Interpretive and Source-Oriented Approaches: Modern Japanese Free Verse Poetry in English Translation

William Fryer (2009). Interpretive and Source-Oriented Approaches: Modern Japanese Free Verse Poetry in English Translation PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author William Fryer
Thesis Title Interpretive and Source-Oriented Approaches: Modern Japanese Free Verse Poetry in English Translation
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-04-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Tomoko Aoyama
Nanette Gottlieb
Total pages 252
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary This study examines two translation approaches prominent among English translations of modern Japanese free verse poetry. The purpose is twofold: to provide a critical history of the first book-length English translations of individual poets, published over roughly a ten-year period; and to identify and examine, among those publications, works that took a distinctive and challenging translation approach. The main argument is that the chief works examined in this study each present a differing approach that challenges the dominant postwar discourse on translation in the Japanese literary studies community. The study fills a conspicuous gap in translation studies, since it is the first in-depth examination of modern Japanese poetry in translation. It focuses on two translation approaches, specifically “interpretive” and “source-oriented” translation, which have tended to be loosely associated with the vague notions of “free” translation and “literal” translation respectively. The importance of the study stems from its clarified definitions of these approaches through analyses of published translations featuring their rigorous use. It also suggests arguments for and implications of using and identifying these approaches, both for the translator and for translation scholars. Modern poetry was chosen as a genre because it features the two approaches prominently and because it was felt important to focus on a genre somewhat marginalised among publications of Japanese literature in translation. The study focuses in particular on translations published in the period 1968-1978, because this represented a flowering period of publications of modern Japanese poetry, including the first book-length publications of individual poets. Chapter One has two parts: definitions and contexts. The definitions section is a brief discussion of translation theory focusing on views that have gone beyond the “literal” versus “free” argument, and it examines a number of significant statements in the field of translations studies in order to develop useful definitions of key terms used throughout the study. The second half contextualises the significance of the chosen publications in the Japanese literary studies community. This includes a brief history of translation and translation theory focusing on the views of the dominant translators in the early postwar years, including discussions, disagreements or criticisms concerning the “right” way to translate. It also includes an analysis of attitudes towards modern poetry among scholars and translators of Japanese literature and a brief discussion of translations of modern Japanese poetry. Chapter Two examines poet Gary Snyder’s interpretive and transformative translations of Miyazawa Kenji’s (1896-1933) poems “Haru to shura” (Spring and Asura) and “Nusubito” (The Thief). The chapter shows how Snyder’s renditions of these poems can be related to the structure and themes of his own poetry collection The Back Country (1968) in which the translations appeared. By throwing his interpretive reading of these poems into the translations, as well as making some creative adjustments, Snyder allows the translations to fit within the thematic movement of his own collection. This chapter also argues that the act of identifying interpretive approaches in the case of poet-translators can be an an important tool in establishing links between the translations and the poet’s original literary works, and even further links with the poet’s life and philosophy. Chapter Three examines Hiroaki Sato’s translations of Hagiwara Sakutarō (1886-1942) in Howling at the Moon (1978). Sato takes an estranging, source-oriented approach similar to Lawrence Venuti’s concept of “foreignisation”, an approach that signals the difference of the source text and culture by departing from accepted language usage. With Sato’s translations we can observe the estranging effect of the source-oriented approach working in two directions: suggesting the difference of source text syntax from the target language perspective; and giving an equivalent effect of some unusual language use that was already estranging for source language readers. Sato sees the estranging function of Sakutarō’s syntax as an essential element of his poetry, and has developed his whole translation strategy around this view. Chapter Four discusses Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu’s translations of Kusano Shinpei’s frog poems in frogs &. others. (1969). As with Sato’s versions of Sakutarō, Corman and Kamaike take a source-oriented approach, and their clever use of text selection and ordering as translation strategies has enabled them to convey their interpretation of Kusano Shinpei’s frog poems as directing a defamiliarising gaze back at humans and human society. Rather than aiming for complete linguistic accuracy as Sato does, they focus on a mirror-image source-oriented approach—often reproducing the source text’s word order and line order—not only as a means to suggest Kusano’s syntax, but also as a form of language experimentation and wordplay that enables their translations to stand out as autonomous poetic texts.
Keyword Japanese
free verse
Miyazawa Kenji
Hagiwara Sakutarō
Kusano Shinpei
Literature in Japanese

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Created: Thu, 29 Oct 2009, 18:54:00 EST by Mr William Fryer on behalf of Library - Information Access Service