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The work of André Lefevere in translation studies is based on some very strongly held views about the nature of writing and rewriting as these activities have been conceived throughout all of human history. The quotation mentioned above summarizes one particular key theory of his, which is concerned with the relationship which exists between translation and power. This paper will examine Lefevere’s concept of translation by breaking the statement quoted above into four distinct segments, each of which will be discussed in turn:
The first of the four segments of Lefevere’s quotation is quite straightforward and seems simple enough at first reading. Lefevere classifies translation as “a rewriting of an original text.” It is true that translations are “rewritings” or re-formulations of other texts, but it is questionable whether translations are always rewritings of an original text. Many post-structuralists would maintain that no text is ever truly original, since every text stands in some relation to texts which have gone before. The concept of “intertextuality” indeed assumes a long chain of connections reaching back in time and across cultures so that every text that exists could be said to be a “rewriting”, or a de-coding and re-encoding of other texts. Other scholars would argue that the very concept of “text” is fraught with problems because that “text” changes its nature every single time it is read by another person. What a reader puts into a text is therefore, from this point of view, just as important as what the writer puts in, what the translator puts in, and what the text gathers to itself through multiple other unintended connections.
Looking back over world literature it is very striking that stories which authors have written over the centuries have depended on other stories, legends and “texts” that have come before. From Gilgamesh to the Bible and through medieval epics and ...
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