1.1 Brief introduction of the background: Feminist translation rose in the process of “cultural turn” proposed by Bassnett Susan and Lefevere at the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s, it was the product of the latest advances in translation theory and the vigorous development of the feminist movement that first launched in Canada by some outstanding Canadian translators, like Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood, Barbara Godard and Kathy Mezei.(Susan 1990) A strong movement of French-language feminist experimental writing in Quebec stimulated their desire to promote and to theorize activities of literary mediation.
Since then, some feminist theorists came up and made a lot of critics about the feminist translation theory, the most typical and influential ones are: Sherry Simon’s Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission; Luise Von Flotow’s Translation and Gender : Translating in the Era of Feminism; and Barbara Godard’s Views on feminist translation studies. The purpose of feminist translation theory is firmly opposed to placing women in the lower social class and making translation subsidiary to literature. They are against that, as John Forio summarized:“translators are handmaiden to authors, women inferior to men.”
This is the core of feminist translation theory, which seeks to ‘identify and critique the tangle of concepts which relegates both women and translation to the bottom of the social and literary ladder’. We can see that it stressed the subjectivity of translation, hold the idea that original is equivalent to the translation and the gender discrimination can be eliminated by rewriting the translation. (简丽丽2012:1-27) From this point of view, the theory is accepted by most, especially translation theorists, since it has provided a new learning perspective for them in translation theory research and translation practice.
1.2 The application of the feminist theory in literature. As one of the most important foundational texts of our Western culture. However, there are many masculine language, image and metaphor in the early Bible so that it is hard to avoid not to consider God as male. With the rising of feminism, women Christian became awakening to the situation of women’s oppression, so they reacted strongly against the overwhelmingly masculinist bias of the Bible, and the way it had for so long been used to constrain women. While the method they adopted is to reinterpretate the Bible from a feminist point of view, to translate the Bible by means of “neutral” or “gender-inclusive language” and propose several amendments of the translation of the Bible, which resolves the concept of feminist translation. However, some people think that the rewriting of the Bible may lead a misunderstanding of it, for the fact is that the social status of female in that era is extremely low. We can judge from the following:
The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire on the vital questions of the hour, she was commanded to ask her husband at home. Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up.
Different translation versions of the Bible are allowed nowadays, on condition that the religious rules and the historical truth of the original text not be violated. Otherwise it won’t become an authorized and popular one. With the rapid development of the feminist translation theory, there sprang up numerous recomments on the reinterpretation of feminist literature in China and abroad. Some main research texts are: Pride and Prejudice; Zhang AIling’s translations; Jane Eyre; Diary of a Mad Black Woman; A Frolic in the Snow; The Color Purple;《王安忆：男人和女人，女人和城市》and so on.
Through the recomment on the feminist literature, and the comparison of different versions from gender point of view, more and more people were awakened by the feminist consciousness, it earned widespread attention to some extent, it even changed the position of men and women in an unnoticed , fast way. For example, there are two different translated versions of Li Limei and Sun Zhili to Pride and prejudice. As far as Austen’s ideas on marriage are concerned. Li Limei’s preface for her translation of Pride and Prejudice:She criticized most of the marriage at that time…(she thought) the base of an ideal marriage should be mutual love and understanding…but she never put money and love ai the opposite position; instead, she showed that money played a key role in an ideal marriage. In Sun Zhili’s preface for his translation of Pride and Prejudice : she accepted Collin’s proposal just for the purpose to have a good home, a “safe box” which ensured that she can be protected from cold and hunger. She didn’t mind the fact that she couldn’t enjoy the happiness of love after she got marriage. And to some extent, it reflects the miserable fate of women.
It shows us that how the subjectivity influences the translation, in the example above, the female translator, influenced by gender consciousness, can better grasp and reproduce the details related to feminine in the original text. However, the male translator, lacking the gender consciousness, often neglects these details, and even weaken or distorts the feminist purpose in the original text.
2. Theory foundation and their strength and weakness
2.1 Sherry Simon and her Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission Sherry Simon and her Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission, which is one of her most significant monographs of translation studies and is also the first comprehensive discussion of the western translation studies from feminist perspective. The book mainly explored the influence on translation theory and practice on the part of feminism based on political and literary movement. In Simon’s words, the book is the product of feminism and translation studies from the perspective of culture. It abandoned the traditional translation theory and held that translation was not a simple mechanical language conversion ,but also the constant extension the renewal of an unlimited number of text discourses.
Therefore, translation, considered as an act of writing through highlighting the subjectivity of the translator, is also a rewriting behaviour in specific social, historical and cultural context. Sherry Simon concentrated on the discussion of replacing those hackneyed language by means of the positive discourses that enable to convey the function of identity in translation practice. Sherry Simon’s feminist theory has broken the shackles of translational translation theory, promoting the play of individual initiative, advocating individual interest and needs and recognizing the individual world view.(Simon 1996:105-108)
Simon focus on underlining the importance of the cultural turn in translation.
Cultural studies brings translation an understanding of the complexities of gender and culture. It allows us to situate linguistic transfer within the multiple ‘post’ realities of today: poststructuralism, post colonialism and postmodernism.
Thus Simon links gender and cultural studies to the development in the post colonialism. The exact scope of post colonialism is open to some debate; however, it is generally used to cover studies of the history of the former colonies, studies of powerful European empires , resistance to the colonialist powers and, more broadly, studies of the effect of the imbalance of power relations between colonized and colonizer. The consequent crossover between different contemporary disciplines can be seen by the fact that essays by her and Lefevere appear in collections of postcolonial writings on translation, and Simon herself makes extensive reference to the postcolonialist Spivak.(Jeremy 2010:133)
2.2 Luise Von Flotow’ Translation and Gender : Translating in the Era of Feminism
Followed by Sherry Simon, Luise Von Flotow wrote her Translation and Gender : Translating in the Era of Feminism . After the publication of this book, there came into being a lot of thesis about the feminist translation theory almost at the same time. The importance of it is quite evident. However, does it rightly or properly criticize and comment on the feminist translation perspective? We know that (a) the book systematically expounded the origin, development of the feminism, as well as its relationship with translation. (b) And it perfectly combined theory and example by citing abundant cases. The most heating topic was her three feminist translation strategies: “supplementing”, “prefacing” and “footnoting” as well as “hijacking”.
She explained to us those methods the translators use in their work elaborately. (c) More importantly, as a women, Luise did not hold a bigoted idea, but a justice one to feminism. All of those are strengths, but (a) the language she studied focused on Hebrew, French, and German which all of them have typical gender, number and case. It is not convincing for the Chinese, Japanese and Korean readers for their language can not be obviously distinguished. (b) her criticizes from Outside Feminism and Within Feminism leave us an impression that the feminism overemphasize their manipulative and political act by tampering and the authors’ writing style, without regard to the readers’ feeling. Presenting to us their colonialism in translation. (Flotow 2004)
2.3 Barbara Godard’s Views on feminist translation studies. Barbara Godard was born in Toronto in 1941, she was one of the most famous feminist translators who were the first to engage in feminist translation. She published six translation works including dozens of translations of poetries, proses and fiction excerpts. Godard emphasized on the profiling of women and the translator in the translation. She wrote prefaces all her translators, showing her rejection of invisible women, translators and translations.
An important discovery she found was that the language differences between women and men, she found that women must put female language translated in to patriarchal language when they got involved in to the public domain, so women were “bilingual”, with at least two kind of visions of looking at reality. However, men has a single perspective because of their power positions of masters. When it came to the translation of women’s work, this narrow perspective of men were fully exposed.
What she sought was not the “one to one correspondence” between the translation work and the original texts, but the recreation of the translation to the feminism in the original text. Godard was absolutely a pioneer in western feminist translation and her feminist translation practice and theory were extremely important for us to study the western feminist translation. However,(a) her works were so radical that it was almost impossible for the translators to find the so-called equivalence of the original work and the translation work. (b) Godard’s translation were indeed limited to the highly educated elite readers for she thought it was one of the strategies of feminism that required the text of elitism to make the text more readable.
3. Conclusion It is regarded as a good way to improve the women’s social status with language and translation, we are also delighted to see the improvement of the subjectivity and the translators, but it will become debateable if the translators attempt to change the style of the original work, or rewrite it to serve their political act. If the translation is not fidelity ,we won’t care whether it is beautiful or not. What we should do is not to rewrite all the works forcefully, but fully analyzing and translating the feminist works with female consciousness, so that our voice can be heard,and our female consciousness can be released from the male-centered one.(乐黛云 2002)
The translation theory and translation practice now mainly focus on some typical literary translation and texts, but not spread to the people at bottom. It is suggested that the mass reading and some other aspects should also be involved.
As for China, we still did not have any formal feminist movement, plus we lack of the deep research about translation. Hence we haven’t achieved a remarkable achievement concerning the feminist translation. We should avail ourselves of this opportunity to call on Chinese translators apply this feminist consciousness into their translation. Because it benefits not only the development of feminism, the gender study, but also the translation studies. The revolution of the translation may be a revolution of literature, and a revolution of human culture.
Courtney from Study Moose
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