Translating Zola's L’Assommoir : a stylistic approach
In the following thesis, we will be applying a number of linguistic, stylistic and critical techniques with a view to elucidating the phenomenon of literary translation. Our corpus will be drawn almost exclusively from Emile Zola's late nineteenth-century French classic, L'Assommoir, and seven English-language translations thereof: the focus of the thesis throughout being upon the analysis of concrete examples. Our aim is thus to arrive at a substantial body of analytical knowledge through the exploration of translation in practice rather than through a series of secondary commentaries upon other works of translation theory. Reference will, of course, be made to such works when appropriate. One of the principal premises of the thesis is that linguistic techniques can indeed be applied to a corpus of literary text without sacrificing traditional critical judgement or the possibility of rational evaluation. Accordingly, we will be concerned to formulate reasoned and explicit parameters of assessment throughout the course of our analysis. In particular, we will be seeking to illuminate the various facets of what we call 'literary texture' and how these might be rendered in translation. In certain cases, one rendering may be preferred to another, although no attempt will be made to rank the respective translations by order of merit in overall terms. Occasionally, we will also be hazarding our own versions when those drawn from the corpus prove to be unsatisfactory. Similarly, a 'proposed translation' is offered at the conclusion of every major passage studied. These translations are, of course, to be considered as open and heuristic explorations rather than prescriptive or definitive corrections. Our thesis will be divided into seven main chapters, each one of which is designed to illustrate the phenomenon of literary translation from a slightly different angle. In the first one of these, we map out the basic methodological template of the thesis. In the second, we examine various aspects of the decision making process involved in 'choosing the right word'. This lengthy second chapter is then followed by an analysis of the postulate that translations tend to be more periphrastic and explicit than originals. We then move onto the thorny terrain of prose rhythm, examining how the particular beat and pressure of the original text might be made to resonate within the echo chamber of another language. In the fifth and sixth chapters, we consider the difficulties involved in transcribing the specificity of colloquial language and slang into both written and translated form. Our study concludes with an exploration of Zola's écriture artiste, paying particular attention to the way in which the translators render the various figurative torques and twists characterising this highly aesthetic style of description. It is to be hoped that our thesis will be of interest both to students of translation in general and to Zola scholars in particular. I hereby declare that all work contained in this thesis not otherwise referenced is to be considered my own.