Gambier, Yves, Shlesinger, Miriam and Stolze, Radegundis (eds) (2004). Doubts and Directions in Translation Studies.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 361 pp. €110 / $165 ISBN 9027216800, 9789027216809.
Doubts and Directions in Translation Studies could be a misleading title. It is not a reference book on TS research, nor a handbook. It is a selection of the contributions presented at the EST Conference which took place in Lisbon on 29-30 September 2004 under the title “Doubts and Directions.”
The origin of the book entails the combination of two aims: firstly, to reflect the diversity of the papers presented in the conference; secondly, to offer the reader a publication where questions, assumptions, biaises, approaches and other presuppositions on TS are dealt with in an structured and coherent manner. Doubts and Directions is, therefore, a necessary forum for discussion rather than an in-depth study of overarching questions in TS.
Firstly, the effort of the editors to develop a coherent and well presented structure of the main doubts and directions in Translation Studies should be highlighted. The 26 papers included in the book (out of 140 papers presented in the conference) are a glimpse of the current diversity of TS.
Divided into 5 Parts (or broad categories), the different papers seem to have been grouped in order to provide an overview of the different directions TS are currently taking. This is thus an attempt to reflect the interdisciplinarity of Translation and Interpreting (T/I) and to show areas where TS could shed light on and vice versa (i.e. Semiotics, Transfer Studies, Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, Pragmatics). Furthermore, a wide range of media and contexts where T/I take place is portrayed: literature, press, audiovisual, court and legal contexts, among others.
These 5 parts (Theory, Methodology, Empirical Research, Linguistics-based and Literature-based) include papers which are implicitly linked in the book: the texts range from, for example, translator's competence (Alves and Gonçalves, Part 1) to the role of technology in translation management (Risku, Part 2), the study of opera surtitles (Mateo, Part 3) and the application of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) (Rabadán, Part 4).
Nonetheless, a separate and closer review of each Part is required:
Part 1 deals with theoretical aspects: unique items and translation universals (Chesterman), the scope of TS, with the possibility of opening up towards Semiotics (Stecconi) and Transfer Studies (Göpferich), and translator's competence (Alves and Gonçalves). None of these aspects is new to Translation Theory, and therefore the fear of 'reinventing the wheel' is always present in this Part. However, overall, the four papers manage to approach these aspects in an innovative way. Fulfilling the role of Theory in Research, more questions than solutions are put forward. Moreover, as Alves and Gonçalves show on their paper on translator's competence, any theoretical questioning has methodological implications. In this particular paper, they address problem-solving and decision-making, two central aspects of translators' everyday practice, from a Relevance Theory and connectionist point of view.
It is, nevertheless, surprising that the four texts still consider Translation as a rather cognitive action where, therefore, the process might be the focus of theoretical study. As multidisciplinarity in TS has shown, a critical and more comprehensive view on Translation and Interpreting could take into account the activity and its actors in a broader and complex social and cultural (or intercultural) system.
How to improve our tools of research is the central question addressed in Part 2. Here, the focus is not so much the outcome of the study, but the background, the tools and the approaches which are in use in order to come up with a coherent and solid outcome.
Seruya et al. and Grant and Mezei show how translation has evolved in very different ways according to particular cultural contexts (Portugal and Canada, respectively), with clear methodological implications for each study. Whereas Seruya et al. consider that 'excavation sites' (61) must be opened to tackle the development of the research (an outline of literary translation history in Portugal), Grant and Mezei acknowledge a long-established and recognized literary translation history determined by the socio-cultural context, which, in turn, has also deep roots in research and institutions (political and academic). The scope of this study (aimed at establishing an online bibliographic database of Canadian literary translation studies) is, therefore, much more empirical and descriptive. Reading these two papers with a comparative point of view will provide the reader with an interesting insight into how methodology could shape and determine the findings of a particular study on Translation and Interpreting.
The remaining two papers, by Risku, on the role of technology in translation management, and Hild, on using between-methods investigation to explore SI expertise, address critical issues in translatorial performance: the use of technology and rigour. Both articles lay the ground for the following Part, as they show that methodology and the object/subject of study are extremely linked.
The seven texts included in Part 3 are intended to focus on empirical research (ER). The question here is how ER can resolve questions on Translation and Inteprreting as well as show trends, thus contributing to corroborate or falsify a particular hypothesis.
Through a diverse use of empirical research, which in general combines qualitative and quantitative elements, the focus is on aspects such as translation revision (Künzli), translational analysis (Alvstad), dubbese, seen either through translated humor and audience response (Chiaro) or through cultural references (Antonini), the [textual, contextual and audience] constraints on opera surtitling (Mateo), efficiency in note-taking in consecutive interpreting (V. Dam) and gender in translation (Sánchez).
It should be highlighted that there are important methodological differences between empirical studies using real contexts and events (see Alvstad, Mateo and Sánchez), those using artificial or simulated ones (see V. Dam) and those which mix real contexts/texts with particular subjects in a given time (therefore, artificially or somehow de-contextualised) (see Künzli, Chiaro and Antonini). The results and conclusions present flaws, contradictions and strengths which, in general, are acknowledged by the authors and touch upon the question of validity, a central issue when it comes to ER. Furthermore, some conclusions tend to be more descriptive (for example, V. Dam) whereas others are more critical (such as Sánchez).
In spite of some clear limitations of ER, these seven papers provide interesting applications on training and pedagogy, as well as on the approach to translational action.
In Part 4, interdisciplinarity is at under scrutiny, as the unfolding relationship between Linguistics and TS is highlighted throughout the seven papers. This relationship has long been discussed and even questioned. In this sense, Grammenidis and Nenopoulou's paper offers an interesting contribution to the role and necessity of linguistics in the analysis and study of translation.
All papers show how linguistic awareness, which involves the application of linguistic tools, is necessary and, indeed, present in translation. The papers range from those adopting a rather descriptive approach to those with more critical and qualitative analytical elements.
In the first category, we can find the following: Denver, who carries out an empirical study to explore how translators translate implicit semantic relations between sentences; Rabadán, who links DTS, corpus-based research and contrastive analysis to methodologically strengthen linguistic tools for translation applications; and van Lawick, who deals with similar methodological procedures to examine the translation of sentences with special figurative meaning in German, Spanish and Catalan.
Amongst the critical ones, three papers can be found with a very interesting common ground: Puurtinen, Reichmann and Jansen highlight differences in linguistic codings, such as those which deal with the same conceived situation involving spatial relations (Jansen) or the frequency of evaluative premodified noun phrases in different languages (Puurtinen), to show how they have an impact on translation and the translator. This happens on a linguistic level, but also on the analysis of source and target texts, the conveying of ideologies, values and attitudes, and the translator's competence, among others. As Jansen (278) puts it, it is not about whether one strategy is better than the other, but about the fact that awareness of linguistic features is indeed necessary.
Although the value of the discussions and conclusions featured in this Part is clear, an excessive focus on relatively small translation units can be noticed and, again, the social conditions where translation takes places tend to be missing (with the exception of Puurtinen and Grammenidis and Nenopoulou, who only acknowledge contextual and textual aspects without an actual analysis). In fact, a critical look at this social/interdisciplinary framework could provide us with more answers regarding linguistic phenomena and processes.
Part 5 is mainly devoted to literary translation. In my view, this section may be seen as the ‘outsider,’ as it doesn't seem to be in line with the metaquestions on translation which headline the previous categories. Although the four articles in this section are not lacking in interest, the choice of a chapter which focuses only on literary works calls into question why a chapter on, for example, Audiovisual Translation or Interpreting has not been included. Conversely, these four papers on literary translation could have been included in any of the previous parts with no need for an additional category to be created. This remains unjustified in the Introduction to the publication.
The first two papers in this part shed light on the question of translation as writing: Charron tackles the readability of French translations of Don Quixote, whereas Mulligan looks at the process of rewriting of other cultures as a form of translation using the example of British women travellers in the post-colonial period. The remaining two papers deal with the use of [literary] translation with specific individual purposes: Paloposki, on the balance between individual translation agency and collective norms in 19th-century Finland, and Mannekens, on how the concept/activity of translation can be called into question and redefined by the process of mimesis and the act of rewriting, taking the example of the French prolific author Antonin Artaud.
Going back to the structure of the book, in spite of some structural choices that might seem confusing, this is not a claim that the reader is lost in these 26 papers. The strength of the book remains in the number of “doubts and directions” it offers and aims to share with TS scholars, as well as with translators and interpreters themselves, acknowledging that the “object(s) of study is forever situated at a fluid and shifting interface with many other disciplines” (Introduction: xi).
In conclusion, Doubts and Directions shows the wide landscape of current TS, offering a place for reflection, knowledge sharing and discussion for researchers, scholars and professionals alike as was reflected in an international conference. Throughout the five parts we can see an underlying encouragement to search for new developments and directions not only in TS research but also in training and professional aspects of Translation and Interpreting. The aim of providing food for thought, implicit in any book of proceedings, is undoubtedly achieved.
Pedro Castillo, Heriot-Watt University