A literary work – Translation and original: A conceptual analysis within the philosophy of art and Translation Studies

Leena Laiho

The focus of this paper lies on the translatability of a literary work of art. The phenomenon is approached as a conceptual challenge subsumed under the question Can the identity of a literary work of art be retained when the work is translated? Since the question of translatability as posed here belongs to the realm of philosophy of art, the problematic nature of ‘original’, ‘translation’ and ‘identity’ is discussed first in the theoretical context of analytic philosophy. I then consider the issue within the framework of Translation Studies. By showing the definitional diversity the necessity of contextual embedding and theoretical explicitness is highlighted. A genuine exchange of ideas and views, between and within disciplines, presupposes conceptual transparency.

Table of contents

“But can we always be certain that we know what a translation is?” The idea of this paper can be expressed using Susan Bassnett’s (1998a: 27) words, or misusing them. I argue that the problematic nature of some central concepts in the analysis of literary translation, such as original, translation and identity, is often ignored, and that a more analytical approach should be taken. I believe that a demonstrative conceptual analysis will highlight the need for clarity in using these terms, and widen the perspective in contemporary discussions within and on translation theories. These discussions often take place within so-called translation sociology, and therefore the concepts in question are linked to questions of power relations and text production.

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