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Leonardi, Vanessa (ed.) (2007). Gender and Ideology in Translation: Do Women and Men Translate Differently? A Contrastive Analysis from Italian into English.

Bern: Peter Lang, 323 pp. € 60.00, £ 45.00. ISBN10:  3039111523 ISBN13:   9783039111527

In the 1990s translation studies saw a renewed interest in the analysis of gender and ideology in relation to, and interacting with, translation as theory and practice. Simon (1996) presented an extensive study of translation influenced by feminist thought, investigated gender issues in translation, and explored the ways in which women translators have been cultural mediators for centuries, creating "new lines of cultural communication" (Simon 1996: viii); likewise, von Flotow (1997) researched practices of feminist translation, from the processes of 'gendered translation' to the translation of ideologically hostile texts, as well as the recovery of 'lost' women translators of the past. Their studies, among those of many other scholars, explored translation(s) operating within language and power. The fertile discussions initiated by the interfacing of translation, gender, and ideology has opened up new perspectives and, accordingly, as von Flotow suggests at the end of her seminal book, further research needs to be done and gaps must still be filled. One of the most interesting and thought-provoking questions to offer scope for further research is that of how the ideological beliefs and gender differences of translators affect translation as a process and product. 

By attempting to analyse and to discuss whether men and women translate differently, this contribution by Vanessa Leonardi goes towards filling the gap in gender-related studies in translation. The main objective of this volume (European University Studies, Linguistics series xxi, vol./Band 301) is to "establish a comparative framework for the contrastive analysis of the translation strategies of male and female translators" (19) and by so doing to focus on, and to analyse "the role and effects of ideology-driven shifts in translation as a result of gender differences" (289). Leonardi's intriguing hypothesis is that men and women translate differently and, as a consequence, "some translation may be a result of differences in both their sex and that of the ST [source text] authors, different text types chosen for translation, and/or different socio-cultural backgrounds" (20). Leonardi uses as her corpus a selection of Italian novels translated into English. These are: Dacia Maraini's La vacanza translated by Stuart Hood and Maraini's L'età del malessere translated by Frances Frenaye; Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema translated by Stuart Hood and Carlo Levi's Cristo si è fermato ad Eboli translated by Frances Frenaye. The criteria for the selection of the corpus are thoroughly explained from the outset (section 1.7, 25-29). By taking into consideration novels written by both male and female writers, as well as examples of feminist writing translated by both a man and a woman, one is better positioned to evaluate gender-related differences in translators' practice.

The book is structured in two main parts. The first part reviews relevant theories (including ideology, gender and translation), and presents the analytical methodology or framework, which will be applied to the corpus of texts in the second part, when the actual contrastive analyses are carried out. The methodological framework is based on a CCTL (critical contrastive text linguistics) approach. This analysis considers grammatical and syntactical levels (including grammatical gender and word manipulation, as well as transitivity), thematic structure and word order, lexical and semantic level (for example, equivalence at word level and above word level, register analysis), pragmatic level, and strategies of omission, addition, as well as use of punctuation, and mistranslations. Further, this framework also considers paratextual and paratranslational material such as prefaces, forewords, and so forth.

The underpinning hypothesis is therefore tested through a detailed, comparative linguistic, textual and pragmatic analysis of Italian source texts and their English target texts, and differences between ideologically modified or mediated translation choices are identified and discussed in the light of translation strategies and shifts. Since the focus here is on translators themselves (who they are, how they translate particular cultural passages, how they deal with a particular use of language), information about the contexts of text production, as well as biographical information about the translators is also provided as part of this analysis.

Leonardi rightly addresses the limitations of her study from the beginning (section 1.5, 23-24). While the corpus offers an important variety in terms of style, male and female authors, ideology, and genre conventions, it would have been interesting to look at how the same source text may have been translated by female and male translators, although this was not possible with the novels chosen here as only "one translation of each ST has been carried out"(24).

Such a study is welcome for its analysis of ideology-driven shifts, and its focus on the translators as both text mediators and manipulators. In particular, the CCTL framework that Leonardi develops and tests, with its focus on grammatical, lexical, textual and pragmatic levels, can be a useful tool in the analysis of ideology and gender-related issues in translated texts.

  • Simon, Sherry (1996) Gender in Translation. Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Von Flotow, Luise (1997) Translation and Gender. Translating in the 'Era of Feminism'. Manchester: St Jerome.

Manuela Perteghella
London Metropolitan University