Shared ground in Translation Studies: A third series of responses. Shared ground in Translation Studies dependent on shared views of looking at translation

Albrecht Neubert
University of Leipzig (Emeritus)
Table of contents

The lively debate which has been going on in this journal bears witness to the vitality of the discipline. It is, however, also indicative of a certain rank-growth of ideas and opinions. Wherever individual students interested in generalisations tend to look they manage to find a thread on which to hang a theory. The only requirement is a view one cannot share and in no time a new concept is thrown into the ring to replace it. Just to give two examples: Anthony Pym complains “I believe that a narrow focus on translation and nothing but translation is ideologically pernicious, since it invites us not to compare the costs and advantages of translation against the range of alternative modes of cross-cultural communication”. What we should rather look for instead are “the conceptual geometries of intercultures” (2000: 336). Or take Rakefet Sela-Sheffy’s discarding of the “‘autonomy of the text’ ideology” because it “imposes a priori restrictions on any prospects of theoretical research into socio-historical factors of translation”. In exchange, she wants “the study of translation [to] serve ... as a perfect laboratory for the study of cultural dynamics (and not just linguistic behavior) in general” (2000: 348; original emphasis). Criticising the original position paper by Andrew Chesterman and Rosemary Arrojo (1999) because it “seems to perpetuate the restricted text-centred perspective” the discussant replaces it by “a comprehensive culture-centred approach to translation” (2000: 346). Interventions like these remind the sceptical observer of the discussions staged at the many conferences on translation, which very rarely end in theoretical conclusions shared by the majority of the participants.

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