Theorizing a postmodern translator education

Kelly Washbourne

The goal of this article is to unite the different strands of postpositivist thinking about translator education, including both axiological and epistemological, as well as the often-neglected political dimensions. Accordingly, the study considers evidence-based versus values-based education, performativity, dialogue, deconstruction, reflexivity, emergentism, border pedagogy, complexity, pluralism, and the enactment of “multiple voices” (González-Davies 2004). Thirteen postmodern notions and their implications for translation pedagogics are surveyed, including ethics, intersubjectivity, shifting classroom power structures, and the dilemma of canon. How are uncertainty and fragmentariness reconciled with the inherent progress-orientedness of the educational project? And significantly, how is postmodern consciousness enacted in classroom practice? In seeking what Torres del Rey (2002, 271) calls a more participatory and reflexive educational context, I entertain postmodern teaching and learning in the discipline as a possible approach to active, flexible, creative, collaborative, and inclusive roles and identities for both facilitators and learners.

Publication history
Table of contents

We could all be forgiven for ‘postmodernism fatigue’. And yet, we cannot resist postmodernism, if not for its allure then for its ubiquity, even if we eschew the label itself. The present work is premised on the assumption that postmodern precepts still circulate widely, claims of their death notwithstanding (see Peters, Tesar, and Jackson 2018), that they could be made more intentional by translation teachers and learners, and that still others remain pure potential. Kiraly (2015, 21–24) has offered a few introductory pages on the theme, as have Arrojo (1996, 2012), Torres del Rey (2002), and Varney (2008), all valuable starting points for teaching. In what follows, I do not seek to exhaust the postmodern ethos, but merely to show some connections with educational psychology and educational philosophy, and some phenomena already in evidence that may be considered postmodern (or poststructuralist). My purpose is not to label but to reflect on practice and to contribute to what Kiraly (2015, 24) calls a “still-emerging postmodern Zeitgeist.” An overarching goal along the way is to take stock of what has been articulated disparately to date, across a quarter century of pedagogical theory in this vein, and tie together aspects that remain unassimilated in Translation Studies, such as postmodern textuality and politics. In many cases, principles but not practices or procedures are on offer in the literature; I will attempt not a ‘how to’ or a syllabus but an overlay map of theory and practice.

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