Polysystem Theory and the 'Cultural Turn'

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Voices began to be raised against the monolithic linguistic orientation of translation studies in the early 1970s, by people like Itamar Even-Zohar and Gideon Toury in Israel and, around the same time, James Holmes and Andr Lefevere and Theo Hermans and others in the Low Countries (Munday 109).


Polysystem Theory means a "refocus on alternative experiences which are socially defined and can be classified as peripheral or marginal states of affair challenging some center of authority within a variety of cultural and social systems (literature, religion, politics, economy, historiography, etc)" (Munday 43). The value of polysystem theory is that it allows translators and researchers to analyze a literary text from multiple perspectives: different social discourses and voices. This theory demonstrates social order and highlights agonistic tension between different social and cultural agents. Polysystem Theory uses social-cultural instructions for explanation of phenomena and complexity of culture within one community. Polysystem Theory sees translation in terms of "saying," restating in the target language more or less precisely what the source author said in the source language, and performative linguists of translation as those who see translating as "doing," doing something to the target reader, then the contemporary scene comes to look rather different. ...
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