Home / Events / Events Archive /
CANCELED. "Translation as Transgression: Crossing Linguistic and Disciplinary Boundaries."
What is the role and place of the translator in the humanities? Is he a boundary crosser, who links isolated worlds, opens new horizons, and expands the realm of freedom, or a warden, who keeps us locked up in what has been called “the prison house of language?” Leo Strauss argued that translation, being impossible, should be reduced to mechanical transcription, lest the translator’s fancy distort the coded esoteric messages of the great philosophical texts. I will show that Strauss was wrong, using examples drawn from Tocqueville, Proust, Camus, and others. And I will insist that knowledge, being “local” in Geertz’s sense before it can aspire to be universal, depends for its universality on the itinerant translator, whose membership in more than one local community gives him privileged access to the secret life of language, to the meaning that is only loosely linked to the words of a text and depends largely on its music.
Arthur Goldhammer is translator, and senior affiliate at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. Goldhammer is currently working on a book about democracy in America since Tocqueville and translating books by Pierre Rosanvallon and Lucien Jaume. He has translated more than 110 books from the French. His new translation of Tocqueville's Ancien Régime and the Revolution appeared in 2011. He chairs the Visiting Scholars Seminar at CES-Harvard, co-chairs the French Study Group, and is a member of the editorial board of French Politics, Culture, and Society. His blog "French Politics: An American observer comments on French politics," can be viewed at blogspot.com.
Part of LSA Translation Semester.