A missing link in Itamar Even-Zohar’s theoretical thinking

Nam Fung Chang

According to Itamar Even-Zohar, for a large social entity to be maintained, a culture repertoire must be invented to create internal cohesion and external differentiation, and from this repertoire certain items are chosen to build a collective identity. In contrast, imported items, if regarded as threats to this identity, may meet with resistance. This theory may shed light on Even-Zohar’s hypotheses that the “normal” position assumed by translated literature in the literary polysystem tends to be a peripheral one, and that translation tends towards acceptability when it is at the periphery.

Table of contents

In his seminal paper “The position of translated literature within the literary polysystem”, first published in 1978 (Even-Zohar 1990a), Itamar Even-Zohar puts forward two interrelated hypotheses: first, that the position assumed by translated literature tends to be a peripheral one except in three special situations—when the literary polysystem is young, weak, or in a crisis; and second, that translation tends towards acceptability when it is at the periphery, and towards adequacy when it is at the centre. He has not explained in detail the basis of these hypotheses, and has turned to culture research since the 1990s.

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