Reading Notes -11/3

Thick Translation

“…what interests us in the translations that interest us must is not meaning, in the sense that philosophy of language uses the term…”  (332)

I think we could say something similar about literature more broadly. Much more going than on that ‘simple’ speech acts, intentions, logical diagrams, or other such concepts can fully account for.

assetoric vs. optative.: Statements that assert vs. statements that express wishes preferences

“…it will often only be a matter of luck whether the relevant intentions are possible for both of two communitites, between which we are translating.”

Luck, or closeness of the two languages. How much of the way we think about translation (or thought about it) was influenced by the relative ease of translating between similar Western European languages/cultures where the relevant intentions were more likely to coexist?

Literal translation is often impossible, but Appiah finds this uninteresting; it says nothing, in a given case, of the possibility of translation more generally.

‘Canceling of literal intentions.’ This is an interesting way of describing the framing devices of stories in how it relates to the language deployed by a given story.

“[W]e must begin with the literal meanings of words, phrases, sentences.” But as Appiah notes, this is not enough.  (What about, however, idiomatic phrases that have lost their literal sense? These are often mispronounced for this very reason: champing vs. chomping at the bit; right down the pike/pipe; etc.

338 – Discussion of non-literal meanings; references Joyce and other texts that defy any sense of the literal meaning as a starting point. Wish he would say more about how we deal with or make meaning out of these texts within the context he is trying to explain here.

339- Makes a point about novels lacking conventions to help define meaning, but this seems limiting. Certain subgenres, flavors, tropes, etc. certainly point to at least partial intentionality based on convention. E.g. didactic literature, the Bildungsroman, agitprop etc.

This question of meaning and how it relates to translation seems to come down to a question of how we decide what matters, at least for Appiah. By understanding and ‘facing up to difference’ the true pedagogical potential of ‘thick’ translation can be realized. We must account not only for the difference in the other, but for our own desires which demand his reproduction. It seems to me that part of translation always risks translating the other not with regard to the type of difference that Appiah discusses here, but in service of a vision that we already have–somewhat like Berman’s idea of exoticization.

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