Translation as Empire: The Theoretical Record
DOI link for Translation as Empire: The Theoretical Record
Translation as Empire: The Theoretical Record book
Let us now turn to the history of ‘imperial’ translation theory before the birth of postcolonial approaches. Here we are concerned with early thinking that recognizes the interconnections between translation and empire, particularly those ideas that
It is, in fact, in turning to the history of translation theory with an eye to imperial themes that we begin most strongly to recognize the usefulness of postcolonial approaches. As we saw in chapter one, translation as it has traditionally been defined, as a process for achieving the best possible semantic equivalence between two texts in different languages, was first theorized by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.E.). In ‘De Oratore’ (‘On the Orator’, 55 B.C.E.), ‘De optimo genere oratorum’ (‘On the Best Kind of Orator’, 51 B.C.E.) and other texts, Cicero distinguishes his translation practice from the word-for-word methods of his predecessors, arguing that it is much more important to (a) win over the target audience in language with which they feel comfortable and (b) develop the orator’s vocabulary and argumentative skill in the target language than it is to follow the source text with scrupulous accuracy. This view was applied to literature by Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 85-8 B.C.E.) in the Ars poetica or ‘The Art of Poetry’ (20 B.C.E.?) and Aulus Gellius in the Attic Nights (around 100 C.E.); it was applied to Bible and other religious translation by Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus, c.347-419/20) in his letter to Pammachius (395 C.E.). By the Renaissance it had become the established orthodoxy on translation; today it is commonly known by the term Jerome coined for it, sense-for-sense translation. Because sense-for-sense translation is the dominant theory of translation in the West, and because that theory has its roots in Cicero, Cicero is often thought of as the first translation theorist.