In defence of polysystem theory
Lingnan University, Hong Kong
This article revisits Itamar Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory, including its hypotheses on the position of translated literature and its relation with translation norms, and some of its basic assumptions and principles, such as the heterogeneity, dynamics and overlapping of systems, the quest for probabilistic laws, and objectivity and neutrality. Through reading Even-Zohar’s texts closely and tracing the later developments of the theory, it attempts to explore the complexities of the theory, and clear up some misunderstandings, citing examples from polysystem-inspired case studies. It also discusses the complications caused by the expansion made by Gideon Toury on the concept of “adequacy” and “acceptability”, presents a revised version of Even-Zohar’s hypothesis on the situations in which translated literature is likely to occupy a central position, and suggests ways in which polysystem theory can or should be rendered more intricate. It argues that polysystem theory and other cultural theories can be complementary and mutually enriching.
Keywords: polysystem theory, weak, translated literature, norm, acceptability, adequacy, heterogeneity, binary opposition, objectivity, system
In: Target 23:2. 2011 iv, 224 pp. (pp. 311–347)