Annotated Bibliography: Lost in Translation

AlBzoor, Baseel Ali. “Semantic and Pragmatic Failure in Translating Literary Texts: Translators’ Inconsistency And/or Textual Resistance.” Ph.D. Purdue University, 2011. ProQuest. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

*AlBzoor explores the various problems that arise when one considers the structural makeup of different languages, and the editorial and semantic choices a translator must make in order to produce a coherent translation in a new language. He excuses semantic drawbacks and mistakes as being both “condemnable” but still “pertinent to meaning at the lexical and phrasal levels” (AlBzoor ix.)

Borges, Jorge Luis, and Suzanne Jill Levine. “Some Versions of Homer.” PMLA 107.5 (1992): 1134–1138. JSTOR. Web.

*Borges and Levine discuss translation as the problem that is most “essential to literature and its small mysteries” (1136). They effectively place translations not as inferior to the original text, but more so as important methods of re-evaluation, not dissimilar to watching a film for the second time. They also bring to light the question of fidelity to the original text, with the conclusion that a literal translation and one that has taken certain artistic liberties are both faithful to the original text and deserve to be considered as serious contributions to the original text.

Braund, Susanna. “Translation as a Battlefield: Dryden, Pope and the Frogs and Mice.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 18.4 (2011): 547–568. Print.

*Braund provides an interesting insight into the world of translation by looking at it through the lens of a battlefield metaphor. She also states insightfully that translation not only has literary implications, but also moral and political ones, as each new translation is created in a way that represents its own socio-political framework.

Chamberlain, Lori. “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation.” Signs 13.3 (1988): 454–472. Print.

*Chamberlain places translation in a gendered context, more specifically speaking of translation in terms of paternity. She claims that in order for a translation to be considered legitimate, the translator must “usurp the author’s role” (Chamberlain 456). In other words, the translator becomes a paternal figure who must preserve the chastity of the female text (456). This viewpoint places in intriguing spin on the politics of translation.

Cohn, Ruby. “Samuel Beckett Self-Translator.” PMLA 76.5 (1961): 613–621. JSTOR. Web.

*Cohn presents an interesting view on the study of translation, discussing Samuel Beckett’s acts of auto-translation, rather than translations performed by another author on an original work. Through her adept analysis, we get a particularly poignant statement on the difficulties of translation, mainly that even an author translating his own work runs into problems of language, where the translation must make some exceptions to allow for lack of perfect transferability between the two languages.

Danby, Nicola Doone. “The Space between: Self-Translators Nancy Huston and Samuel Beckett.” M.A. York University (Canada), 2003. ProQuest. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

*Danby, like Cohn enters the less popular critical stream of discussing self-translation. She raises the question of how one is best served in approaching a self translated text, that is, whether to approach it as one approaches the original, or as a translation, or does the reader have to approach a self-translated text in some hybrid form, considering both original and translation side by side rather than one after the other. Her somewhat narrow approach (looking only at a couple isolated examples) nonetheless provides some important insights into this niche field of criticism.

Geddes, A. G. “Homer in Translation.” Greece & Rome 35.1 (1988): 1–13. Print. Second Series.

*Geddes looks at translation through a different perspective than many of the other critics I’ve researched here. He looks at translation through the lens of a university professor who has always only based his understanding of Homer’s Iliad on its original Greek composition, not through its translations. In this work he relates his growing fondness for English translations of the text and their many virtues which he previously attributed only to the original. Like some of the other scholars, he sees artistry and variation in translation to be a benefit, as much as it is problematic.

Lewis, Charlton T. “Mr. Bryant’s Translation of the Iliad.” The North American Review 112.231 (1871): 328–370. Print.

*Lewis, first and foremost, emphasizes the massive cultural import of Homer’s epics, claiming them to be singularly more crucial than any other text to the world of literary production. He goes on to say, interestingly, that it is the mere impossibility of recreating such a magnificent text in a translation that has lead to “the inspiration of genius” in those who have attempted it (Lewis 349). In making this claim he also makes an implicit comment on some of the difficulties of translating a texts like those of Homer’s, but praises those who make the effort.

McMurran, Helen. “Translation as Offence: The Case of Desfontaines.” Translation and Literature 17.2 (2008): 150–164. Print.

*McMurran discusses translation in a slightly different context than many of the other scholars here. Rather than discussing the nature of translation of ancient texts, she seeks to inspect the implications of translating a contemporary text. She explores whether a translator working on a current text has the same freedoms and liberties of style as one working on a translation from an ancient text. She delicately traverses the question of whether translation is an offence on the original, or if it is an original piece of authorship in itself, advocating, correctly I think, for the latter.


Shorrock, Robert. “The Values of Translation: Contestation and Creativity in Homer’s English ‘Iliads.’” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 10.3/4 (2003): 438–453. Print.

*Shorrock, like Mcmurran, advocates for the status of original authorship for the translator. He enters this discussion through an analysis of several different translations of the same passage from Homer’s Iliad, noting all of the particularities in each of these different translations. Most importantly to his work is the claim that “translations are actively fashioned texts that demand consideration in their own right” (Shorrock 438).



It seems that in the study of translation, there is one question that reigns as paramount: that is, the question of the authorship and authority of the translator and his work compared to that of the original text he is translating. Nearly all of the above works deal with this question in some form, and most of them seem to agree that the translator is not merely a passive observer and replicator of the original text, but at the very least one who adds to the original, and more often than not, one who is creating his own original text, within the context of the original. That said, at the same time most of the scholars above also agree that there are a series of problems associated with being a translator, mainly that there always comes a time when the gap between the languages of the original and the translation becomes too big to traverse, and the translator must make editorial decisions as to how to create a text that best represents the original. It is in these editorial decisions that the question of authorship becomes most important. How many changes can a translator make before his text becomes entirely separate from the original? What sorts of changes are allowed, and which ones are more of an offense to the original than a benefit to the translation? These questions run through nearly all scholarly discussions of translation, and can only lead to a further exploration of the topic before any definitive statements can be made.


Word Count: 255


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