Formalisms, Introduction

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“Perhaps the Formalists’ most famous general claim is that literary language consists of an act of defamiliarization, by which they mean that such literature presents objects or experiences from such an unusual perspective or in such unconventional and self-conscious language that our habitual, ordinary, rote perceptions of those things are disturbed.”

“While literature for the Formalists is characterized by invariant patterns, recurring devices, and law-like relations, it also changes over time and varies from one historical epoch to another. The Formalists account for such change in two ways. They claim that literary evolution is the result of the constant attempt to disrupt existing literary conventions and to generate new ones: for literature to be literature, it must constantly defamiliarize the familiar, constantly evolve new procedures for story-telling or poetry making.”

SOURCE: Rivkin, Julie & Michael Ryan. “Introduction: Formalisms.” Literary Theory: An Anthology.

Aesthetic Animism

Excerpt from David Jhave Johnston’s Aesthetic Animism:

Aesthetic Animism“Words in ancient usage were both practical tools and living magic, sent through the ether, emanating from the gods. Our terms for gods might have changed yet some parallels persist: remote communication is now both inspirational and normative, and our contemporary pantheons are platforms. Since the Renaissance, as science explored the universe, the habitat of ancient myths (which gestate the evolution of the poetic aspects of language) dwindled. Displaced from oracular dominance, poetry became a refugee, a fallen exiled god. Incarnated and mortal, poetry devolved into secular interiority, fluctuating states of consciousness, wordplay, and the primacy of phenomena.”

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On the concept of digital poetry: “Poetry’s relevance involves engaging with technology’s effect on language. And not just the surface effects of shifts in word usage and transitions in styles, but fundamental transformations that are occurring in how words operate ontologically.”

SOURCE: Johnston, David Jhave. “National Poetry Month: Aesthetic Animism.” MIT Press.

Translator Sean Sell on Contemporary Indigenous Literature in Mexico

Excerpt from Paul Worley & Kelsey Woodburn’s interview with Sean Sell:

Not many people know that Maya literatures or even in general indigenous literatures exist. Why do you think that is? What is the role of the translation in the promotion of these literatures even within their countries of origin?

unnamed-1“Colonialism in the new world has not ended; rather, the colonizers took control away from European nations. Indigenous people throughout North and South America continue to fight to preserve their culture and have at least some control over their lives. Words like autonomy, sovereignty, and agency all relate to this struggle. While Western Civilization may see the world as a set of nations based on lines drawn hundreds of years ago by white politicians and map-makers, indigenous people (those who haven’t been displaced) have older connections to lands based on where and how their cultures developed. These writers use literature to speak for their connection to the land, a theme that comes up repeatedly.”

SOURCE:  Woodburn, Kelsey, and Paul Worley. “Translator Sean Sell on Contemporary Indigenous Literature in Mexico.” Asymptote.

The Stranger’s Tongue

“[F]iction gives people the possibility to look at the world from the perspective of another person’s life. Kundera calls this an ‘experimental self.’ Literature from other countries would possibly open up that space even further, and you’re not looking at the culture from the outside but from someone’s point of view who lives there or has grown up there.

As a translator she said she’d become very aware of the relation between culture and language:

languagesSome expressions or experiences become embedded in language that is almost unique to that culture. Therefore the two are very closely related. So what you’re trying to do as a translator is to make the author you’re translating understood in your own language, while at the same time stretch your culture and language a bit to accommodate what makes their voice and experience different. Which in the end might change your own culture a little bit.”

SOURCE: Buchanan, Rowan H. “The Stranger’s Tongue.” Electric Literature.

Reading “The Stranger” in Tehran

Excerpt from Robert Zaretsky’s interview with Mohammad Hekmat:

What are the pleasures and difficulties in translating Camus into Farsi? Are these difficulties only linguistic, or are there philosophical and political challenges as well?

the-stranger“Linguistically, the difficulty is in certain terms that he uses. Perhaps the most difficult term, which I have seen other translators struggle with too, is the word absurd. There is no direct translation of the word absurd into Persian. I have seen different approaches by Iranian translators — some even just use the transliteration of the word. His more philosophical works have been much harder to translate. I tried to read The Myth of Sisyphus in Persian, and it’s extremely hard to understand. This has been a general issue with translation of modern and Western philosophy into Persian. There is simply a shortage of terms, and the style had no tradition. There have been numerous efforts to invent new words, many of which have been successfully adopted, but it’s an ongoing process.”

SOURCE: Zaretsky, Robert. “Reading ‘The Stranger’ in Tehran: An Interview with Mohammad Hekmat.” Los Angeles Review of Books.

A Conversation with Judith Butler

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“It is by virtue of our social dependency that we are vulnerable, and there is no way to understand the embodied status of human life without contextualizing the social imperative under which it lives, and upon which its life depends. In this way, we are, as bodies, never quite discrete or bounded: we are given over from the start to those people, practices, environments, networks of life, without which our own life is not possible. In this sense, the Spinozistic conatus implies a social theory.”

 

SOURCE: Cazier, Jean-Philippe. “Acting in Concert: A Conversation with Judith Butler.” Verso Books.

Translation as Activism

Herta Müller’s translator, Philip Boehmon, on imagination as the key to empathy.

“Herta Müller shows people caught up in a linguistic world where the language doesn’t match the reality. In a way, for her, there is a kind of primal echo from when she was little, when she encountered words that not only did not match reality but actually masked it or were in opposition to reality, and were thus loaded with all sorts of potentially ‘lethal content.’ She was used to living with that tension and it is something she portrays very well in her characters.”

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“Translation is a bridge that serves to enlarge imagination, to connect to the world. We’re impoverished without it. As translators we are both diplomats and activists. The sheer act of translation is one of engaging with a world outside of whatever world we’re in.”

SOURCE: Hofmann, Jennifer-Nahomi. “Translation as Activism: An Interview with Philip BoehmLiterary Hub.