Sacrificing sense to sound: Mimetic Translation and Feminist Writing

  • Suzanne Jill Levine describes wordplay as: “Puns discover a coincidence, a potential affinity, a homonymy already latent in language. They place sound above meaning, and yet point to hidden semantic bonds between words”.
  • The complicity that wordplay creates between a willing reader and the text is extremely difficult to reproduce in translation.
  • “Wordplay tends to resist certain kinds of translation” (Dirk Delabastita, 1997: 8)
  • Alleged untranslatability of American feminist wordplay in German (Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology).
  • German had not yet developed the “neue Frauensprache” (new women’s language) that English had, and this made wordplay translation almost impossible.
  • On Bourjea’s view, Lispector’s writing is focused on sound, on the musicality of the words, their form, their juxtapositions.
  • “imitation phonetique”: a specific kind of mimesis in translation.
  • Nicole Brossard made extensive use of wordplay, inventing countless “jeux de maux/mots” to name and describe women’s difficult access to and position in conventional language.
  • Mimetic translation: considered the “most radical means of recuperating puns perdus and other dislocated diclocutions”.
  • Mimetic translation strategies allow readers to experience the foreign in their own languge.
  • It “calls into question the possibility that any one translation suffices, or is independent of other translations of the same original”.
  • Focuses on mimicking the sound and the formal, graphic aspects of the source text not its semantic meaning, and this makes the TT sound foreign, providing reader with the experience of the foreign in their own language and challenging them.
  • Nursery rhymes (Mots d’heures gousses, rames and “N’herures souris rames”: phonetic imitations of well-known children’s rhymes.
  • Room of One’s Own: includes a transcribed conversation in which these editors address the oral/aural aspects of contemporary women’s writing.