Visibility (and invisibility)

Karen R. Emmerich
Table of contents

The notion of invisibility – and, by extension and implication, its opposite, visibility – was introduced into the field of Translation Studies by Lawrence Venuti’s forceful, even polemical monograph The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (1995); Venuti has continued to engage with this notion to an extent that his subsequent work must also remain central to any discussion of the topic. The Translator’s Invisibility explores the mechanisms by which translators, the activity of translation, and translations as products have been marginalized in the Anglo-American as well as other cultural contexts of recent centuries. In Venuti’s landmark book, invisibility refers to (1) the invisibility of the translator as a co-producer of a text, enforced by the prevailing practices of marketing, reading and evaluating translations, and encouraged by the ambiguous legal status of translation and of translators; (2) the invisibility of the translator’s activity within the text of the translation itself, which tends to be written in accordance with prevailing notions of “fluency,” by which the translator in some sense partakes in his or her own self-effacement; and (3) the invisibility of translation as a cultural practice and of the products of that process, given the relative paucity of English-language translations of foreign literature, which Venuti identifies as part of a global literary “trade imbalance” (15) between Anglo-American literary culture and markets elsewhere that translate heavily from English. In this book as in other writings, Venuti links invisibility to “domesticating” strategies of translation that obscure the work of translation as well as the foreignness of the original text.

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