[b-hebrew] Robert Alter on Translation

Trevor Peterson 06PETERSON at cua.edu
Thu Aug 14 07:25:20 EDT 2003

>===== Original Message From CS Bartholomew <jacksonpollock at earthlink.net>
>For example, he advocates rendering a repititous Hebrew word with a
>repititous English equivalent. He firmly denounces altering the English
>equivalent based on contextual considerations.
>At first glance this sounds like concordant translation.
>Has translation theory come full circle while I was napping?

This sounds like what Ed Greenstein argued in the 1980s, which in turn was
based on Buber & Rosenzweig. It's not so much a circling of translation theory
as a protest against the Nida school (not sure if that's an appropriate term,
but his name seems to come up one way or another in all of these discussions).
I think the essence of the argument is that form and function cannot be
separated as cleanly as DE theorists might lead one to believe. Alter is
obviously concerned with structural features of the text, and DE translation
almost always wreaks havoc of such features. Along the way, it purports to
assimilate the meaning of those features and to repackage them in the
trappings of the target language, but others are more pessimistic about how
well this can be achieved. Greenstein therefore calls a more literal
translation method "literary" translation, as opposed to "philological"
translation, where the translator investigates the language of the source text
and provides the reader with a report of the conclusions. It's important to
know what different people mean by their terms, since from another angle one
could say that Greenstein's preferred method produces a translation that is
anything but literary. His point, though, is that it preserves more literary
information, as long as the users know how to access it.

Trevor Peterson

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list