LINGUIST List 23.4172

Sun Oct 07 2012

Review: Translation: Shields & Clarke (2011)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 07-Oct-2012
From: Cinzia Citarrella <>
Subject: Translating Emotion
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Announced at
EDITOR: Shields, Kathleen and Clarke, MichaelTITLE: Translating EmotionSUBTITLE: Studies in Transformation and Renewal Between LanguagesSERIES: Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language LearningPUBLISHER: Peter LangYEAR: 2011

Cinzia Citarrella, Department of Linguistics, University of Palermo, Italy


This volume, edited by Kathleen Shields and Michael Clarke, is a collection ofpapers focused on different kinds of relationship between translation and emotion.

In the introduction the editors outline the structure of the book and the topicsof the contributions. The papers are about translation strategies and modalitieswith respect to the semantic fields related to emotion; that is, the creationthrough translation of new texts whose purpose is primarily to excite, in thereceivers, the same emotions experienced by the readers, and also to show theways translators convey their emotions in their texts.

The first essay, by Florian Krobb, focuses on the emotions contained in Goethe’sRoman Elegies and their translation. The author explores the concept of‘Weltliteratur’, a term coined by Goethe, and the notion of world literature asa universal dimension of literary production. The aim of Weltliteratur allowscultural European union through the acceptance of peoples’ particularities andthe affirmation of shared values of humankind. Many translations into English ofGoethe’s ''Roman Elegies'' subvert the concept of Weltliteratur in that Englishtranslators prioritized metrical form and thus destroyed all the ambivalencescontained in the original text in order to make the text more clear. Theauthor’s aim was the preservation of beauty and the sentiments of the ancientsand the writing of new love poetry in a classical style where “physical love isone avenue towards achieving contentment and completion” (p.14). In order toconvey emotions Goethe makes extensive use of metaphors; frequently theseexpressions were deleted or modified by translators to remove ambiguities or toadapt texts to their own culture. Early English translators intervened onmorally objectionable elements, thus obtaining a non-faithful translation asfinal result. Modern translators have many difficulties in translating somemetaphorical expressions; many options have been suggested but all of themreveal the limitations of the Weltliteratur into the world by means of translation.

Michael Clarke, in his essay ''Translation and Transformation: a Case Study fromMedieval Irish and English'', highlights the importance of the translator’screativity with particular reference to expressions of emotion in some earlyIrish and English texts in which classic episodes are transformed under thestructures of the Irish saga. Ireland and Britain were very far from the centerof the Roman Empire; so also their culture and languages were very differentfrom classical ones. The old scholars invented the relationship between theirraces and the Mediterranean peoples and also proposed some linguistic parallelsbetween English and Mediterranean languages such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.According to this, translators of ancient and classical texts used sophisticatedstrategies of translation like ‘analogical imitation’ (Doane, 1978, 49): somebooks of the Old Testament are rendered in vernacular verse in the style andlanguage of vernacular pagan songs. These texts were not intended as faithfultranslations but they absorb the source religious material into vernacularpoetic translation. To name but a few in the book of Exodus, for example, thejourney of the Israelites becomes the journey of a human soul, or, in theGenesis, Satan’s rebellion is the tensions in the Germanic warrior society. Bothreligious and Greco-Roman texts were also transformed, more than translated,into the aesthetic and poetic standards of the target language according to thedivergences between languages and cultural systems. Despite so many differences,Irish and Greek language and culture had a common origin in the Indo-Europeanworld: so many elements are not so different because they shared a commonprehistoric culture.

The third paper, by John Kinsella, ''East Meets West: some PortugueseTranslations of Eastern Poetry'', explores the ‘unfamiliarity’ between westernand oriental languages and cultures. As early as the XVI century Jesuits hadunderstood that learning oriental languages and translating holy books werefundamental for the missionaries in order to transform local belief systems:they had to incorporate the ideas of faith into the structure of locallanguages. This does not mean, however, to destroy the original texts, but toattempt to catch their substance.

Interest in eastern cultures and languages remained also in the XIX century,despite the European imperialistic policy. In this century Emanuel Felix, aPortuguese from Azorean, made a translation of Chinese and Japanese poems inorder to reproduce a dialogue with cultures unknown to many readers.Particularly difficult to understand and translate were the language of emotionsas it presents a high degree of metaphoricity: human emotions are linked tonatural elements such as happiness with the magpie in China. These metaphoricexpressions are very difficult to understand and explain because of the culturaldifferences and chronological distance. Despite these difficulties Kinsellaargues that it is possible to cross cultural and temporal boundaries even if theaim of a translation is to distinguish the strangeness of the source andretrieve the sense of cultural otherness.

In the fourth paper, ''Channelling Emotions, Eliciting Responses: Translation asPerformance,'' Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin focuses on how translators attempt totransmit emotions, the solutions and the degree of creativity they adopt intheir translations considering the high subjectivity and effects of emotions.Being distant both in space and time from the originator, the translator has toempathize with the original writer in order to capture his or her emotions andto transfer these to the readers. In order to show translators’ differentbehaviour and strategies, the author goes through various kinds of translationof different texts: interlingual, intralingual or intersemiotic translations ofgesture, spoken or written texts. Many cultural differences make impossible aliteral translation of words or gestures as in different countries the same actmay have different values. Even when there is no great cultural difference,translators have to individuate adequate strategies to explain the originator’sfeelings and emotions in a different language. Ó Cuilleanáin shows all thesefeatures through the analyses of a passage from Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk, the folkmusic of Klezmer tradition, the discourses of Martin Luther King, theinterrogations at Guantanamo Bay and the translation of Psalm 157.

Kathleen Shields’ paper, ''Auditory Images as Sites of Emotion: TranslatingGerard Manley Hopkins into French,'' looks at the importance of a translator’ssubjectivity in his or her decisions in order to translate figurative language,particularly in Hopkins’ work, as well as to transfer auditory images ascarriers of meaning. An auditory image is an iconic mental representationconnected to an auditory perception: it is the impression of sound on audience.In translation, auditory images are very often ignored as they are thought to beconnected to feelings more than ideas, but feelings are important to transfermeaning. Puns may be ignored in scientific texts and substituted by denotativeterms, but this strategy cannot be used in poetry: auditory images revealirrational and emotional values that are underlying in poetry. Shields analysessome extracts from the French translation of Hopkins’ poem ‘The Wreck of theDeutschland’ by Bruno Gaurier, who tries, as far as possible, to transfer intothe French text the phonetic patterns of the original. For instance Gauriertranslates the expression “I’m soft sift” with the French “Sable je sasse”keeping the alliteration of ‘s’ and adding a new layer of meaning: theintransitive use of the French verb sasser, normally used transitively,“captures the sense of the individual pushing through time without acting onanything” (p. 96) and replicates Hopkins’ image of the hourglass.

In the paper “A Dash of the Foreign: The Mixed Emotions of Difference” MichaelCronin looks at the history of translation in Ireland and the relationshipbetween Irish and English texts relative to translation. For the Irish and inparticular for the translator Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, translation was potentially abearer of impurities and it was considered necessary to add a filter todomesticate the threat of otherness: the familiarity between the Irish andEnglish languages was a great source of impurity. Linguistic proximity andindebtedness is also related to cultural and political features: Kiberd suggestsit is also “agonistic in the vying for cultural and political pre-eminence inNew Ireland” (p. 109). Translation was fundamental for the emergence of adistinctive literature in Irish-English (or Hiberno-English) in Modern Irelandand also for the reconfiguration of the relationship between Irish and Englishin Late Modern Ireland. Late-modern writers make use of inventiveness andmultilingualism so that the loyalty to one language or another is bypassed. Forinstance Paddy Bushe, who writes both in English and in Irish, in histranslation of Gabriel Rosenstock’s poems, chooses to leave the Irish-languagereferences as foreignizing elements in the text rather than domesticating themin English (pp. 112-113). Irish-English is considered “the child of translation”(p. 121): translingualism is related to the modern tendency towards‘de-differentiation’ in a perspective of globalization.

The last paper, “Love and Other Subtitles: Comedic and Abusive Subtitling in‘Annie Hall’ and ‘Wayne’s World,’’ by Michelle Woods is focused on translationas a way to convey emotion and particularly love. Both films reveal theimportance of intralingual translation because of gender and culturaldifferences. Subtitles are an important tool to “signal foreignness andintellectual hefts” (p. 127); they reveal characters’ thoughts (especially in''Annie Hall'') and translate the Cantonese that a character speaks in ''Wayne’sWorld''. Despite Nornes’ notion of ‘abusive subtitling’, Woods points out thatsubtitles may be also fundamental to highlight differences in order to createcomic effects. For instance in ''Annie Hall'', Woody Allen uses subtitles in orderto show the differences between what the characters say and think and to revealtheir feelings. The audience becomes a “secret entendeurs” (p. 135) and is madeaware of the foreign: while people watch a seduction scene with stereotypedroles, subtitles reveal a subversive situation against preconceptions. Subtitlesreveal also a different aspect of love: the dialogue between the two loversrepresents love as an understanding between two different individuals, whilesubtitles show love as “the locus of misunderstanding” (p. 136). So subtitlesbecome a trope of love and reveal also how all of us speak a foreign languagewhen we fall in love.


The volume contains several discussions focused on translation and emotions: thepapers contained in the volume highlight different aspects of the relationbetween translation and emotions and in particular the importance of the role oftranslators. The relation between the two features is not simple at all becauseof the high degree of subjectivity of emotions and the challenge of faithfultranslation. Different cultures, and even different individuals, conceptualizeemotions in very different ways: even if emotions are universal, theirconceptualization and linguistic expressions are divergent. According to thesubjectivity of ideas related to emotions, the language of emotion ismetaphorical everywhere and in every time; figurative language, though used toclarify transforming abstract concepts into concrete concepts so that they aremore understandable, creates ambiguities. In translation figurative language isoften ignored as a rhetorical feature but it is fundamental to transfer meanings.

Because of this, translating emotions is not an easy challenge and frequently anobjective and faithful translation is impossible, but what is necessary is agreat degree of the translator’s creativity: translation is not as a mechanicalactivity but a creative work. In this volume the importance of the translator’screativity is highlighted by Michael Clarke, referring specifically toexpressions of emotion in some early Irish and English texts. Sometimes a targettext is not a faithful translation but it is fundamental to convey meanings andcultural elements. If languages and cultural systems are highly divergent, as infor example western and non-western cultures, metaphorical expressions are evenmore difficult to understand and translate. In each situation translators haveto individuate adequate strategies to convey the message of the source text andthe system of beliefs, but they have also to empathize with the original writerin order to explain his or her feelings and emotions.

The editors have chosen papers that may be a starting point both for translatorsand theorists of translation referring to translating emotions. It is greatly totheir credit that they offer good examples to show the difficulties and theimportance of the transfer of meaning related to emotions from source to targettext. Reflection is provided with interesting ideas and experiences.

These studies also offer new input for future studies on the translation ofmetaphorical language, not only that related to emotion, and for studies onstrategies that translators may use in their works. The topics developed in''Translating Emotion'' are also quite interesting from the perspective ofteaching translation strategies.

To conclude, this edited volume is a fine reader for those who are interested intranslating figurative language. The conclusions of the various analyses revealthat it is possible to mediate between fidelity and creativity in translation bykeeping the real meaning of the original text and without violating the author’sintents.


Doane, A.N. (ed.), (1978) Genesis A, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.


Cinzia Citarrella, Ph.D. in Linguistics, is currently a lecturer of Translation Studies at the University of Palermo, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, and is a certified Italian as a Second Language teacher. Her main academic interests are Translation Studies, Cognitive Linguistics and Metaphor, and Language Teaching.

Page Updated: 07-Oct-2012