An approach to translation criticism

An approach to translation criticism: Emma and Madame Bovary in translation. By LanceHewson. (Benjamins translation library 95.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. ix, 282.ISBN 9789027224439. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Taras Shmiher, Ivan Franko National University

The aim of this book is to scrutinize ways in which a literary text may be explored in translation in order to understand the relation between an author’s original and the resulting translated text by investigating the interpretative potential of the translational choices that have been made.

In the introduction (1–29), the author presents the phenomenon of translation quality assessment as a category of translation research and defines three basic terms: analysis, evaluation, and criticism. The instrumental repertoire of his translation criticism is influenced by Kitty van Leuven-Zwart’s and Cees Koster’s concepts of shifts and tertium comparationis, by Armin Paul Frank and colleagues’ study of transfers, and by Antoine Berman’s theory of ‘critique’. All of these approaches show an urge for developing corpus-based translation studies. They also contribute to efforts to construct a new model of analysis, which revises the fundamental translation issues, interpretative act and analysis, and introduces the newly-defined concepts of divergent similarity: relative divergence, radical divergence, and adaptation.

The corpus of this study is composed of two prominent nineteenth-century novels: Jane Austin’s Emma and three French translations; and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and six English-language versions. Ch. 2 (31–52) characterizes in great detail the textual features and historical contexts of the original editions and the existing translations. The scheme of the presentation shows some critical guidelines for the reception of the two novels. Ch. 3 (53–92) focuses on the intricacies of micro- and meso-level text analyses. Grounded in one passage from both novels and their translations, the overall analysis consists of assessing more than two dozen translational choices in the domains of syntax, lexis, and grammar, and also covers addition, elimination, and free indirect discourse. On the meso-level, it includes voice effects, interpretational effects, and the question of impact.

Ch 4 (93–127) and Ch. 5 (129–63) describe interpretations that readers construct from impressions of the translational choices separately in each novel. Thus, contraction and transformation change the potential directions of interpretation in Emma. In Madame Bovary, the picture is more complex, as the statistics record the change of certain choices (e.g. reduction, accretion, contraction) from abundance to substitution and absence in different translations. A macro-level view of translation is introduced in Ch. 6 (165–89), where a methodology is specified so as to map the necessarily fuzzy results of meso-level consideration and to envisage the relevant macro-level categories, which are ambiguously located between divergent similarity and radical divergence.

Ch. 7 (191–220), Ch. 8 (221–33), and Ch. 9 (235–56) practically describe the contours of radical divergence, along with adaptation, relative divergence, and divergent similarity, respectively, testing theoretical hypotheses from the previous chapters on the presented translations. This course, in a way, contributes to the methodology of presenting a translator’s personality. In the conclusion (257–69), the author reiterates the difficulty of categorizing translational choices and their effects, unveiling some theoretically dubious issues and inherent weaknesses. The question is open for further research. The book concludes with a bibliography, which is divided into three subdivisions—primary sources, secondary sources, and web sites, followed by name and subject indices.