessarily – employs the present tense: “A letto, nella stanza d’affitto, ti offro da mangiare delle prugne colore dei lividi. La natura è fertile ma incostante. Un anno ti affama, l’anno dopo ti fa morire d’amore” (Winterson, Scritto sul corpo, 16).

Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice 119 all create a more fragmentary sense of self than does the use of an anaphoric pronoun (he or she).19

This is true for Love Child20 as well, where a non-gendered child-narrator – Kit – tells about his/her obsession with his/her mother and his/her jealousy towards his/her mother’s genderless lover, whom the child calls Ajax, which eventually leads to the death of the mother’s lover and the narrator’s new role as his/her mother’s lover. Ajax, the narrator’s father’s secretary, is constantly referred to either by name or by the expression “my mother’s lover”. Thus, the author’s employment of the above-quoted devices prevents the reader from understanding the gender of the two characters. The translator of this text can adopt the strategies we mentioned for Written on the Body and can thus work on the linguistic structures of the target language that mark gender, in particular on a morphological level. Whereas expressions such as my mother’s lover are smoothly translated – as in Italian l’amante refers both to a male and a female lover, the translation of Love Child is not an easy task – as the title itself implies – because throughout the novel the narrator refers to him/herself by using nouns that are genderless in English, but that require gender specification in Italian. Suffice it to mention one example from the opening of the novel: It was I who christened my mother’s lover. You notice that I say “I” rather than “me.” I am a precocious child and my precocity has reached that formal phase where it is better to be right than liked.21

Whereas the first part of the passage should be easily dealt with, the word child is a true challenge. As a matter of fact, in order to translate the Past Simple it was I, instead of “sono stato/a io” (passato prossimo), “fui io” (passato remoto) can be adopted. A literal translation of a precocious child, on the other hand, would be “sono un bambino precoce” or “sono una bambina precoce” as in Italian there are no gender-unspecific nouns to refer to children – even the term infante (which nevertheless would sound somewhat odd here) would morphologically require gender specification in the article: un infante for a boy and un’infante for a girl. Furthermore, the semantic field of the word child is one of the most important elements in the characterisation of the protagonist and in the 19

Livia, Pronoun Envy, 59. Although it appeared more than forty years ago, Love Child has not been translated into Italian yet. 21 Duffy, Love Child, 3. 20


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Oedipal interpretation of the novel. Thus, we cannot avoid the word child by omitting the predicate and inserting a verb phrase like sono precoce. Consequently, I believe that the translator should rephrase the sentence so that the two elements related to childhood and precociousness are maintained and contrasted like in the source text. Thus, an expression that refers to the age of the narrator could replace the personal noun child: Nonostante la mia giovane età, sono molto precoce.

However, such a choice heavily interferes with the source text as two elements are changed: firstly, the syntactic structure is altered and secondly, an adverb is introduced to grade the adjective so that the contrast with the first segment of the sentence is even more striking. As other parts of the novel make it clear, I think that with experimental texts like Duffy’s story, the role of the translator is that of preserving the ambiguity of the source language at the basis of the disruptive discourse of what we can label as a transgender text. I would like to conclude by quoting Ursula LeGuin’s masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), a science-fiction novel set on another planet – Winter – inhabited by androgynous creatures, the Gethenians, whose bodies are genderless only for twenty days a month. During each month’s last ten days, they enter a state, known as “kemmer”, in which they can reproduce, and develop either male or female genitalia. As the outcome is unpredictable and varies each month, LeGuin defines them ambisexual, which has social and cultural consequences that subvert the hetero-normative assumptions and the dichotomous categories Transgender Studies and Translation Studies have been striving to challenge as well: Consider: A child has no psycho-sexual relationship to his mother and father. There is no myth of Oedipus on Winter. Consider: There is no unconsenting sex, no rape. As with most mammals other than man, coitus can be performed only by mutual invitation and consent; otherwise it is not possible. […] Consider: There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. In fact the whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed, on Winter.22


LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 76.

Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice 121

Bibliography Casagranda, M. 2010, “Trans/Gendering Translations? Crossing Gender in Translation” in E. Federici ed., Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang, 205-214. Duffy, M. 1994 (1971), Love Child, London: Virago. Eugenides, J. 2002, Middlesex, London: Bloomsbury. —. 2003, Middlesex, Milano: Mondadori (translated by K. Bagnoli). Kessler S. J. and W. McKenna 2006, “Toward a Theory of Gender”, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle eds, The Transgender Studies Reader, London: Routledge, 165-182. LeGuin, U. 1992 (1969), The Left Hand of Darkness, London: Orbit. Livia, A. 2001, Pronoun Envy. Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shepherdson, C. 2006, “Selection from The Role of Gender and the Imperative of Sex”, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle eds, The Transgender Studies Reader, London: Routledge, 94-102. Stone, S. 2006, “The Empire Strikes Back. A Posttransexual Manifesto” in S. Stryker and S. Whittle eds, The Transgender Studies Reader, London: Routledge, 221-235. Stryker, S. 2006, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges. An Introduction to Transgender Studies”, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle eds, The Transgender Studies Reader, London: Routledge, 1-17. Winterson, J. 2001 (1992), Written on the Body, London: Vintage. —. 1993, Scritto sul corpo, Milano: Mondadori (translated by G. Marrone).


“One is not born a woman, one becomes one” (Simone de Beauvoir)

Introduction: Gender, Cinema and Audio-Visual Translation The cinematic medium has always provided a space in which culture and language could meet and interact in order to provide a representation and analysis of gender-related issues. As a result, films constitute a fertile ground for investigating gender issues in translation, or more specifically, gender issues in audio-visual translation (AVT). 1 AVT has gained enormous currency and autonomy within Translation Studies (TS), especially in countries such as Italy, France or Spain, with a consolidated tradition in dubbing.2 The following paper engages with the audiovisual translation of key lexical, semantic, and grammatical aspects which constitute the verbal text of the independent comedy Transamerica (2005), dealing with the subject of transgender and sex reassignment in today’s America. The aim of this essay is to show how a film such as Transamerica, whose protagonist is sexually ambiguous, challenges translation practices.


De Marco, “Gender Portrayal in Dubbed and Subtitled Comedies”, 176. See Freddi and Pavesi, Analysing Audiovisual Dialogue (2009), Diaz Cintas, New Trends in Audiovisual Translation (2009), Diaz Cintas and Andermann, Audiovisual Translation (2009), Chiaro et al., Between Text and Image (2008). 2

Translating Gender on Screen across Languages


Written and directed by Duncan Tucker in 2005, the film follows a preoperative transsexual woman, Sabrina “Bree” Osborne who, only a week before her long-awaited sex reassignment surgery, discovers that she has had a son from what she defines as a one-time “tragically lesbian” affair with a former university girlfriend while she was still known as Stanley Shupack. Forced by her therapist to fly to New York in order to bail the boy out of a juvenile facility, Bree will have to come to terms with the Other, i.e. her former existence as Stanley, a return of the repressed which finds its embodiment in her son Toby. The journey both Bree and Toby take across pre-eminently rural America, which renders the film a road movie, becomes a spiritual journey during which both Bree and Toby will come to know each other and will have to confront their real selves. The film begs questions as to the ways in which today’s America looks at transsexuals and what kind of cultural and ideological constraints attach to certain views of transsexuals and gender in general. It owes much to its lead performer Felicity Huffman, who is able to shake off her naturally-born femininity, to give her voice an indefinite pitch (which is unfortunately lost in the dubbed version) and to reshape her body (thanks to the use of prosthetics) in order to provide a credible and convincing representation of a human being physically caught on the threshold of two sexes. Yet, the film mainly depicts Bree’s determination to become a woman, to make other people see that her true gender is not the one determined by her biological sex, her upbringing and the social practices which in many cultures work to differentiate what is “male” from what is “female”.

A Contrastive Analysis The following contrastive analysis has been carried out using an orthographic transcription of the dialogues in the SL and the TL as they appear on the DVD. The initial translation of the film dialogues was carried out by Diana Corsini, while Roberto Chevalier was in charge of the entire adaptation process. Unfortunately, in spite of their availability to supply the material, neither Mrs Corsini nor Mr Chevalier have retained, respectively, her original translation and his initial version of the adaptation. Looking at the original material and confronting it with the final result could have possibly offered the opportunity to reflect on the translatress’ and the adapter’s stylistic differences and idiosyncratic use of language and, more importantly, on their different approaches to the translation of gender. Furthermore, the different stages in the adaptation of the film dialogues could have helped to show what, in a private correspondence with the adapter, have been defined heavy inferences on


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the part of the producer/distributor in relation to the dialogues translation and adaptation. The main difference between the SL and the TL which emerges from an analysis of the film’s dialogues is the opposition between the grammatically gendered nature of the TL and the grammatically neuter SL. Such a difference profoundly affects the ATV in relation to adjectives, copular verbs, verb tenses which in the TL require a gender agreement with the person they refer to, as it emerges from the first example I would like to analyse. The following dialogue is taken from a scene which focuses on the face-to-face interaction between Bree and her therapist Margaret, shortly after Bree has been deemed psychiatrically fit to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Bree has already received Toby’s phone call and talks to Margaret about it. Table 1 Margaret: I am so proud of you! Two signatures. I hereby pronounce you officially legal to undergo sexual reassignment surgery…. Margaret: Bree... this is a part of your body that cannot be discarded. I don't want you to go through this metamorphosis only to find out you're still incomplete.

Margaret: Sono così fiera di te. Due firme! Così, io ti dichiaro ufficialmente autorizzata a sottoporti all'intervento chirurgico di riassegnazione sessuale!… Margaret: Bree, questa è una parte del tuo corpo che non puoi buttare via. Io non voglio che affronti questa metamorfosi....per poi scoprire che sei ancora incompleta.

Bree: What if I visit him later... after my surgery...after I've settled into my new life?

Bree: E se andassi... a trovarlo mio intervento, quando mi sarò....adattata alla mia nuova vita?

Margaret: When you're ready.

Margaret: Quando sarai pronta.

This excerpt shows that the neutrality of the English language, both in the ungendered use of personal pronouns ‘I’ and ‘You’ and in the use of the adjectives or past participles in bold, allows to preserve Bree’s intersexuality at the time of the conversation. In the Italian version, the neutrality of personal pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’ is maintained, and in any case these pronouns, given the inflected nature of the Italian verbs, are

Translating Gender on Screen across Languages


usually omitted in order to preserve the spontaneity of the oral interaction in the TL. The translation of adjectives, copulae and past participles, instead, privileges a feminine agreement, which effectively does justice to what Bree recognizes as her true gender. The final Italian version performs sexual reassignment, as Casagranda would argue, 3 which neutralises Bree’s condition in between sexes, but helps the audience accept Bree as a woman even though she is technically still a man. Table 2 Father: May I help you, young lady? Bree: Dad, it's me. Dad: Jesus Christ, I can't even recognize you. Bree: It's me, only DIFFERENT. Mother: So you've done it. It's all over. (Bree’s mother touches her crotch then exclaims) Mother: Thank God, Murray. He's still a boy. (Bree then forces her to touch her breasts, as a result of which Bree’s mother runs out of the room crying) Mother: My poor Stanley. (In the Kitchen) Dad: Are you sure you're all right, Stanley? Bree: Fabulous. Never been better.

Padre: Desidera, signorina? Bree: Sono io, papà. Padre: Santo Dio! Neanche ti riconosco. Bree: Sono io, solo DIVERSO. Madre: Allora, l' hai fatto...E tutto finito.

Madre: Grazie a Dio, Murray, è ancora un maschio! (RlDE)

Madre: Il mio povero Stanley! (In cucina) Padre: Sei sicuro di stare bene, Stanley? Bree: Benissimo. Mai stata meglio.

Later on in the film, Bree takes Toby to Phoenix where her estranged family lives. Bree’s return, a sort of return of the prodigal child, allows the director to stage the tensions existing between Bree and her family, particularly her mother (whose character in the film is invested with an almost patriarchal, phallocentric authority), who has never accepted her dysphoria and continues to consider Bree a man. The following dialogues refer to the scene in which Bree and her family meet again after a long 3

Casagranda, “Trans/Gendering Translations?”, 209.


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time, although, more accurately, one should say that the scene focuses on the first encounter between Stanley’s parents and Bree as she knocks at their door. Unlike the SL, the mandatory translation of gender in the TL instead allows to juggle between Bree’s perception of herself as a woman and her family’s vision of Bree as Stanley. Furthermore, the choice to make Bree use a masculine agreement to talk about herself, allows to represent Bree’s initial inability to stand up to her mother’s authoritarian character. In the kitchen, instead, when Bree is talking to her father only, she is able to reassert her feminine identity. It should be also noted how Bree’s mother use of the pronoun “He” in the sentence “HE is still a boy” is particularly emphatic since, through the personal pronoun, Bree’s mother can further deny Bree’s feminine status and emphasise the fact that, from a sexual point of view, She is still a He. The omission of the personal pronoun in the Italian version, while conforming to a more spontaneous orality in the TL, erases this difference and mitigates Bree’s mother’s temporary triumph deriving from her linguistically denying of Bree’s femininity. The use of both masculine and feminine agreement to talk about Bree allows the TL to show the difficulty of Bree’s sister, Sydney, in assigning a clear-cut feminine identity to what she still sees as Stanley, though strained and deprived of “the boy pulp”. As the following example shows (relating to a conversation taking place between Bree and Sydney), the latter manages more easily to negotiate between Bree’s former and current identity. Linguistically, such a negotiation manifests through Sydney’s continuous switching between the use of masculine and feminine nouns. Table 3 Sidney: You lucky son of a--I mean, you lucky bitch.

Sidney: Sei un fortunato figlio di....Cioè sei davvero fortunata.

The English expression shows a male noun “son” which is substituted with the female noun “bitch”, a word which in this context the SL audience does not perceive as offensive. In the Italian version, the switch from one gender to the other is expressed through the deletion of the word ‘bitch’ which an Italian audience could misinterpret or take as a swear word. Nonetheless, the shift from the male noun and adjective “fortunato figlio di…” to the feminine copula “sei davvero fortunata” reflects Sydney’s awareness of Bree’s gender metamorphosis.

Translating Gender on Screen across Languages


In another scene in which the recently reunited family attempts to celebrate and overcome the resentments that have kept each other apart for so many years, the dialogues privilege words which are ungendered. Table 4 (At the restaurant, woman at the next table after watching toby help Bree to sit down) Woman: Nice to see a young man being so polite to his mother. Bree’s mother: That's not his mother!

(Al ristorante. Donna seduta al tavolo a fianco commenta il gesto di Toby che aiuta a Bree a sedersi) Donna: E bello vedere un ragazzo così educato con sua madre. Madre di Bree: Non è sua madre!

Here in particularly, the demonstrative pronoun “That” allows Bree’s mother to avoid denoting Bree’s biological sex through the use of ‘he’ or ‘she’; in addition, “that” clearly conveys Bree’s mother disgust at the thought of her son being a woman and a mother. The omission of the pronoun in the Italian version preserves the sexual ambiguity, while intonation and other prosodic features compensate for the omission of the other semantic functions provided by the demonstrative pronoun in the SL. The following example, instead, is taken from a conversation between Bree and Toby and shows how the use of expletives provides a genderbiased equivalent to a gender-biased vocative in the SL. Table 5 Bree: Sixty, eighty.One hundred. Here. Will that hold you for a while? Toby: Yeah. Dude, this is great. Bree: I wish you would stop calling me dude.

Bree: 60... 80... 100 dollari. Tieni. Ti basteranno per un po'? Toby: Sì. Cazzo, è fantastico! Bree: Potresti evitare di usare quella parola?

Bree’s discomfort at being called “dude” is easily understandable given her desire to annihilate what is left of her original biological sex, particularly as, in this case, the word “dude” reminds her of her past. The Italian translation completely alters the conversation, firstly in order to preserve the lip-synch, and secondly because no term in Italian has the same linguistic function and meaning of ‘dude’ in American English (AmE). The Italian version capitalises on Bree’s disgust for her penis, which she has overtly declared in conversation with a psychiatrist at the


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beginning of the movie. By using the most phallocentric explicative available in the TL, a word evoking that part of her former self that Bree is determined to excise and eliminate, the Italian translation offers a clever and extremely appropriate solution which preserves the pun and is able to convey Bree’s discomfort at hearing the word. I will now focus on two examples which illustrate how the AVT alters two significant moments in the dialogues which help the audience empathise with, and understand, Bree’s inner feelings. The first relates to a scene occurring only two minutes into the film, when Bree is undergoing her final psychiatric evaluation before sexual reassignment: Table 6 Psych: Any suicidal tendencies? >Bree: No.

> Psichiatra: Nessuna tendenza suicida? > Bree: No.

Psych: You ever felt as though you were being followed? >No.

> Ha mai provato la sensazione di essere seguita? > No.

Psych: Any history of family mental illness? >No.

> Casi di malattie mentali in famiglia? > No.

Psych: Medical procedures to date? >The usual electrolysis. three years of hormone therapy. facial feminization surgery. brow lift. forehead reduction. jaw re-contouring and a tracheal shave.

> Procedure mediche eseguite?




Bree: I try to blend in. Keep a low profile. I believe the slang terminology is ''Living Stealth. ''

> La solita elettrocoagulazione,tre anni di terapia ormonale, chirurgia plastica facciale, lifting delle sopracciglia, riduzione della fronte,rimodellamento della mascella e riduzione del pomo d’Adamo. MOLTO

> Cerco di confondermi,....di non dare nell'occhio. Credo che in gergo si dica: “Vivere da non dichiarata“.

Translating Gender on Screen across Languages


The sentence “You look authentic” is fundamental, because it expresses a preliminary evaluation with regards to how the psychiatrist perceives Bree’s femininity and whether she is, according to the psychiatrist (functioning here as the representative of a male patriarchal authority), fit to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The predicative verb “look” signals that, despite all the previous treatments, Bree is still a transsexual in a woman’s clothes. Yet, the adjective “authentic” tells us that Bree’s looks are not just the result of a gifted performer and cross-dresser, but of a person who has gone to great lengths to affirm her real gender. The whole film is about making the audience see that Bree’s femininity is, in the multiple meanings of the word “authentic”, available on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), “genuine”, “real” “original” and “legally valid.” The adjective ‘authentic’ alerts the audience to consider how “gender is not something we are born with, and not something we have, but something we do (West and Zimmerman 1987) – something we perform (Butler 1990)”.4 Furthermore, as the OED points out, ‘authentic’ and ‘author’ share the same etymological root: the adjective “authentic” evokes the image of Bree’s body and identity as a text of which she is the author and upon which she ultimately wishes to exert unique authority. By qualifying her as ‘authentic’, the director pits the psychiatrist’s view against those of other characters who constantly question the genuineness of Bree’s femininity and her honesty and sincerity with regards to her condition. The TL, instead, uses the adjective “Naturale” which, in my view, short-circuits the transmission to the audience of the messages I have just discussed. In fact, although the word is a synonym of ‘authentic’ in its meaning of “honest rather than false” (OED), the word evokes, most commonly and most intuitively, the idea of “something existing in nature and not produced by or caused by people” (OED). The term risks jeopardising the writer/director’s attempt to challenge the audience’s assumptions about the artificiality of Bree’s femininity and to see her womanhood as genuine. The choice here has been dictated by synchronization problems, and it is a good example of what gets lost in translation, particularly the image of Bree as the author of her body and the sole person to have authority over it. The translation of the term “butch”, which in English carries a specific semantic gender connotation, offers another interesting comparison between the original dialogues and their audiovisual translation. Bree uses the term while shopping for a sleeping bag, when she asks a shopping assistant: 4

Eckert and Mc Connell-Ginet, Language and Gender, 10.


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Table 7 Bree: Do you have something a trifle less...butch?

Non avete qualcosa di un po' meno... macho?

Within such context, the word ‘butch’ has an extremely funny effect, given by the improbable association between the idea of camping out in a sleeping bag and that of a behaviour pertaining to a “lesbian of masculine appearance or behaviour”(OED). The mitigator “trifle” renders Bree’s utterance even more markedly feminine, highlighting the contrast with “butch”. The term points to a status in-between sexes yet, it certainly evokes a display of masculinity which hardly belongs to Bree. Her usage of the term reveals her anxiety over the possibility that someone might “read” her. The Italian ‘macho’ certainly evokes the idea of an overtly displayed masculinity and virility, but does not have in the TL any open reference to the lesbian, gay or bisexual culture. My final example focuses on a particular moment halfway through the film in which the issue of transgender is explicitly addressed. The scene takes place in a house in Dallas, where a transsexual living in stealth is having “the first meeting of the gender pride President’s Day weekend Caribbean cruise planning committee” with a group of pre- and post-op friends. While Toby appears at ease and curious to join the party, Bree is terrified that her “secret” may be discovered. Among the various guests is David, who gives Toby a mini-lecture on the perks of being a transsexual. Table 8 David: We're not genderchallenged, we're gender-gifted. I've been woman and I've been man, and I know more things than you single-sex people can even imagine. Toby: Dude, I thought you were a real guy. >We walk among you!

David: Non ci sentiamo limitati dal genere, semmai arricchiti. Io sono stato donna e uomo...e so cose che voi persone a sesso unico neanche immaginate. Toby: Cavolo, io ti credevo un uomo! > Noi siamo in mezzo a voi.

Translating Gender on Screen across Languages


Significantly, in my opinion, the comparison between the SL and TL evidences the use of the term ‘gender’ in the formation of compound adjectives “gender-challenged”, “gender-gifted” and in the use of the compound noun “gender-pride”. Here the linguistic usage of the word ‘gender’ in the formation of compounds in the SL points out to a greater attention to gender issues in the Anglo-Saxon culture. The TL maintains the term “gender” in the expressions “orgoglio di genere” and in the sentence “non ci sentiamo limitati dal genere”, a term which however remains slightly alien in everyday Italian. David peppers his conversation with filmic and cultural references (among which the notorious “they walk among us” from the 1982 TV series Mysteries of the Universe which has given rise to a calque in the TL), paraphrases the famous line from Blade Runner to describe his life as a transsexual, and show how his transgendered existence can be a life-enriching experience. The TL preserves the paraphrases and the cultural references and introduces the expression “a sesso unico’, a play on the expression ‘a senso unico’ a funnier translation of ‘single sex’. In the SL, the reiterated use of the pronoun “I” in the English language becomes the marker of David’s “polycentric identity”, 5 a marker which is preserved in the TL in spite of, or rather because of, the omission of the personal pronoun in two out of three instances. The passage from “real guy” to the simple “un uomo”, instead, elides the term “real”, one among the many intra-textual references pointing to the binary opposition between ‘real’, i.e. ‘authentic’, versus ‘fake’ or ‘phony’ around which the treatment of transsexuality or gender dysphoria in the film revolves.

Conclusion In conclusion, Transamerica offers a meditation on transgenderism by arguing that “gender doesn’t just exist, but is continually produced, reproduced, and indeed changed through people’s performance of gendered acts, as they project their own claimed gendered identities, ratify or challenge others’ identities.”6 This film constitutes an interesting and useful tool to investigate the paramount role that language plays in the production, reproduction and performance of gender, and highlights how cultural and linguistic markers help construct the identities of its characters or to convey specific messages through dialogues. Given the importance that AVT has gained in countries where a solid tradition in dubbing exists, 5 6

Casagranda , 214. Eckert and McConnell-Ginet, Language and Gender, 4.


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the investigation of Transamerica’s dialogues and of their audiovisual translation has allowed to examine how this specific translation modality preserves or alters the linguistic construction of Bree’s gender identity by means of calques, translational routines, synchronization problems concerning lexical, semantic or syntactic features, and alterations due to the untranslatability of certain puns, word plays or of cultural references. More significantly, the analysis of this film has highlighted how the transgender condition challenges translation practices and abilities as to what concerns the verbal representation of fluid, intersexual identities and forces us to rediscuss the use of language when talking about gender(s).

Bibliography Casagranda, M. 2011, “Trans/Gendering Translations? Crossing Gender in Translation” in E. Federici ed., Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang, 205-214. Chiaro, D., C. Heiss and C. Bucarla eds. 2008, Between Text and Image. Updating Research in Screen Translation, Amsterdam: John Benjamins. De Marco, M. 2009, “Gender Portrayal in Dubbed and Subtitled Comedies” in Diaz Cintas, Jorge ed., New Trends in Audiovisual Translation, Bristol: Multilingual Matter, 176-195. Diaz Cintas, Jorge ed. 2009, New Trends in Audiovisual Translation, Bristol: Multilingual Matter. Díaz Cintas, J. and G. Anderman eds. 2009, Audiovisual Translation. Language Transfer on Screen, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Eckert, P. and S. McConnell-Ginet 2003. Language and Gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Freddi, M.and M. Pavesi eds. 2009, Analysing Audiovisual Dialogue. Linguistic and Translation Insights, Bologna: CLUEB. Oxford English Dictionary. OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 10 November 2012. Transamerica 2005. Directed by D.Tucker. USA.


Aboriginal literature begins as a cry from the heart directed at the whiteman. It is a cry for justice and for a better deal, a cry for understanding and an asking to be understood.2

A translator of Sally Morgan’s My Place faces many challenges: the multilayered structure of the book, the polyphonic nature of the text heard through four different voices, the distinct linguistic registers, the changes occurring to the narrative voices from the beginning to the end of the text, the many intertextual elements about Australian history, culture, society and Aboriginal roots, the linguistic references to Australian English and Aboriginal English are not easy elements to retrace and translate into a target language/culture. While reading it and preparing his own rewriting and adaptation of the text, the translator immediately recognizes he has to cope with a ‘textual struggle’. My essay intends to analyse Sally Morgan’s text into the Italian context, specifically referring to the Italian translation made by Maurizio Bartocci in 1997.3 My interest lies in the 1

The financial support of the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (grant research FEM2009-10976) for this research is gratefully acknowledged. 2 Narogin, Writing from the Fringe. A Study of Modern Aboriginal Literature. 3 Morgan, La mia Australia.


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importance of Morgan’s book in the history of Aboriginal writing and in reproducing/transferring Sally Morgan’s My Place into Italian for an Italian reader, probably unaware of many aspects about Australian history. Sally Morgan’s text is very useful for a discussion on the gaps between theory and practice because it is certainly difficult to translate its many direct (and indirect) references to Aboriginal history and culture in the last century. It is also a good example for a translation focused on gender issues because this novel is about matrilineal heritage; we can say it is a culturally and gendered ‘loaded’ text. As a matter of fact, three out of the four stories in the book are by women offering a gendered perspective on how Australian society has changed towards Aboriginal people over the years. Aboriginal women like Nan, Sally’s grandmother, have fought genocide, dispossession and sexual exploitation; women like Gladys, Sally’s mother, have been powerlessness as children and forcefully detached from their family – the infamous “Stolen Generation”. Sally’s social improvement and recognition highlights the huge gap between these generations and the new perception about Aboriginal women in Australian society (even if class differences, access to education and social problems among Aboriginals are still poignant factors). This hybrid autobiographical novel is for the Italian translator an interesting battleground for linguistic and cultural choices. Morgan’s text follows an essential grammatical structure, a simple repetitive lexicon which characterizes the four speaking subjects: Sally, Gladys, Arthur and Daisy. Short sentences and lack of subordinates make the novel a ‘conversational’ text where word usage reclaims a distinctive cultural identity, the Aboriginal one. Even if the author uses a highly literate English language the text is nonetheless intertwined with Australian English words and accurately chosen cultural-bound words in Aboriginal languages that not only add an exotic flavor to the novel but create an empathy between Aboriginal histories and the Italian reader, quite unaware of the history of horror perpetuated in Australia. Historical facts are told from the Aboriginal point of view unveiling a story of loss, trauma and violence. Moreover, orality, so central in Aboriginal culture, is embedded in the narrative structure and strategies granting an important link with the essence of Aboriginal literature and culture.4 Sally Morgan’s text is a landmark book in Indigenous-Australian literature; it is widely studied in schools around Australia and is on the current senior syllabus in several states. Since its publication in 1987 it has 4

An interesting discussion on orality in Aboriginal literature as opposed to Walter Ong’s famous study can be found in E. Rask Knudsen, The Circle and the Spiral. A Study of Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Maori Literature.

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


sold over 500,000 copies in English speaking countries and has been widely translated into different European languages. Moreover, there is still an ongoing critical interest for this novel.5 The book has also been published in three parts (Sally’s Story, Arthur Corunna’s Story and Mother and Daughter: the Story of Daisy and Gladys Corunna) for young readers.6 Morgan won numerous literary prizes for this book for example, The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission Award for Literature (1987), the Braille Book of the Year Award (1988) and the Western Australian Citizen of the Year Award for Arts, Literature and Culture (1989). Various polemics have surrounded the text since its publication beginning from the critical response by the Drake Brockman family highly involved in the narrative of exploitation and violence towards Aboriginal people in the book. In order to dismantle Morgan’s portrait of the colonizers a different version of the story has been published by Judith Drake Brockman with the title Wongi Wongi, a point of view on the same story that aims at deconstructing Morgan’s portrayal of incest attached to her great grandfather, colonizer and pastoralist. 7 Critics to the novel were made also by Aboriginal writers and scholars, the most known of whom was Mudrooroo Narogin who in Writing from the Fringe (1990) criticized the editing of ‘Aboriginality’ of style and discourse in the book.8 He declared Morgan’s text to be a-political and her use of Standard English a result of the assimilation policy of the colonizer. 9 This is partly true but Sally Morgan’s educational language was English and the book is the result of her own history. The worse critique by Mudrooroo was that Aboriginality was made up for the content of the book: “Sally Morgan’s book is a milepost in Aboriginal literature in that it marks a stage when it is considered O.K. to be Aboriginal as long as you are young, gifted and not very black”.10 This is quite a simplifying way of reading the text. Even if the text has been accused of being ‘readable’ because non-threatening for white Australians,11 Morgan’s book 5

The book was well received also by white Australian readers/publishers/critics. See A. Shoemaker, Black Words White Page. Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988. 6 All volumes were published in 1990 by Freemantle Press. 7 Drake Brockman, Wongi Wongi: to Speak. A critique of Morgan’s book as an example of fabrication of Aboriginal history can be found in T. Thomas, “My Place: a Betrayal of Trust”. 8 This critique was quite controversial since Mudrooroo’s Aboriginality was questioned sparking a scandal in the media in the mid-90s. 9 Narogin, Writing from the Fringe. A Study of Modern Aboriginal Literature. 10 Ibid., p. 149. 11 Finn, “Postnational Hybridity in Sally Morgan’s My Place”.


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should be read at different levels, textual layers that unveil critical representations of Blacks and Whites in Australia and problematic versions of Aboriginal identity and authenticity. Critics have already discussed the ‘construction’ of Aboriginality by Morgan, 12 her abrupt recovery of the family’s Aboriginal past. The Aboriginal scholar, Marcia Langton, reflecting on the debates around the book stated: “The enormous response by white Australia to My Place lies somewhere in the attraction to something forbidden -‘Aboriginality’ or incest - and the apparent investigation and revelation of that forbidden thing through style and family history. It recasts Aboriginality, so long suppressed, as acceptable, bringing it out to the open. The book is a catharsis. It gives release and relief, not so much to Aboriginal people oppressed by psychotic racism, as to the whites who wittingly and unwittingly participated in it”.13

The indigenous writer and activist Jackie Huggins took a different position on Morgan’s book and claimed that: “it makes Aboriginality intelligible to non-Aboriginals although there are different forms of Aboriginality which need to be considered also: otherwise these remain exclusionary and the danger is that only one ‘world view’ is espoused”.14 The strength of the book seems to be Morgan’s passion in her search for the past.15 The issues of “mistranslation, misappropriation and disempowerement”16 are central in Morgan’s story and two keywords permeate the entire reading: a complex of attitudes and beliefs which constitute Aboriginality and the slippery controversial issue of “authenticity”; both are connected to the identity politics which is developed in the text. The text was perceived as “inauthentic” both by Australian Aboriginals and white critics, because embedded in the dominant culture and with a simplified perception of the Aboriginal world. 17 In his analysis of the novel Martin Renes outlines Morgan’s ability to put together Western education, the use of Western

12 Attwood, “Portrait of an Aboriginal as an Artist: Sally Morgan and the Construction of Aboriginality”. 13 Langton, “Aboriginal Art and Film. The Politics of Representation”. 14 Huggins, “Always Was Always Will Be”. 15 Docker, “Recasting Sally Morgan’s My Place: the Fictionality of Identity and the Phenomenology of the Converso”. 16 Wisker, Post-Colonial and African American Women’s Writing. A Critical introduction, 213. 17 Griffiths, “The Myth of Authenticity: Representation, Discourse and Social Practice”.

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


literary genres and the issue of orality and Aboriginal ‘sharing’ of secrets.18

An Aboriginal Woman’s Autobiography Sally Morgan’s book is often quoted as a main example for Aboriginal women’s autobiography and construction of Aboriginality. Since its publication the Australian publishing market has witnessed a proliferation of this genre as part of a recovery and reconstruction of Aboriginal life and culture in Australia. 19 These narratives were very important in deconstructing ‘white cultural amnesia’ and, as Brewster affirms, “have demonstrated Benedict Anderson’s dictum that a country’s biography, “must be narrated”.20 Aboriginal women’s autobiographies have worked as historical documents able to deconstruct the Great Australian silence, a history based on forgetting the physical and psychic violence and the unbearable racial denigration towards Aboriginal people. Morgan published the book for the Bicentennial reader, occupied in celebrating the birth of a new nation while he was forced to accept that there was another story. Indigenous protest movements brought a different political and social awareness of Australian history heavily marked by colonization and annihilation of native populations. Morgan’s character of the hospitalized, alcoholic, violent and racist father and the characters of the colonizers, the Drake Brockman family, clearly represent the ‘white sin’ of Australia. At the time of the publication of the book two issues were important: invisibility in the sense of unveiling Aboriginal silence on their own traumatic history, and inaccessability to Aboriginal history. The narrativization of Aboriginal women’s memoirs was aimed at making the invisible history of colonization of Australia visible and renaming Australia’s decolonized space. From this perspective, Katherine Trees has considered the novel as a “counter memory of colonialism” 21 made of personal and political resistance. Similarly, Gina Wisker has considered fictionalized autobiographies such as Morgan’s book as texts which “bring forth the issue of who writes, of the politics of co-authorship, of claims of 18

Renes, “Sally Morgan: Aboriginal Identity Retrieved and Performed within and without My Place”. 19 Zierott, Aboriginal Women’s Narratives: Reclaiming Identities. See also O. Haag, “From the Margins to the Mainstream: towards a History of Published Indigenous Australian Autobiographies and Biographies”. 20 Brewster, “An Uneasy Truce? Aboriginal Womren’s Autobiography in the Arena of Postcolonial Studies”, 204. 21 Trees, “Counter- Memories: History and Identity in Aboriginal Literature”, 3.


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identity, and of how we read such works”.22 In his study on Australian autobiography, published two years after My Place, John Colmer differentiates between European and Australian autobiography outlining some common themes like, for example, the importance of childhood experience, the binomic opposition the rural paradise/problematic urban world and the sense of place. 23 In this analysis he also included a distinctive genre that he defines as “female autobiography” of which Morgan’s text is an example. Women’s autobiographies reveal “a distinctly feminine mode of perception and writing”. 24 Morgan’s autobiography is more overtly dialogic and less introspective, it is an Aboriginal life story where the author utilizes other literary genres such as, for example, the detective story. Collingwood Whittick goes even further and defines Morgan’s text as an “Auto-ethnography” where the authorial I/eye” 25 frames all the stories of her family. If Hammond, O’Neill and Reid, affirm that “the text becomes a semiotic representation of the writer”,26 the author achieves this by splitting the narrative into four parts and presenting different people’s experience in various epochs thus envisaging a sociological account of the Aboriginals’ history and clash with colonization through three generations. The autobiographical element is fundamental not only in Morgan’s text but it has also been central also to Aboriginal lives. In fact, by offering a diachronic perspective on the relation between Aboriginal people and autobiography Penelope von Toorn has outlined how Aboriginal people were encouraged to testify at official inquiries, tell stories to the ethnographer and confess to missionaries. Their words were recorded and this performative aspect of Aboriginal storytelling, is central to their textual contemporary production.27 This function of the author/narrator as an ethnographer recording the family’s stories and transcribing them on the page around which Morgan’s text is constructed is thus cardinal to the narrative.28 In analyzing Morgan’s text and its translation into Italian we should remember that Morgan used oral source material revealing the centrality of oral culture in Aboriginal life and unveiling references to the rich 22

Wisker, Post-Colonial and African American Women’s Writing. A Critical introduction, 209. 23 Colmer, Australian Autobiography: a Personal Quest. 24 Ibid., 14. 25 Collingwood Whittick, “Sally Morgan’s My Place: Exposing the (Ab)original ‘Text’ Behind Whitefellas’ History”, 44. 26 Hammond M. O’Neill and J. Reid, Autobiography. The Writer’s Story, 8. 27 Von Toorn, Writing Never Arrives Naked. 28 Gelder, “Aboriginal Narrative and Property”.

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


linguistic and cultural archive of Aboriginal people choosing to disseminate them in a written form. Various meanings were given to this transcription of oral sources into the written form. Story telling has a memory form, it is not a linear narrative and as such it should be reordered. In Stephen Muecke’s opinion, “the translation from speech to writing [...] involves editing which is massive in its proportions and implications”29 whereas Colmer believes that Morgan’s recording of oral histories in cassettes is a sign of authenticity for the novel, because it gives verisimilitude to the narrative. Due to this recording act Morgan was compared to an ethnographer, or using Clifford’s term, we could say a “para-ethnographer”. 30 The debate was centred around Morgan’s articulation of Aboriginality due to the fact that she discovered it when she was an adult as she plainly asserts in her book: “Had I been dishonest with myself? What did it really mean to be Aboriginal? […] I’d never participated in corroborees or heard stories of the Dreamtime. I’d lived all my life in suburbia and told everyone I was Indian. I hardly knew any Aboriginal people. What did it mean to someone like me?”.31 At the centre of the book is the discovery of her ethnical background and her unveiling silences and secrets. Many critics have dealt with this issue outlining how her search for Aboriginality can be perceived as “Morgan’s heart of darkness”,32 or the importance of her pilgrimage to the places and extended family, 33 or her will “to reclaim a place for her Aboriginality”. 34 Morgan craftly weaves the narrators’ stories thus allowing the readers to become part of her discoveries sharing with them her quest for roots and inner struggles. Morgan’s text is a declaration of ethnic and cultural belonging along with a way of rethinking about Australian identity in general. The importance of women story-telling in this text is adamant and reiterates the centrality of oral culture from one generation to the other carried out by the family’s women.


Muecke, “Introduction” to Paddy Roe’s Gularabulu, 5. Eric Michaels utilized this term criticizing Morgan’s ‘fake’ Aboriginality: Michaels, “Para-Ethnography”. 31 Morgan, My Place, 141. 32 Bliss, “The Mythology of Family: Three Texts of Popular Australian Culture”, 65. 33 Downing, “Scrivendo il silenzio: le life-stories al femminile di Sally Morgan e Ruby Langford Ginibi”. 34 Brewster, Aboriginal Women’s Autobiography, 21. 30


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What Did it Really Meant to be Aboriginal? The success of the book changed Morgan’s life, she became more and more engaged in Aboriginal issues. She got involved in school workshops with Aboriginal children, she set up the Centre for Indigenous History and the Arts at the University of Western Australia that has been instrumental in breaking down the barriers between Aboriginal people and white culture, helping Stolen Generation victims to find their family and protecting intellectual property rights in the fields of Arts. In 2007 she coedited an anthology of indigenous-Australian entitled Speaking from the Heart: Stories of Life, Family and Country. Her second book, namurraganya: the Story of Jack McPhee (1989) was her grandfather’s biography. The answer to her own question “What did it really meant to be Aboriginal?” was for Morgan the use of polyphony, in fact, in this text authorship is inscribed in a shared communal experience rather than on an individual effort. The insertion of various voices demonstrates Morgan’s growing process in her acquisition of knowledge of Aboriginality. My Place is polyphonic because: 1) it includes more voices heard in parallel with the narrator, whose voice gradually fades away from the narration; 2) it moves from autobiography to Aboriginal textual conventions. 35 Referring to Bakthin’s idea of the novel as “an artistically organized social heteroglossia”, Subhash Jaireth underlines how the incorporation of three testimonies makes Morgan’s text an example of heteroglossia. 36 The author/narrator’s speech is presented in parallel with the speeches of three other narrators/members of the family. As Muecke affirms, Morgan “has resisted the impulse to enclose the others”.37 The narrators’ stories enable the reader to recover a diachronical history of Aboriginal family’s life thus understanding the struggle and violence perpetuated against Aboriginals in different epochs. The four stories, though each different and independent from the others, give a final frame to the whole story, linking the principal issues to the main narrative. It is the story of a silenced, fragmentary past that slowly comes to the surface revealed by reluctant narrators who, step by step, become more and assertive and forceful. In Joan Newman’s words “the four authorial voices [...] do not challenge one another, they have the same cohesive function of oral narrative in terms of their relation to each other. Rather, they challenge the discourses in which they are framed. 35

Muecke, “Aboriginal Literature and the Repressive Hypothesis” and “Body, Inscription, Epistemology: Knowing Aboriginal Texts”. 36 Jaireth, “The ‘I’ in Sally Morgan’s My Place: Writing of a Monologised Self”. 37 Muecke, Textual Spaces: Aboriginality and Cultural Studies, 134.

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


Orthodox European discourses of nationalism, and the generic form of autobiography”. 38 The novel is also polyphonic because one voice does not silence the other, they all form the final narrative: “Polyphony requires the decentering of authorial consciousness so that a dialogue between equally independent voices of the author and protagonists can take place”.39 Morgan does not talk for others but let them speak. It is the story of a silenced, fragmentary past revealed by reluctant narrators whose voices become more and more positive. As Finn underlines, Morgan’s well-thought structure is “a recuperative act of piecing together a collective memory across generations”.40 The text presents different linguistic registers, dialects and Aboriginal cultural-bound terms. The characters’ social and gender variations become markers of identity and, at the same time, discursive signs and socialcultural traces of specific periods of Australian history. Morgan’s text is grammatically essential, with a simple lexicon and repetitions. The reader understands the layering of meanings that are revealed as the narrative goes on and is enriched by new elements. Dialogues are characterized by everyday language conversations. Morgan has been criticized also for her use of language by Mudrooroo who asserted that the other lives in My Place are imprisoned between “slabs of Standard English subordinate to the framing self of Sally Morgan and her totalizing narrative”, 41 nevertheless I believe, borrowing the idea from Audre Lorde, that ‘using the master’s tools can dismantle the master’s house’. Morgan’s Australian English phrases do not domesticate the language of the ‘other’ that, on the contrary, marks its presence through speech mixture. Language use reflects social class, racial/ethnic background, gender and professional life. From this perspective the heteroglossic discourse also comes out from the characters’ speeches marked by all these categories and geographical belonging. The importance of Aboriginal languages through Nan’s shifts in language and Arthur’s recovery of Balgoo and other hints provided by the author in the text reveal the central role of language for Morgan.42 Certainly Morgan chose to make the text mor e readable to the non-


Newman, “Reader-Response to Transcribed Oral Narrative: A Fortunate Life and My Place”, 387. 39 Muecke, Textual Spaces Aboriginality and Cultural Studies, 71. 40 Finn, “Postnational Hybridity in Sally Morgan’s My Place”, 20. 41 Mudorroo in Muecke, 362. 42 For a study on Aboriginal languages see: Amery and Bourke “Australian Languages: our Heritage” and Blake, Australian Aboriginal Languages: a General Introduction.


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Aboriginal reader and uses pervasively standard English but her choice is also the result of forced linguistic assimilation and biographical erasure.

The Italian Translation: La mia Australia The Italian translation, published by Theoria ten years later was translated by Maurizio Bartocci who included a two-pages translator’s note at the end of the book; a second edition came out in 2007 by Bompiani with a Preface by Nadia Fusini where the scholar emphasizes a central issue of the novel, the sense of place, the sense of belonging to the nation Australia but also the psychological, interior landscape of each character. Before tackling this translation it is important to underline, that in Italy few Aboriginal texts are known because they are neither translated nor disseminated by publishers. Mudrooroo’s Wild Cat Falling/ Gatto selvaggio cade was translated in 2003 as part of the emerging Indigenous canon along with Doris Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence in 2004. 43 Marlo Morgan’s Mutant message down under/ e venne chiamata due cuori is still presented as an indigenous author while she is a highly controversial US author highly critics for her representations of Aboriginals.44 The title of the book, My Place is a key feature to read the text because it implies a rethinking of Australian nationalism through the Aboriginal concept of belonging to the land which is not connected to possession but rather to spirituality. The “Place” is not only a geographical entity but a mythical space connected to the time of memory. The title recalls the “reclaiming of place” carried out by Aboriginal people for land rights.45 The title of the book – part of what has been defined as the “Aboriginal Renaissance – highlights an important issue which will come to an end few years later with the historic High Court Mabo decision of 1992: the dismantling of the legal fiction of Australia as a terra nullius. The title reveals the climax of the book, the protagonists’ journey to the Aboriginal North, the trip to the land of the ancestors; “place is the dominant metaphor of the book”.46 Quite surpisingly according to these reason but quite common as part of editorial choices, in the Italian version the title has been changed into “La mia Australia” and the direct reference to the 43

Mudrooroo, Gatto selvaggio cade; Pilkingon, Barriera per conigli. Di Blasio “A Path of Words: the Reception of Autobiographical Australian Aboriginal Writing in Italy”. 45 Cfr. Baraldi, L’ultima terra: la cultura australiana contemporanea; O. Palusci and S. Bertacco, Postcolonial to Multicultural. An Anthology of Texts from the English-Speaking World. 46 Jaireth, 71. 44

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


main discourse - that is to say the Aboriginal subject towards the kinship network - has been completely lost. Nevertheless La mia Austtralia, was chosen for the the Italian version in order to allow Italian readers to make a connection with the country while emphasising at the same time, a personal history through the possessive ‘mia’. The second visible change in the Italian version is the cover. While the original text presents a painting by Morgan, who is a well-known urban artist, which functions as a ‘meta-reading’ of the text to allow readers to visualize the richness and depth of Aboriginal culture,47 in the Italian edition we find the photograph of a young Aborigine getting ready for a corroboree (and in the second edition a similar image of an Aboriginal dancing). Although this is undoubtedly an appreciable image from an aesthetical point of view, it also reassures the target reader thanks to its romantic representation of the noble savage. The representation of Aboriginality – the essence of the book – is given through its objectification in the depicted subject rather than through an image emphasizing Aboriginal creativity like in the source text (ST). When we open the book and begin to read the Italian version the first question that comes to mind is whether the polyphony of voices and oral discourses of the ST are preserved in the target text TT. The answer unfortunately is not a positive one. Notwithstanding the premises on cultural awareness in the translator’s note, serious changes were made to the original structure of the source text. The main reason was probably to translate the ST into readable and fluent Italian. If it is true that Italian is less direct than English, with longer sentences and passive constructions it is also true that the ST has been widely simplified. The TT has lost the oral flavor of the ST. Nan’s voice fiercely bursting out after decades of silence in the ST is tamed and domesticated in the target text losing one of the main structural devices of the novel. Moreover, the Italian version presents clear uniformity in the speeches of all the four characters, assimilated and rendered as a ‘group’ and not in their individuality clearly ‘audible’ in the ST. Step by step the four voices in the ST change and develop becoming more and more assertive. These variations in speech are totally absent in the TT; polyphony is reduced to one voice. Another important feature that is completely lost in the TT is broken grammar and slang which are present in the ST and not retraceable in the Italian translation where the 47 Aboriginal Visual Art is an important element for the understanding of Aboriginal culture. Many are the publications, among which: Amadio and Kimber, Wildbird Dreaming: Aboriginal Art of the Central Deserts of Australia; Morphy, Aboriginal Art and Caruana, Aboriginal Art.


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language seems to be standardized. As a consequence, also the rhythms and sounds of polyphony have disappeared. Moreover, the colloquial modes of expression that make the text visibly ‘oral’ in the ST cannot be ‘heard’ in the TT. The reader thus loses one of the main characteristics of Aboriginal narratives and the core elements of the text. Another aspect which is not always conveyed in the TT is the connotative meaning of words. Many are the terms referring to the Australian landscape, which not only possess a specific meaning in this context but are extremely important when connected to Aboriginal culture; for example, a term like ‘bush’ that not only identifies the Australian outback but acquires a different meaning that goes beyond the spatial/geographical connotation for Aboriginal people, was translated as ‘boscaglia’ a term that immediately recalls a very different image from the Australian outback domesticating the visual image of the Australian bush. To be fair, we must say that some words in Aboriginal English were kept in order to invite a perception of cultural difference but generally speaking the translation does not transpose many concepts which are central to Aboriginal culture. Since language embodies our conceptualization of experiences and cultural key-concepts, here Aboriginal beliefs like kinship or spirituality should be clearly conveyed (with the use of footnotes, a preface or even a glossary). In the Italian translation the translator maintains: 1) the use of orthography and capitalized letters through which the author emphasized some ‘places’ and issues; 2) the repetition of some keywords that reiterate a certain message; 3) some untranslated terms such as “blackfella” repeatedly used in the text with a derogatory connotation; 4) some footnotes explaining mainly Australian flora and fauna. However, the references in the footnotes are mainly informative and they neither unveil the complexity of correlated issues, nor clarify some aspects of Aboriginal culture. Even if acquainted with the specific socio-historical situation of Australia (and its history of race relations) the translator mainly opted for a more conventional rendering of the text carrying out a crosslinguistic/cultural editing for the target reader. May be as G. C. Spivak suggests, he should have called for an interpreter figure to help him to gather all the implications of Aboriginal culture and women’s role in it.48 Or should he have consulted the author, a communication that can have a special value in transposing a text into another culture?49Certainly when dealing with a Postcolonial text documentary competence is fundamental in order to better understand the many intertextual references to the ST 48 49

G.C. Spivak, Death of a Discipline. See Spivak’s “Introduction” in Devi, Imaginary Maps.

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


culture and context. Furthermore, the use of a critical apparatus where the translator can insert many explanations and information for the target reader is very important. Translation should deconstruct the target reader’s cultural categories and familiarize him/her with a different culture. A translator is responsible for the final work and its reception. This means, as G. C. Spivak has outlined in reflecting on Comparative Literature, that the translator should be, first of all, an interpreter between two socio-political and cultural worlds. In order to dismantle the dichotomy between the West(ern world) and ‘the rest’, the need of interpreting figures able to speak and translate minority languages becomes essential to reveal the other’s point of view and avoid misinterpreting their stratified and multi-layered languages. 50 Today, the ethics of the translation involves being aware of the risks deriving from speaking for others, erasing a Euro-centric notion of translation and above all, understanding the geo-socio-political context in which the original texts are produced (ethics of location). We should therefore take into consideration that the location of translators is connected to social practices and how translation is mainly an intercultural exchange which necessitates a profound awareness of linguistic and cultural boundaries. In the Italian translation of Morgan’s text women’s voices are domesticated and rendered ‘other’ from what they are, symbols of a traumatic history, embodiments of a matriarchal society and expressions of an imposed linguistic assimilation which nonetheless has some gaps. The Aboriginal woman’s voice in Italian does not sound Aboriginal: ST: “Well I’m hoping things will change one day. At least we not owned anymore. I Know it’s hard for You Sal hard to understand. You different to me. I been scared all my life […]. Do you think we’ll get some respect? I like to think the black man will get treated same as the white man one day. Be good, wouldn’t it? By gee it’d be good” TT: “Insomma spero che un giorno le cose cambieranno. Se non altro non siamo più proprietà di nessuno. So che per te è difficile Sal, difficile da capire. Tu sei diversa da me. Io ho avuto paura di parlare […] credi che avremo un po’ di rispetto? Mi piace pensare che un giorno l’uomo nero sarà trattato allo stesso modo che quello bianco. Sarebbe bello vero? Perdinci, sarebbe bello”

Nan’s Aboriginal language with its syntactical simplification and colloquial and immediate tone is rendered in a more formal Italian and, as shown in the example above, in a quite funny anachronistic lexical choice. 50

G.C. Spivak, Death of a Discipline.


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Erasure of difference and uniformisation to the target language and culture do not permit the understanding of cultural differences. In Morgan’s case the problem is even deeper because the structure of the text itself, the language used and the polyphony of voices should be kept in order to hear the author’s voice. In the Italian version the division of chapters was not kept so that the reader ends up having a different perception of the four narrators’ voices. In particular the colloquial register used in both Arthur Corunna’s story and Daisy’s Corunna story is lost in the Italian version. Morgan adopts a simple strategy to render Arthur and Daisy’s voices, she writes their words as if they are speaking, with an orthography that presents final ellipsis and syntactical elements of Aboriginal English. The translator on the contrary, opts for a standard Italian both in the grammatical and orthographical form. The Italian translation of the four characters’ voices diminishes the exchange of different speech patterns, erases the oral background of story-telling and the specificity of Aboriginal English. This is why the cultural factors beyond the linguistic choices remain unexplained. A gender and intercultural awareness is fundamental for a translation of Morgan’s novel which requires a deep understanding of Aboriginal difference, a willingness to relate Aboriginal values and an attentive reflection of possible linguistic choices.

Bibliography Amadio N. and Kimber R. 1988, Wildbird Dreaming: Aboriginal Art of the Central Deserts of Australia, Richmond, VIC: Greenhouse Publications. Amery R. and Bourke C. 1994, “Australian Languages: our Heritage” in Bourke C., Bourke E. and Edwards B. eds., Aboriginal Australia, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 102-122. Attwood B. 1992, “Portrait of an Aboriginal as an Artist: Sally Morgan and the Construction of Aboriginality”, Australian Historical Studies 25 ( 99), 302-18. Baraldi M. 2002, L’ultima terra: la cultura australiana contemporanea, Roma: Carocci. Blake J. B. 1991, Australian Aboriginal Languages: a General Introduction, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press. Bliss C. 1989, “The Mythology of Family: Three Texts of Popular Australian Culture”, New Literatures Review, 18, 60-72. Brewster A. 1993, “An Uneasy Truce? Aboriginal Women’s Autobiography in the Arena of Postcolonial Studies”, SPAN Journal of the South

Translating Sally Morgan’s Polyphonic Text into Italian


Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, issue on Postcolonial Fictions ed. by M. Drouart, 36, 144-153. Brewster A. 1996, Aboriginal Women’s Autobiography, Sydney: Sydney University Press. Caruana W. 1993, Aboriginal Art, London and New York: Thames & Hudson. Collingwood Whittick S. 2002, “Sally Morgan’s My Place: Exposing the (Ab)original ‘Text’ Behind Whitefellas’ History”, Commonwealth 25 (1), 41-58. Colmer J. 1989, Australian Autobiography: a Personal Quest, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Devi M. 1995, Imaginary Maps, trans. G.C Spivak, London and New York: Routledge. Di Blasio F. 2008, “A Path of Words: the Reception of Autobiographical Australian Aboriginal Writing in Italy” in Read P., Peters F. Little and Haebich A. eds., Indigenous Biography and Autobiography, Canberra: ANU Press, 29- 39. Docker J. 1998, “Recasting Sally Morgan’s My Place: the Fictionality of Identity and the Phenomenology of the Converso”, http://epress.anu. Downing S. M. 1998, “Scrivendo il silenzio: le life-stories al femminile di Sally Morgan e Ruby Langford Ginibi” in Albertazzi S., a cura di, Appartenenze. Le scritture delle donne di colore nelle letterature di espressione inglese, Bologna: Patron, 103-118. Drake Brockman J. 2001, Wongi Wongi: to Speak, Perth: Hesperian Press. Finn L. 2008, “Postnational Hybridity in Sally Morgan’s My Place”, Movable Type, 4, html. Gelder K. 1991, “Aboriginal Narrative and Property”, Meanjin, 50 (2/3), 353-65. Griffiths G. 1994, “The Myth of Authenticity: Representation, Discourse and Social Practice” in Tiffin C. and Lawson A. eds., De-Scribing Empire. Postcolonialism and Textuality, New York: Routledge, 70-85. Haag O. 2010, “From the Margins to the Mainstream: towards a History of Published Indigenous Australian Autobiographies and Biographies” in Read P., Peters-Little F. and Haebich A. eds., Indigenous Biography and Autobiography, ANU E Press and Aboriginal History Inc, Hammond O’Neill M. and Reid J. 1988, Autobiography. The Writer’s Story, Freemantle: Freemantle Arts Centre Press.


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Huggins J. 2003, “Always Was Always Will Be” in Grossman M. ed., Blacklines: Contemporary Critical Writing by Indigenous Australians, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 60-65. Jaireth S. 1995, “The ‘I’ in Sally Morgan’s My Place: Writing of a Monologised Self”, Westerly 40 (3), 69-78. Langton M. 2005, “Aboriginal Art and Film. The Politics of Representation”, Michaels E. 1988, “Para-Ethnography”, Art and Text 30, Sept.-Nov, 4251. Morgan S. 1987, My Place, Freemantle: Freemantle Arts Centre Press. —. 1997, La mia Australia, trans. M. Bartocci, Roma:Theoria. Morphy H. 1998, Aboriginal Art, London: Phaidon. Muecke S. 1988, “Aboriginal Literature and the Repressive Hypothesis”, Southerly, 48, 405-18. Muecke S. 1988, “Body, Inscription, Epistemology: Knowing Aboriginal Texts” in E. S. Nelson, ed., Essays on Black Literatures: Connections, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. —. 1992, Textual Spaces: Aboriginality and Cultural Studies, Kensington, New South Wales University Press. Narogin, M. 1990, Writing from the Fringe. A Study of Modern Aboriginal Literature, Melbourne: Hyland House. Newman J. 1988, “Reader-Response to Transcribed Oral Narrative: A Fortunate Life and My Place”, Southerly, 4, 376-389. Palusci O. and S. Bertacco 2004, Postcolonial to Multicultural. An Anthology of Texts from the English-Speaking World, Milano: Hoepli. Pilkingon D. 2004, Barriera per conigli, Milano: Giano editore. Rask Knudsen E. 2004, The Circle and the Spiral. A Study of Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Maori Literature, Amsterdam: Rodopi. Renes M. 2010, “Sally Morgan: Aboriginal Identity Retrieved and Performed within and without My Place”, Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense, 18, 77-90. Roe P. 1983, Gularabulu: Stories from the Western Kimberley, Freematle: Freemantle Arts Centre Press. Shoemaker A. 1992, Black Words White Page. Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press. Spivak, G.C. 2003, Death of a Discipline, New York: Columbia University Press. Thomas T. 2010, “My Place: a Betrayal of Trust”, Quadrant Online, May 17,

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Trees K. 1992, “Counter- Memories: History and Identity in Aboriginal Literature” in Bird D. and Haskell D. eds., Whose Place? A Study of Sally Morgan’s My Place, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 55-65. von Toorn P. 2006, Writing Never Arrives Naked, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. Wisker G. 2000, Post-Colonial and African American Women’s Writing. A Critical Introduction, New York: St. Martin’s Press. Zierott N. 2005, Aboriginal Women’s Narratives: Reclaiming Identities, Munster: LIT Verlag.


“A culture may be thought of as providing, among other things, a pool of available metaphors for making sense of reality”, as George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have argued in Metaphors We Live By (1980).1 Following this line of thought, studies of metaphor translation have tried to investigate how that the metaphoric choices available to a translator are filtered by the value and belief systems prevailing in the cultural community into which the text is translated (Dagut 1976; Snell-Hornby 1995; Mandelblit 1995). As Snell-Hornby suggests “the extent to which a text is translatable varies with the degree to which it is embedded in its own specific culture, also with the distance that separates the cultural background of source text and target audience in terms of time and place”.2 And for this reason, according to cognitive linguists metaphors must be looked at as cognitive constructs rather than mere linguistic entities or rhetorical phenomena. In other words, metaphors represent instances of how people conceptualize their experience and how they record it. Yet, as Lawrence Venuti notes (1995), translation choices may be related to canons and taboos, to codes and ideologies of the target culture. Hence, the gap between theory and practice in the translation of gendered metaphors may arguably also be related to conventional expectations related to the “ ‘gender order’ (i.e. the repressive ideology

1 2

Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 12. Snell-Hornby, Translation Studies: An Integrated Approach, 41.

Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors


which ensures that deviation from gender norms entails penalties)”3 of the target-language culture, in a given time and place. Building on such premises, this article investigates how Katherine Mansfield’s strategic ecofeminist semantic and lexical expansion through metaphorisation has been interpreted in the Italian translations of the short story “At the Bay” (1921) by Floriana Bossi (1978) and Edda Squassabia (1986).

Metaphorisation: A Post-colonial and/or Ecofeminist Issue? The discursive representation of the English language as a colonial and settler property has determined the asymmetrical access to the social space engendered by its possession. Yet, the inequalities that are produced and reproduced through its property are not givens or inevitabilities, rather conscious selections regarding the structuring of social relations. Through the representation of the colonial uses of English language as the only appropriate and authoritative ones, the colonial and settler order has established and protected an actual property interest in Standard varieties of English which are used to create a social divide and reputation. As Cheryl Harris notes (1993), social relations are the central feature of the reification of property: “Its basis is that a relation between people takes on the character of a thing and thus acquires a ‘phantom objectivity’, an autonomy that seems so strictly rational and all-embracing as to conceal every trace of its fundamental nature: the relation between people”.4 Thus critical approaches suggest that property claims over the English language pertain to the realm of discursive representation (Fairclough 1989; Pennycook 1994, 1998, 2001, 2007; Russo 2010, 2012). Influenced by the spirit of the New Zealand independence movement, which did not conceal its interest in the instrumental development of a New Zealand national idiom and aimed at severing colonial ties, Mansfield was deeply affected by the discursive representation of New Zealand English as the foundation of the nation. The analysis of metaphors in the discourse/text of her notebooks and short stories reveals the writer’s cognitive work of information processing, storage and retrieval of New Zealandisms related to the necessity of establishing “intersubjectivity”, i.e. a state of shared meaning,5 and finding a negotiated agreement on a place 3

Holmes, “Social Constructionism, Postmodernism and Feminist Sociolinguistics”, 53. 4 Harris, Whiteness as Property, 1730. 5 Riley, Language, Culture and Identity, 33.


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and landscape which did not fit the settlers’ archive. As Lakoff and Johnson have pointed out in Metaphors We Live By (1980), the earliest definition of metaphor – quoted from Aristotle’s The Poetics – refers to ‘a shift carrying over a word from its normal use to a new one’. Under this quite broad definition, metaphors may be considered as features of semantic extension, that is they somehow extend the semantic and logical elements of a given lexical constituent (together with allegory, synecdoche, metonymy). Moreover metaphor is a means to understand one domain of experience (the target domain) in terms of a familiar one (source domain). Therefore, metaphors are ‘conceptual’ phenomena in which the source domain is mapped onto the target domain. To put it differently, the structural components of the source conceptual schema are transferred to the target domain. Extending Lakoff’s and Johnson’s line of thought to the use of metaphors in early New Zealand literature in English, it may be possible to argue that metaphors of flora and fauna turned the unfamiliar natural landscape into a familiar place of belonging. Hence they were used to process and anchor the new and unexpected information about the colony’s landscape. Metaphorisation in Mansfield’s work variably signalled a quest for settler self-identification (Schneider 2009) and served the purpose of indigenization, a term coined by Terry Goldie to suggest “the impossible necessity of becoming indigenous”.6 Mansfield’s wish to communicate settler belonging through lexical expansion related to flora and fauna is congruent with the initial phases of exonormative stabilization and nativization of post-colonial English varieties (Schneider 2009). Nevertheless, it is often sidestepped by Mansfield’s desire to focus on metaphors that ‘foreground’ female discourse in the production of meaning. It is the contention of this study that Mansfield arguably adopted zoological and botanical metaphors in order to disrupt the colonial economy, which was based on the reproduction of patriarchal whiteness, property and settlement. Mansfield’s linguistic experimentation arguably responded to the deeper conceptual representation of women’s ambivalent and distressed role in the colony. The latter may be retraced in her recurrent use of metaphors and idiomatic expressions related to the cognitive metaphors: WOMAN IS ANIMAL and WOMAN IS NATURE (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). Metaphorisation in Mansfield’s short stories was also arguably influenced by the irresolution, or liminality, of Mansfield’s agency as a colonial/post-colonial woman. Gender lies at the heart of the language 6

Goldie, Fear and Temptation, 13-15.

Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors


variation which is used by Katherine Mansfield to (re)invent the reality of women in the new colony. The use of ecofeminist metaphorisation in her short stories operates in two different directions. The first is the insistence on natural and zoological metaphors as a counterpart to the settler patriarchal possessive investment in the national landscape. That is, not an essentialist identification of women with nature but a drive towards the unsettlement of the discursive domination of women and nature in the Colony, which have shared roots in the white patriarchal investment in property, settlement and the domestic (Merchant 1990; Soper 1995). The second is the use of metaphorisation to re-read nature as the site of becoming and interrelation between the human and non-human and as the universe of reference for becomings, the unfolding of virtuality or mutant values. This move may also be termed “transplanting”, that is, the suggestion of an ecofeminist model of porosity, fluidity, multiple interconnections and symbolic interrelations between the human and the non-human (Braidotti 2006).

The In/visibility of the Ecofeminist Translator The evaluation of several edited collections of Mansfield’s short stories reveals that feminist translation strategies have been adopted alongside the patriarchal ‘discourse’ of power and authority (Wodak 1995). For instance, according to Chamberlain (1988), edited collections often use the ‘authority effect’ of prefaces by influential academics and intellectuals to grant power to the work, revealing an anxiety about the translation’s “myths of paternity (or authorship and authority) and a profound ambivalence about the role of maternity”.7 Thus, there is a scarce presence of the feminist translation techniques of “footnoting” and “prefacing” (Federici 2011; Flotow 1991; Palusci 2010; Santaemilia 2011). This may be due to the often collective nature of the editions in which the short stories are translated by several different translators and prefaced by academics or intellectuals, as in the case of Adelphis’s collection, Tutti i racconti (1978), by Lucia Drudi Demby. In some other cases, such as Victoria Guerrini’s translation for Frassinelli (1952) or Armanda Guiducci’s translation for Rizzoli (1989), and Maura Del Serra’s translation for Newton (1996), the preface or introduction8 is signed by the 7

Chamberlain, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, 461. Tutti i Racconti, edited and translated by Maura Del Serra, and Tutti i Racconti, edited and partly translated by Franca Cavagnoli include very few footnotes, which are often yet not always related to loanwords, code-switching and historical events. 8


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translator, but the translator self-effaces her role as translator and devotes the preface to the life and work of Mansfield, in line with the tradition of what Lori Chamberlain has called following Serge Gavronsky “pietistic translators”, i.e. translators who take “vows of humility, poverty – and chastity. In secular terms, this is called ‘positional’ translation, for it depends on a well-known hierarchization of participants […] in this missionary position, submissiveness is next to godliness”. 9 Finally, the introduction by the academic scholar and translator, Franca Cavagnoli for Mondadori (2006) is actively devoted to the definition of Mansfield as a post-colonial women writer, while her “Nota alle traduzioni” describes her translation choices in regard to rhythm, lexicon and dialogues as related to her wish to preserve New Zealand English. Unfortunately, the “Nota alle traduzioni” regards only the four short stories translated by Cavagnoli, while considerations about the remnant translations translated by her students at ISIT are absent in the preface. In the case of Edda Squassabia’s (1986) translation for Peruzzo Editore, the preface is by the ‘authoritative’ academic, Federica Almagioni, yet she acknowledges the translation by Floriana Bossi for Adelphi (1978), thus tracing a ‘genealogy’ of women translators of Mansfield’s short stories. As a contrastive analysis of these two translations reveals, Squassabia largely draws on Bossi’s translation, making different choices in very few occasions. Yet, as aforementioned, Bossi’s translation, which has become a classic and a point of reference for subsequent translations, was prefaced by an influential intellectual, Lucia Drudi Bemby, and by Bossi’s own translation of John Middleton Murry’s preface to the posthumous collection The Dove’s Nest and Other Stories, thus making a vow of ‘fidelity’ to the text and bowing to the authority/paternity of Mansfield’s own ‘master/father’ figure. Moreover, while in Floriana Bossi’s translation of “At the Bay” feminist strategies such as prefacing and footnoting are absent, there are traces of the feminist debate taking place during the period of her translation through “compensation/supplementing” strategies (Santaemilia 2011; Palusci 2010, 2011), and Edda Squassabia evidently acknowledges her work by often following Bossi’s solution. Therefore, these two translations of “At the Bay” cannot be inscribed unequivocally within the set of binary terms and either/or logic of pietistic/cannibalistic translations. “At the Bay” opens with a depiction of the Bay of Crescent which may be defined as one of the most famous descriptions of New Zealand’s landscape. If as Anne-Marie Willis emphasizes, landscape as a foundation 9

Ibid., 462.

Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors


for colonial identity promises an essence grounded in place, Mansfield depiction serves as a first reification of New Zealand’s national landscape and of the settlers’ pain of unbelonging: Very early morning. The sun was not yet risen, and the whole of Crescent Bay was hidden under a white sea-mist. The big bush-covered hills at the back were smothered. You could not see where they ended and the paddocks and bungalows began. […] Big drops hung on the bushes and 10 just did not fall; the silvery fluffly toi-toi was limp on its long stalks, and all the marigolds and the pinks in the bungalow gardens were bowed to the earth with wetness. […] It looked as though the sea had beaten up softly in the darkness, as though one immense wave had come rippling, rippling – how far? Perhaps if you had waked up in the middle of the night you might have seen a big fish flicking in at the window and gone again.11

In this opening scene, Mansfield represents the pre-eminence of nature and the non-human over human settlement. However, she directly and informally invites her reader to embrace his/her vulnerability and fears about the impossible creation of a relationship with the colony’s flora and fauna through the generic use of the pronoun ‘you’. 12 Yet while the reader’s gender cannot be inferred in “At the Bay”, Bossi adopts the masculine conjugation of the verb “svegliarsi”, using the technique of “supplementing/compensation” 13 for gender specification, while Edda Squassabbia adopts the impersonal form to avoid marking the gender of the reader.

10 In the Mondadori translation of the first scene, edited by Franca Cavagnoli (2006), the student/translator Marcella Maffi inserts three footnotes regarding three Te Reo Maori loanwords, which she chooses to retain. Two regard the description of the New Zealand plants, toi toi and manuka, while the semantic shift ‘bush’, which is characteristic of both Australian and New Zealand settler strands of English is not explained. The third footnote regards the Maori ceremonial home, whare. Hence the translator chooses to expand the reader’s knowledge of Te Reo Maori loanwords, yet this choice marks Te Reo Maori loanwords as new loanwords, and the New Zealand settler strand lexeme bush as standard, while they both would have otherwise indicated the stabilization of New Zealand English lexical expansion. 11 Mansfield, “At the Bay”, 173. 12 Mansfield prefers the generic pronoun “you” which is typical of spoken English, to the generic pronoun “we” which is often present in written forms. The use of the generic pronoun “you” appeals to common human experience, inviting empathy from the reader. 13 Santaemilia, “Virginia Woolf’s Un Cuarto propio”, 135-136.


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At the Bay (1921)

Floriana Bossi (1978)

It looked as though the sea had beaten up softly in the darkness, as though one immense wave had come rippling, rippling – how far? Perhaps if you had waked up in the middle of the night you might have seen a big fish flicking in at the window and gone again (173)

Sembrava che il mare fosse avanzato furtivamente nell’oscurità, che un’unica immensa ondata fosse salita gorgogliando – fino a dove? Forse, se ti fossi svegliato nel mezzo della notte avresti potuto vedere un grosso pesce guizzare per un attimo davanti alla finestra […](240)

Edda Squassabbia (1986) Sembrava che il mare fosse avanzato furtivamente nell’oscurità, che un’unica immensa ondata fosse salita gorgogliando – fino a dove? Forse, se ci si fosse svegliati nel mezzo della notte, si sarebbe potuto vedere qualche grosso pesce guizzare un attimo davanti alla finestra […] (145)

As aforementioned, the animal and natural worlds in Mansfield’s writing also represent the manifold possibilities of transformation and escape from the patriarchal order of the colony. Mansfield seems to deliberately use animals, flowers and trees to create a continuum between the human and the non-human, the domestic and the natural, in order to threaten the secure patriarchal order of the colonial home. Significantly, the first “inhabitant” who appears in the story is the Burnell’s cat Florrie (175) and the first domestic scene of the short story depicts the relief caused by the only male of the family leaving for work through an animal metaphor. The respite is felt also by the little girls of the family, Isabel, Kezia, Lottie, who leave the confining domestic space and run into the paddock. Yet the release from domestic restrictions indicated by the movement ‘towards’ the paddock and the similitude “like chickens let out of a coop” lends itself to an interference related to the Italian metaphorical expression “cervello di gallina”, which is a sexist idiomatic expression about women and stupidity, and results in the image of the little girls running irrationally ‘around’ the paddock.

Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors

At the Bay (1921) Oh, the relief, the difference it made to have the man out of the house. Their very voices were changed as they called to one another […] The little girls ran into the paddock like chickens let out of a coop. (181).

Floriana Bossi (1978) Oh, che sollievo, che differenza quando lui non era in casa! Le loro stesse voci erano diverse mentre si chiamavano […] Le bambine corsero nel prato come polli fuggiti dalla stia. (249)


Edda Squassabbia (1986) Oh, che sollievo, che differenza quando lui non era in casa! Le loro stesse voci erano diverse mentre si chiamavano […] Le bambine si misero a correre per il prato come polli liberati dalla gabbia. (164)

Lexical expansion through metaphorisation belongs to the linguistic competence that is based on creativity, however, as Jana Vizmuller-Zocco has noted, while the cognitive-cultural acquisition phenomena of appropriation entails that the speaker uses her/his creative competence to the fullest, it is often influenced by sociolinguistic factors since for an accepted creation to occur, cognitive-cultural phenomena need to meet conventional expectations. 14 As in the previous case, in the following passage, Mansfield uses animal metaphors to represent the free and unconventional behaviour of Mrs Harry Kemble, who tries to ‘deviate’ Beryl’s innocence. Yet, in both translations, the simile “like a rat” is maintained but tamed through the choice of the lexeme topo, instead of ratto, which as Umberto Eco (2003) has famously noted has far more unpleasant connotations, and in English refers to a contemptible person. A case of censorship indeed since Mansfield was indeed using the word in its double connotation.


Vizmuller-Zocco, “Linguistic Creativity and Word Formation”, 305.


At the Bay (1921) “Really, it’s a sin for you to wear clothes, my dear. Somebody’s got to tell you some day”. […] “I believe in pretty girls having a good time” […] “Why not? Don’t make a mistake, my dear. Enjoy yourself”. And suddenly she turned turtle, disappeared, and swam away quickly, quickly like a rat. (188)

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Floriana Bossi (1978) “Davvero, cara, è un delitto che tu porti dei vestiti. Un giorno o l’altro qualcuno te lo dirà, vedrai”. […] “Io penso che le belle ragazze debbano godersi la vita” disse Mrs. Kember. “Perché non dovrebbero? Non fare la sciocca, cara. Divertiti”. E improvvisamente si tuffò, scomparve e si allontanò nuotando in fretta, in fretta come un topo. (257)

Edda Squassabbia (1986) “Davvero, cara, è un vero peccato che tu porti degli abiti. Un giorno o l’altro qualcuno te lo dirà, vedrai”. […] “Penso che le belle ragazze debbano godersi la vita” disse la signora Kember. “Perché no? Non fare la sciocca cara. Divertiti!”. E a un tratto si tuffò, scomparve e si allontanò nuotando in fretta come un topo. (183)

At the same time, “to turn turtle” is pivotal in my reading of this passage since it is both an idiom which means to turn upside down, and a lexicalised or dead metaphor. Mansfield adopts it both to reveal the possibility of continuity and becoming between humans and non-humans, and to indicate Mrs Harry Kemble’s free spirit and her being at ease in the water and the natural surroundings. Although Mansfield brings back to life the ‘dead’ metaphor, both translators treat it as an idiom and lose Mansfield’s wordplay. In an essentialist ecofeminist reading of “At the Bay”, nature and the domestic would be characterised by a binary opposition, the first would be the space of feminine freedom and the second that of enclosure, the bush becoming the dark continent of sexual desire and gardens the symbolic counterparts of the untainted innocence of the Garden of Eden. Yet, this facile dichotomy is sidestepped by Mansfield in the final scene of the short story:

Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors


Katherine Mansfield (1921)

Floriana Bossi (1978)

Edda Squassabbia (1986)

Beryl stepped over her low window, crossed the veranda, ran down the grass to the gate. He was there before her […] ‘No, I’m not coming any further,’ said Beryl. ‘Oh rot!’ Harry Kember didn’t believe her. ‘Come along! We’ll just go as far as that fuchsia bush. Come along!’ The fuchsia bush was tall. It fell over the fence in a shower. There was a little pit of darkness beneath. ‘No, really, I don’t want to,’ said Beryl. […] What was she doing? How had she got there? The stern garden asked her as the gate pushed open, and quick as a cat Harry Kember came through and snatched her to him. ‘Cold little devil! Cold little devil!’ said the hateful voice. But Beryl was strong. She slipped, ducked, wrenched free. (212-213)

Beryl scavalcò il basso davanzale, traversò la veranda, corse sul prato, raggiunse il cancello e se lo trovò di fronte. […] ‘No,’ disse ‘più in là non vengo’. ‘Oh, sciocchezze!’. Harry Kember non le credeva. ‘Venga! Arriviamo soltanto fino a quel cespuglio di fucsie. Venga!’ Il cespuglio di fucsie era alto. Ricadeva sopra lo steccato come una ricca chioma. Sotto c’era una piccola caverna d’oscurità. ‘No, sul serio, non voglio’ disse Beryl. […] Che cosa stava facendo? Come mai si trovava lì? Le chiese severamente il giardino mentre il cancello si apriva con una spinta e Harry Kember, svelto come un gatto, entrava e l’afferrava. ‘Piccola strega! Piccola strega!’ disse la voce odiosa. Ma Beryl era forte. Sgusciò, si chinò, si liberò con uno strattone. (284-285)

Beryl scavalcò il basso davanzale, attraversò la veranda, corse sul prato verso il cancello. Eccolo lì, davanti a lei. […] ‘No, più in là non vengo’, disse Beryl. ‘Oh, che sciocchezze!’. Harry Kember non le credeva. ‘Venga! Arriviamo soltanto fino a quel cespuglio di fucsie. Venga!’ Il cespuglio di fucsie era alto. Cadeva come una gran chioma sopra lo steccato. Sotto c’era una piccola conca d’ombra fitta. ‘No, sul serio, non voglio’ disse Beryl. […] Che cosa stava facendo? Come mai era lì? Il giardino la interrogava severamente e, svelto come un gatto, Harry Kember entrò e, acchiappandola, la tirò verso di lui. ‘Piccola fredda strega!’ disse la voce odiosa. Ma Beryl era forte. Sgusciò, si chinò, si liberò con uno strattone. (240-242)


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Beryl’s escape from the house to meet a mysterious male voice may be equated to a temporary sexual liberation, yet she is frightened by her sexual desire symbolised by the fuchsias. Nevertheless, Beryl ultimately demonstrates her strength and freedom when she manages to escape the possibility of being raped by Harry Kember. In this case, Bossi demonstrates her awareness of Freudian thought in her translation of “the little pit of darkness beneath” the bush of fuchsias as caverna, which in a queer reading of the story could be identified as Beryl’s desire for Kember’s wife or simply as her fear of her sexual desire, while this time Squassabia decides to censor Bossi’s translation and tames the metaphor through the use of conca. Conversely, Squassabia decides to follow Bossi’s decision to draw on misogynist discourse translating devil with strega (witch). In this case, the translation choice may have been influenced by the specific events of Bossi’s time, the important debate on rape which took place in Italy in 1978 and the first trial for rape being broadcasted on the national television in 1979, in which women became victims of atrocious insults, including the term ‘witch’. Yet again the lexicalised or dead metaphor “ducked” is translated neither by Bossi nor by Squassabia. As in the latter case, the in/visibility of ecofeminist metaphors in Italian translations of Mansfield’s short stories may be due to cultural and sociolinguistic factors, which may help to explain the decisions taken by the translators. However, as Eva Samaniego Fernández has recently argued, many other variables, such as the reference material used by translators, the translator’s mood or affections, influence the translation process of metaphors, but their nature is much more elusive (2011). It is the contention of this study that translations do not unequivocally distinguish themselves as either feminine or masculine on the basis of quantifiable linguistic features and that the binary nature of conceptions of gendered translations needs to be challenged, yet translations may be seen as an important resource for studying the “diverse, dynamic and contextresponsive ways in which people ‘do gender’ (among other identities) in different situations, and even from moment to moment within a situation”.15 Writing against the Grand Narratives that reinforced patriarchy and colonialism, Mansfield often displayed in her short stories metaphors of animality, nature and humanity as a continuum that challenges and resists colonial understandings of habitation and domesticity. In this light, 15 Holmes, “Social Constructionism, Postmodernism and Feminist Sociolinguistics”, 52.

Turning Turtle and the In/visibility of Ecofeminist Metaphors


domesticating the text, to re-read Venuti’s famous theorization of foreignizing and domesticating translations in ecofeminist terms, may be equivalent to reducing the text to the domestic, to eliminating the threat of wilderness and nature. Yet, just as Mansfield’s protagonists’ ambivalence towards the domestic and the natural is indicated by their habitation of the threshold, of the veranda, of the garden, it may be possible to claim that translators of Mansfield’s work have fluctuated between feminist and nonfeminist translations in a special art of camouflage in order to extend the Italian capacity of accepting Mansfield’s diruspting feminist language, especially when traditions, symbols, life conditions and methods of representation differed most between the two cultures involved.

Bibliography Braidotti, R. 2006, “Transplants”, in Transpositions, Cambridge: Polity Press. Chamberlain L. 1988, “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation”, Signs 13(3), 454-472. Dagut, M. 1976, “Can Metaphor Be Translated?”, Babel, 12 (1), 21–33. Eco, U. 2003, Dire quasi la stessa cosa: esperienze di traduzione, Milano: Bompiani. Translated as Eco, U. 2003, Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Federici, E. ed. 2011, Translating Gender, Bern: Peter Lang. Samaniego Fernández, E. 2011, “Translation Studies and the Cognitive Theory of Metaphor”, Review of Cognitive Linguistics 9 (1), 262–279. von Flotow, L. 1991, “Feminist Translation: Contexts, Practices and Theories”, TTR 4 (2), 69-84. Goldie, T. 1989, Fear and Temptation: The Image of the Indigene in Canadian. Australian and New Zealand Literatures, Kingston, Montreal and London: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Holmes, J. 2007, “Social Constructionism, Postmodernism and Feminist Sociolinguistics”, Gender and Language 1 (1), 51-65. Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson 1980, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Katherine Mansfield, [1921] 1997, “At the Bay” in New Zealand Stories, sel. by Vincent O’Sullivan, Auckland: Oxford University Press. Mansfield, K. 1944, Una tazza di tè e altri racconti, trans. and intro. by V. Guerrini, Torino: Frassinelli. —. 1978, Tutti i racconti, Vol I trans. by F. Bossi, C. Campo, G. Debenedetti, M. Hannau, preface by L. Drudi Demby; Vol II, trans by


Chapter Thirteen

F. Bossi, G. Arborio Mella, and M. Hannau. Preface by John Middleton Murry trans. by Floriana Bossi, Milano: Adelphi. —. 1986, Racconti, trans. by E. Squassabia, intro. by F. Almagioni, Milano: Peruzzo Editore. —. 1989, Racconti, trans. by G. Pozzo Galeazzi, M. L. Agosti Castellani, Armanda Guiducci, intro. by A. Guiducci, Milano: Rizzoli. —. 1996, Tutti i racconti, trans. and ed. by M. Del Serra, Milano: Newton. —. 2006, Tutti i racconti, ed. and trans. by F. Cavagnoli et al, Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. Merchant, C. 1990, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, San Francisco: Harper & Row. Palusci, O. ed. 2010, Traduttrici. Questioni di gender nelle letterature in lingua inglese, Napoli: Liguori. Palusci O. ed. 2011, Traduttrici: Female Voices across Languages, Trento: Tangram Edizioni Scientifiche. Riley, P. 2007, Language, Culture and Identity: An Ethnoliguistic Perspective, London and New York: Continuum. Russo, K. E. 2011, “A Language for her Garden: Affect, Landscaping and the Language of the Nation in Katherine Mansfield’s The Urewera Notebook”, Textus XXIV, 243-262. —. 2010, Practices of Proximity: The Appropriation of English in Indigenous Australian Literature, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Santaemilia, J. 2011, “Virginia Woolf’s Un Cuarto propio. Feminist Translation: from Practice to Theory”, in O. Palusci ed., Traduttrici: Female Voices across Languages, Trento: Tangram Edizioni Scientifiche, 133-146. Snell-Hornby, M. 1995. Translation Studies: An Integrated Approach, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Soper, K. 1995, What Is Nature? Culture, Politics, and the Non-Human, Oxford: Blackwell. Schneider, E.W. 2007, Postcolonial English. Varieties Around the World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Venuti, L. 1995, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, London and New York: Routledge. Vizmuller-Zocco, J. 1985, “Linguistic Creativity and Word Formation”, Italica 62 (4), 305-310. Wodak, R. 1995, “Power, Discourse, and Styles of Female Leadership in School Committee Meetings”, in D. Corson ed., Discourse and Power in Educational Organizations, Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, 31-54.

POSTFACE GENDER AND TRANSLATION, AND TRANSLATION STUDIES: AN ONGOING AFFAIR LUISE VON FLOTOW This topic will not go away. It is ongoing, and profoundly interesting: how does gender – the way humans live out their sexuality – affect the way they think, write, translate, create? It remains urgent for translation studies because work in the field has only just started. Only thirty years ago, researchers began to think systematically about how culture affects translation; at the same time feminism was in full swing and kept pointing to the impact of gender as culture, gender as an expression of power differentials, gender as a behavioural imperative imposed and sanctioned differently, at different times, by different ‘cultures.’ Inevitably, the link between translation and gender as culture was made and explored, at first from a predominantly feminist perspective. By definition, feminist approaches are political: they seek to understand and describe, explain and criticize, and then usually improve the situations of women in societies, situations that to a large extent are seen to be less powerful, less valued, less open. Early questions in regard to translation and gender were thus concerned with women in translation, and focused on women translators, women authors whose work is (or is not) translated, translation as an archeological operation to unearth forgotten or neglected women writers, and translation criticism that targets texts important to the social and political position and status of women in particular societies – in this regard, Biblical texts logically became a target of certain Western European and Anglo-American feminist translation scholars. Throughout these early efforts at incorporating questions around gender in the study of translations, women were the predominant interest, and the production of work in feminist translation studies was remarkable. However, over the course of the 1990s, a certain ‘gender trouble’ developed, undermining and criticizing the easy binary opposition between men and



women that some feminisms had posited and practiced. Moreover, voices favouring the differentiation between women of different classes, ages, races became insistent, further undermining the notion of a socio-political ‘category of women’ and setting out to view gender as only one of many possible aspects determining a person’s life opportunities: the study of intersectionalities developed. This shake-up of feminism led to theories about and studies of all those other genders, or perhaps other gender positions, that humans can be seen to enjoy, perform, choose, interchange, and translate. Questions around homosexual writing, lesbian texts, and queer aspects of textuality and translation arose – pushing aside earlier concerns about women in translation. This current rolls on, seeking to “queery” translation, as one recent article would have it. However, as this article states, methodological problems arise here, since queer theory strives to abolish categorizations and labels, thus making it rather difficult to name and establish a field of study. Nevertheless, gender – whether it is located at the extreme masculine or feminine ends of a broad spectrum of options, or somewhere in between, however temporarily or playfully or experimentally - gender remains an integral part of human identity. As such, it affects what we do, how we think, how we perform in daily life, whether in private or in public. It rules our discourse, our dreams, and our myths about sources and beginnings. Gender difference (in terms of sexual difference) is, after all, at the origin of life, and as 20th century psychoanalysis has shown, this is a determining interest in most humans’ lives. How we translate this interest into texts, and from one language to another, and how these texts are used or abused, deployed or censored or ignored has to do with culture. Translation and gender remain intimately connected in translation studies – sometimes in blatantly political ways, sometimes in thoughtful, scholarly applications. In any case, theirs is an ongoing affair. And while the theorizing around gender continues to be intense and highly political, actual studies of its impact in and upon translation in many different societies still needs to be explored and studied. The gap between theory and practice must narrow, and this collection of articles works toward such an end. Luise von Flotow April 2013


Mirko Casagranda (PhD in Comparative Literature and Language Studies, University of Trento) is ‘ricercatore’ in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Calabria. His areas of research include Translation Studies, World Englishes, Ecolinguistics and Onomastics. Along with essays on multilingualism in Canada, Quebec English, and gender and translation, he has published the book Traduzione e codeswitching come strategie discorsive del plurilinguismo canadese (2010). Manuela Coppola holds a PhD in Anglophone Cultures and Literatures from the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’. She lectures at the University of Calabria and at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ and her main interests focus on postcolonial literature and language varieties. Her latest publications are L’isola madre. Maternità e memoria nella narrativa di Jean Rhys e Jamaica Kincaid (2010) and Crossovers. Language and Orality in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry (2011). Alessandra De Marco (M.A. Keele, DPhil Sussex) currently works at the Università della Calabria, Italy, and also freelances as a translator. She has published internationally on the works of Don DeLillo and finance capital. Her current research interests include: audio-visual translation, the language of advertising, New Zealand and American English, literary translation of contemporary Maori writing in English, the language of finance, and the relationship between fictional forms and economic regimes. Eleonora Federici holds a Ph.D in English from the University of Hull. She is Associate Professor of English Language and Translation at the University of Calabria. Her main areas of research are Translation Studies, Gender Studies, LSP and English varieties. She is author of The Translator as Intercultural Mediator (2005) and has published various essays on literary and specialized translation, translation and gender, translation and intertextuality, English in India and Malaysia and the language of advertising and tourism. She has recently co-edited Locating


Notes on Contributors

Subjects. Soggetti e saperi in formazione (2009), Nations, Traditions and Cross-Cultural Identities (2010) and Translating Gender (2011). Annamaria Lamarra is Professor of English literature at the University of Naples Federico II, where she also directs the Centro Linguistico di Ateneo. Her main research areas include women’s writing and modernism. Among her publications: Aphra Behn; Lettere d’amore tra un gentiluomo e sua sorella (1999). She is co-editor of the volume Aphra Behn In\And Our Time (2009) and of the volume Nations, Traditions and CrossCultural Identities (2010). Vanessa Leonardi was born in Italy and raised bilingual. She graduated in Modern Languages at the University of Coventry (UK) in 1998. In 1999 she was awarded an M.A. in Translation Studies from UMIST (Manchester, UK) and in 2004 she received her Ph.D. in Translation and Comparative Studies at the University of Leeds. She also holds a TEFL Diploma and is currently employed as Researcher and Lecturer in English Language and Translation at the Italian University of Ferrara. Her recent publications include Gender and Ideology in Translation: Do women and men translate differently?(2007), New Practising English (2010) and the Role of Pedagogical Translation in Second Language Acquisition (2010). Her research interests lie mainly in the fields of Translation Studies and English language teaching. She is currently working on several research projects both in Italy as well as abroad. Floriana Marinzuli holds a PhD in English-Language Literatures from “Sapienza” University of Rome. Her main research interests include Contemporary British Poetry, Translation Studies and Gender Studies. In 2012 she won the Edwin Morgan Translation Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh, where she focused on contemporary Scottish Literature. She has recently co-edited with Bernardino Nera Lo Splendore del Tempio (2012), an anthology of love poems by the UK Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. She regularly translates contemporary British and American poetry for Italian magazines of poetic culture and academic literary journals. She is currently researching on contemporary Scottish women poets. Oriana Palusci is Full Professor of English at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ (Italy), where she also teaches North-American Literature. She has published on XIX-and XX-century women writers, Canadian Studies, Travel Literature, World Englishes, Cultural Studies, Utopia, Postcolonial Studies and on Translation Studies. In the field of Translation

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies


and Gender, she has recently edited: Traduttrici. Questioni di gender nelle letterature in lingua inglese (2010), Traduttrici. Female Voices across Languages (2011), Translating Virginia Woolf (2012). Katherine E. Russo, Katherine E. Russo, PhD University of New South Wales (Sydney), is Lecturer in English Language and Translation. Her research focuses on Post-colonial English Varieties, Translation Studies, audiovisual translation, Sociolinguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis, Gender, Post-colonial and Whiteness Studies. Her publications include several articles and translations. She is the author of Practices of Proximity: The Appropriation of English in Australian Indigenous Literature (2010), winner of the ESSE BOOK AWARD for Junior Scholars and of Global English, Transnational Flows: Australia and New Zealand in Translation (2012). José Santaemilia is Associate Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the Universitat de València, as well as legal translator. His main research interests are gender and language, sexual language and legal translation (English-Spanish). He is the author of several books on gender/sex, language and translation Género, Lenguaje y Traducción (2003), Gender, Sex and Translation. The Manipulation of Identities (2005), and the first critical edition and translation of Fanny Hill into Spanish (2000, co-author José Pruñonosa). In 2011 he co-edited (with Luise von Flotow) the volume Woman and Translation: Geographies, Voices and Identities (MONTI). Susagna Tubau, completed with Distinction an MA in Linguistics at the University of London (University College London) with funding from a “la Caixa”/British Council scholarship in 2004. In 2008, she got a Ph.D. degree at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Since 2001 she has taught English at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and, between 2009 and 2010, also at the Universitat de Vic, where she started her research on the linguistic representation of feminine gender in English-into-Romance translated texts. Since 2010 she lectures on English grammar and historical linguistics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Elaine Tzu-Yi Lee received her PhD degree in Translating and Interpreting in Newcastle University in 2010. Currently she works as Assistant Professor in the department of Applied Linguistics and Language Study at Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan. Her main


Notes on Contributors

research interests include literary translation, gender and translation, culture and translation, translation pedagogy, translation and ideology. Luise von Flotow is a professor for Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa School of Translation and Interpretation. Her research interests include gender/feminism and translation, audiovisual translation, and translation as cultural policy. She also works as a translator of literary works from German and French. Recent scholarly publications include Translating Women, ed. UOttawa Press 2011, Translation Effects. The Making of Contemporary Canadian Culture eds. Luise von Flotow, Kathy Mezei, Sherry Simon, McGill-Queens University Press 2013. Literary translations include Christa Wolf's They Divided the Sky, UOttawa Press 2013, and France Théoret's The Stalinist's Wife, Guernica Editions, 2013. June Waudby (B.A. University of York, PhD University of Hull, UK). Teaching experience includes five years teaching English Language in Japan and twelve years teaching English Literature on the B.A. Arts and Humanities and the B.A. English Literature programmes at the University of Hull. Her main research interests lie in the field of Renaissance and Reformation studies, early modern London and court life. She has published essays on misogyny in the Jacobean Revenge Tragedy The White Devil and on Protestant theology in the work of early modern women’s writing and translation. Recent work includes an undergraduate companion entitled Renaissance Poetry and Prose, the co-editing of a collection of essays on women writers in a European context, and essays on Mary Sidney’s metrical psalms and the polemic and poetry of Anne Vaughan Locke.