Home Language & Literature The Age of Translation: Early 20th-century Concepts and Debates
Translation Studies as a discipline
In the final quarter of the twentieth century translation began to be afforded the status of an academic discipline both in Spain and in Portugal, as a result of such factors as the increase in international relations and the need to train professionals to meet the challenges of the modern world. As the heir of the contributions made in the second half of the twentieth century, Translation Studies was born within the linguistic context, although only a few years later it would discard this label to adopt a markedly interdisciplinary profile.
Two forerunners: Antonio Augusto Gonsalves Rodrigues and Valentm Garda Yebra
Among the members of what we have termed the “bridge generation”, two pioneering figures in Portugal and Spain stand out particularly. Both were translators, lecturers and principals of the schools where they taught — one trained in German philology and the other in Classical philology, the two determining areas of philology when it came to laying down the philological underpinning of translation studies in the two countries.
In the field of bibliographical sources for the study of translation, we find Antonio Augusto Gonsalves Rodrigues (1906-1999). Trained in Germanic Philology and acquiring a PhD in 1951, he was a professor in the arts faculty at the University of Lisbon, where he also served as the principal (1952-1956) and deputy vice-chancellor (1956-1962). Gonsalves Rodrigues founded the Instituto Superior de Linguas e Administra^ao (ISLA) in Lisbon, which was Portugal’s first private further-education institution (1962), where he was a lecturer, the principal and the administrator until 1998. ISLA is considered to have been the first school to teach translation in Portugal (Magalhaes 233), subsequently expanding to San- tarem, Vila Nova de Gaia, Bragan^a and Leiria.
As a translator, he was instrumental in disseminating the essays of major British Lusitanists and Lusophiles, such as Edgar Prestage and Peter Russell, and the work of twentieth-century writers such as Graham Greene and Clive Staples Lewis (Flor “A. A. Gonsalves Rodrigues” 24).
Gonsalves Rodrigues pioneered research into the external history of translation in his five-volume work A Tradugao em Portugal (1992-1999). He presents an extensive list of translations that appeared between the late fifteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, which has served as a starting point for subsequent studies by translation scholars. Rodrigues divides the production of translated works into four main sections: A: literature (in turn subdivided into A1, novel; A2, poetry;
and A3, drama); B: essay, humanities; C: science; and D: religion. He stresses the importance of the nineteenth century because it shows the dominant role that translation has played since that period. His work enables the most frequently translated authors of any given time to be studied, as well as the languages (direct or reverse) and influence of translations on the receiving literature, and may be considered as the foundation for all subsequent study of translation in Portugal from the point of view of reception, paving the way for new research in the field of the history of literary translation and “of the subsystem of translated literature and the intercultural links that are established in the field and the polysystem of literary production in Portugal” [”do subsistema da literatura traduzida e das relates interculturais e intraculturais que ela estabelece no campo e no polisis- tema da produ^ao literaria em Portugal”] (Flor “A. A. Gonsalves Rodrigues” 26).
Valentin Garcia Yebra (1917-2010) belongs to a tradition of illustrious philologists that began with the teaching of Ramon Menendez Pidal in the early twentieth century and continued after the Spanish Civil War around the academic work and person of Damaso Alonso. Besides practising translation devotedly and passionately for more than half a century, Garcia Yebra was concerned not only with investigating it in order to do it better, but also to explain and promote it, supporting such important and exceptional initiatives as the setting-up, in 1974, of the Instituto Universitario de Lenguas Modernas y Traductores (IULMT) at the Complutense University of Madrid, where he was the principal and a lecturer. The product of all his experience is the textbook Teorta y practica de la traduction, published in 1982. Although the book was mostly intended for his students, it has a broader scope and serves as a guide not only for would-be or already practising translators, but also for a readership that is not necessarily associated with translation but is interested in the proper use of language. With regard to the theoretical basis covered in the first part of the book, Garcia Yebra maintains that translation is a linguistic operation applied to linguistic objects or texts, in the process of which lexical, morphological and syntactic difficulties arise both at the stage of understanding the source text and at the stage of expression in the target language. His position on how to proceed is one of compromise between the two basic ways of translating identified by Schleiermacher, whom he translated, and he acknowledges that only rarely is one or the other followed exclusively when working with real texts.
Valentin Garcia Yebra’s translations from classical languages merit special consideration among his translated works. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that the translator himself should include them among his original works (Traduction 253). They are translations that will forever be associated with the Credos publishing house, which he founded in 1944 with Damaso Alonso, Hipolito Escolar and Julio Calonge. The work done by Credos to recover, update and disseminate Creek and Latin texts has been and continues to be exemplary. The translations of Aristotle’s Metaphysics (1970) and Poetics (1974); the seven volumes of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars (vols. I-VI, 1945; vol. VII, 1946), translated in partnership with Hipolito Escolar; the translations of Cicero’s Pro Marcello (1946) and the dialogue On Friendship (1947); Seneca’s Medea (1964) were all published by Credos. These are erudite translations, intended for specialist readers and academics. Both the Metaphysics and the Poetics were published in trilingual editions (Creek, Latin and Spanish). In his prologue for the former, Garcia Yebra justifies the translation by saying that the Latin text could facilitate detailed understanding of the Creek (Aristoteles xi). He also admits to the documentary and linguistic problems that he had to overcome in this monumental 830-page enterprise, and he presents what he considers to be the golden rule for all translation, which, despite the difficulty of applying it to texts as complex and distant in time as those of Aristotle, is to “say everything that the original says, say nothing that the original does not say, and say it all as correctly and naturally as the language you are translating into allows” [“decir todo lo que dice el original, no decir nada que el original no diga, y decirlo todo con la correction y naturalidad que permita la lengua a la que se traduce”] (xxvii). Worthy of note throughout his theoretical work is the prescriptivism of his thinking, corresponding to a linguistic conception of translation that is oriented towards facilitating the task of translating by deducing practical principles or rules. It has withstood the passage of time because it is a guide to the good use of Spanish, supported by abundant examples and commentaries on translations.
A particular merit of his facet as a historian of translation is that he was one of the first to systematise the most important milestones in history, particularly within the Spanish ambit, to the extent that in his work we may find the seed of subsequent developments, as he was a pioneer in this respect also.
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