Book review
Johan Heilbron & Gisèle Sapiro, eds. Traduction : les échanges littéraires internationaux
(Special issue of: Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 144). (3) 104 pp. ISBN 0335-5322 € 12

Reviewed by Reine Meylaerts and Michael Boyden
Table of contents

Would it be an exaggeration to consider the September 2002 issue of Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, dedicated entirely to the phenomenon of translation, as an “event”? Not really, considering the fact that during the last decades the Hexagone has had the (false?) reputation of disregarding the “goings-on” in the field of Functionalist Translation Studies. It therefore comes as no small surprise that one of the most prestigious periodicals in France founded by the recently deceased father of Field Theory, Pierre Bourdieu, for the very first time considers literary translation as a worthy sociological object. Indeed, the publication must have, to use one of Bourdieu’s core concepts, its “symbolic” importance. The early seventies marking the birth both of Polysystem Theory and of the “théorie des champs” as—after all very related—functionalist models of analysis, one cannot but be struck by the unequal attention the two approaches have reserved until now to the analysis of intercultural relationships and their dynamics in the study of cultural phenomena. Descriptive Translation Studies developed out of Polysystem Theory’s emphasis on the basic openness of literary systems as one of their defining characteristics. The study of the import and export of texts and models, of the norms and strategies underlying these flows of intercultural contacts, of their role in the building of a cultural repertoire etc., are among the capital objects of study for the comprehension of cultural identity and evolution. Field Theory, on the other hand, has concentrated on the sociological mechanisms of cultural distinction, on the various strategies underlying the struggle for legitimacy, for access to the literary hierarchy of actors in the literary field. Cultural migration and exchange of all kinds was not, it seems, of central interest to the model. Over the last couple of years, however, the problems of internationalization and globalization have brought the aspect of intercultural relations and of translation more and more to the fore.

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