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Polysystem Theory and the 'Cultural Turn' - Essay Example

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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. Then, obviously, the politically engaged cultural theorists of translation-the postcolonialists and the feminists-become performative linguists: translating as colonizing, or as fighting the lingering effects of colonialism; translating as resisting global capitalism (Venuti); translating as fighting patriarchy, as liberating women (and men) from patriarchal gender roles (Munday 110).
'Cultural Turn' means developments in the philosophy of the human sciences around the beginning of the twentieth century. 'Cultural Turn' describes extra-ordinary growth in the significance of work concerned with the nature and forms of language. The readers use cultural texts in ways that cannot be predicted from analysis of the text alone. In this case, "cultural turn" helps to describe and analyses a text in terms of cultural am social influence. Discourse analysis, is the one branch of linguistics that supposedly addresses itself to issues of production and reception that might be useful in a translation-studies purview; but unfortunately the few linguists who have attempted to apply discourse analysis to the study of translation have hobbled themselves methodologically by tying all discursive studies of translation to equivalence (Munday 108). For theorists in these schools it doesn't matter what the translated text looks like; or, well, it does, but not to the theorist, only to the receiving culture (DTS), the client (skopos), or the translator himself or herself (TAP). What matters theoretically is what the translator does, and what complex forces influence that doing (Munday 111). Now perhaps this seems like no great gain: taking all the approaches of the so-called "cultural turn," all the action-oriented theories that have overwhelmed and overthrown the hegemony of linguistics, and lumping them together under a new name-even if that name is rather tendentiously "linguistics." "This is the term used in translation studies for the move towards the analysis of translation from a cultural studies" (Munday 125). Translation is a sensitive pointer of cultural tensions. Translation practice is always grounded in a set of issues in which linguistic forms carry cultural meanings in an implicit form. Understanding the ...Show more
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Summary

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 and the Cultural Turn
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