Mediation, manipulation, empowerment
Celebrating the complexity of the interpreter’s role
This paper attempts a reading of the interpreter’s social and cultural role through a return to origins, to the ancient Greek god Hermes, who was, among other things, the mediator between gods and humans. Hermes’s ambivalent position and nature — conveying and at the same time manipulating the messages of the gods — are taken as a point of departure in order to highlight the complexity of the interpreting process. Interpreters, poised in the same liminal space of in-betweenness, are asked to promote communication, remaining faithful to the speaker and retaining for themselves an invisible presence (or absence?). The questions of invisibility and neutrality are further discussed in the second part of the paper, where Sydney Pollack’s film The Interpreter (2005) is taken as a case study. The lead character of the film, an interpreter, moves from perfect neutrality to full involvement in the interpreting process, and faces the consequences of this violation of an “omnipresent” ethical code that demands absence rather than presence on the part of the interpreter.
Keywords: Hermes, mediation, invisibility, liminality, inclusion/exclusion, neutrality, presence/absence
Published online: 24 March 2009
Cited by 10 other publications
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