1. Ideally it combines the history of translation theory with the study of literary and social trends in which translation has played a direct part. It is the story of interchange between languages and between cultures and as such has implications for the study of both language and culture. 2. Closely allied to literary history, translation history can describe changes in literary trends, account for the regeneration of a culture, trace changes in politics or ideology and explain the expansion and transfer of thought and knowledge in a particular era.
3. It goes without saying that each culture will have its own particular translation history according to the historical and political events that have shaped it. There are of course periods in history featuring translation that are common to many cultures.
The expansion of the Roman empire, for example, the invention of printing or the Reformation all had impact on most areas of Europe and its translation activities. Other continents will have experienced other invasions, other advances in technologies, other religions. Events like these are always good points of departure for research, but their effect on an individual culture varies according to the local context.
4. Placing translated texts into their historical contexts helps define and account for the policies employed by past translators and so gives at least a point of departure for developing strategies. Through history we encounter examples of the darker possibilities of translation, of the opportunities for distortion or manipulation of text, of the translations undertaken with hostile intent.
Looking at the history of translation theory gives bases for comparison and demonstrates whether translators are making progress or simply repeating the same mistakes. It also helps to assess whether modern theorists are saying something new or simply repeating the same ideas in different language. 5. The study of prefaces or postscripts of a past age may reveal the translators’ attitudes towards both translation and the translated text. The preface to the Rheims translation of the Bible, to take one example, reveals that some translations are performed with the utmost reluctance (Pollard,301).
Alexander Ross’s preface to his translation of the Qur’an from the French version informs the reader that there is such a thing as hostile translation, a translation performed for the purpose of challenging the text rather than promoting it 6. Case studies viewed historically can reveal so much about strategies and conventions. It is possible to trace the progress of the Phaedra story, for example, from Euripides’ Hippolytus, via Seneca’s Latin Phaedra, Racine’s Phedre to Edmund Smith’s English translation of Racine, to continue through J. C. Knight, John Cairncross and Robert Lowell’s versions of the same and to conclude by
looking at Ted Hughes’ translation, the modern version of Paul Schmidt and the controversial play by Sarah Kane. The history of Phaedra in translation teaches how translation conforms (or not) to the dramatic and cultural conventions of the target language. It addresses adaptation as a form of translation, shows how subtlety in choice of words can change a character, gives strategies for coping with verse forms that do not exist in the target language, and also illustrates the differ- ence between translating for performance and producing a text in the target language.
7. Negotiating translation history is rather like navigating with various specialist maps. Individually they give different features of the cultural, linguistic, political, historical, religious, technological, literary landscape, but there is too much information to make a single map of them. Consequently, it is necessary to separate out some relevant aspects of each in order to draw a specialist translation history map. Interdisciplinary research is essential, since most sources are interrelated and may be approached from several directions.
Language issues This area includes the history of language, the rise of the vernacular(родной язык), education and translation as a tool for learning a foreign language. Literary issues This area includes literary history, history of translation theory and the work of individual translators. Religious and philosophical issues This area deals with the translation that arose from the spread of philosophical and religious systems from one culture to another.
Evangelisation, exegesis (толкование текста) or curiosity required the translation of Buddhist texts first from Sanskrit into Chinese and later into Japanese and English, produced a Latin version of the Qur’an from Arabic and, later, European vernacular versions, and necessitated the Bible’s translation from various Greek and Latin texts into one Latin version and eventually into European vernaculars.
Scientific interchange This area includes translation activity concerned with the acquisition and expansion of knowledge. It can occur on quite a small scale in fairly local projects (the collecting of recipes and remedies(лекарства) for example), or it may encompass larger areas of medicine, astronomy, mathematics or natural sciences.