Dissertation > Literature > Literary Theory > Literary Creation > Literary Translation

A Study on the Representation of Defamiliarization Devices in the Original in Literary Translation

Author JinBing
Tutor SunZhiLi
School PLA Foreign Languages ??Institute
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords literary translation literariness defamiliarization device representation analogical translation
CLC I046
Type PhD thesis
Year 2007
Downloads 1192
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For a long time researchers have tended to distinguish literary translation from other types of translation when studying translation. This is because the object of literary translation is literary works, which carry their distinctive characteristics. Russian formalism holds that the essential trait of literature is literariness, that is, what makes specific works become literary works. Literariness is embodied in those carefully chosen defamiliarization devices. In fact it is the defamiliarization of artistic forms which helps realize literariness. Thus, defamiliarization devices are essential to the value of literary works. For the translator, how he (she) views and deals with those devices can be the difference between a good translation and a bad one.The concept of defamiliarization derives from Russian formalism, which puts much emphasis on formal aspects of literary works. However, this does not mean that content has no value. So far as the relationship between form and content is concerned, there have appeared many different views in history. Among them are the theory of imitation and the theory of expression, both em-phasizing the importance of content and viewing language merely as an instrument. In the 20th century formalist theories dominate Western literary research. In contrast, for most of the time in the 20th century the traditional instrumental theory of language has been the mainstream theory in China. Still, there have been some theorists who pay equal attention to form and content. This view is incorporated into the present thesis. The tendency of focusing on content alone in the his-tory of literary research has a profound impact on the translation circle, which can be seen in the fact that in the process of translating many translators attach great importance to those para-phrasable material content while ignoring the representation of unique artistic forms in the origi-nal.Defamiliarization devices in the present thesis refer to those linguistic devices which are in-tentionally created by the writer and which can help readers gain fresh and new aesthetic enjoy-ment through posing difficulties for the reading process. In English literary works there exist large numbers of such devices on the phonetic, lexical, syntactic and textual levels. These devices help to enhance the literariness of their respective works and to achieve better artistic effects. In order to express their unique experience, writers often break linguistic norms by writing down surprising, even strange words and sentences. Du Fu’s verse“never cease chasing after a better wording till the most resounding one is found”makes clear writers’artistic pursuits. In the process of reading there are two opposite mentalities at work in the readers’minds: verifying what is the same and looking for what is new. Readers always try to find things according with their horizon of expecta-tion, which can bring them aesthetic happiness. Meanwhile they are also trying to find something new and exciting, something that breaks their expectation. The mentality of looking for what is new is a much deeper natural tendency of human beings. Seen from a higher level, the use of de-familiarization devices is called for by the nature of language. Primitive language is a poetic crea-tion, but the poetry of language has been gradually lost with the development of human beings. Defamiliarization devices are important for language to regain this poetry.The fact that large numbers of defamiliarization devices exist in English literary works is a great challenge to Chinese translators: is it necessary to represent these devices in the Chinese versions? Or is it possible? The answer to both questions is yes. The translator should represent these defamiliarization devices, which is determined by the task of literary translation in the new era, the characteristics of literary translation and the ethics of the translator. Generally speaking, the translator can manage to represent them. Theoretically different languages have things in common and modern Chinese is a highly flexible language, which makes the representation of English defamiliarization devices possible. From the practical level there have appeared many translations that have successfully represented these devices. Sometimes the translator fails to do this because of their subjective limitations or huge differences between English and Chinese.In order to represent these devices successfully the translator needs to employ appropriate strategies. The present thesis holds that analogical translation is an effective one, which tries to represent in the target language devices in the source language by means of formal or functional likeness. Through imitating the original’s phonetic features, rhetorical devices, word-forming ways, syntactic traits and ways of organizing texts, the translator can represent defamiliarization devices in the original to a large extent. Due to the differences between English and Chinese there are cases when analogical translation does not work. Under these circumstances the translator needs to take compensatory measures. When using the strategy of analogical translation the trans-lator should try to strike a balance between catering to readers and elevating them. On the one hand the translator should know something about the target audience and meet their expectations. On the other hand the translator should view elevating readers as his (her) unshirkable responsibil- ity. In the process of translating there do exist some“untranslatable”phenomena. The translator should take a correct attitude towards them. Untranslatability is something historic and the trans-lator should never give up too easily the effort of representing those“untranslatable”phenomena.In literary works language exists not as an instrument, but as an independent individual. Through the use of large numbers of poetic defamiliarization devices, the writer urges readers to pay attention to the language itself. The relationship between man and language is no longer the instrumental I-It, but the equal I-You. This new relationship can help readers forget temporarily the real world, thus gaining ultimately a kind of spiritual freedom. The highest function of litera-ture is the function of spiritual transcendence. As spokesman of foreign writers in China, the Chi-nese translator ought to contribute to the spiritual transcendence of Chinese readers, which entails the representation of defamiliarization devices in the original. To be sure, specific devices may vary with the change of social and historical conditions. What is important is that the translator should pay enough attention to them and keep exploring how to successfully represent them.

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