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Title: Translation as a socially symbolic act : translations of the ancient Greek concept of 'democracy' in nineteenth-century Britain
Author: Lianeri, Alexandra
ISNI:       0000 0001 1600 010X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2001
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The aim of this thesis is to employ an historical, non-prescriptive approach to translation, in order to examine the social constitution and role of translations of the ancient Greek concept of democracy in nineteenth-century Britain. For this purpose it develops two levels of argumentation in parallel. On the one hand, it suggests the necessity to historicise both the production of translation works and the concepts, methods and precepts of historiographic analysis by which these works become the object of knowledge and understanding. In this sense, part of this thesis focuses on a range of contemporary models for translation research, with particular emphasis on the notion of translation norms, in order to discuss their theoretical problematic, but also to trace their roots in conceptions of translation, knowledge and society developed in the intellectual and political tradition of modernity. On these grounds, it seeks to advance an understanding of translation that defines the translated text as a symbolic articulation of the social conditions that brought it into being, and also as a response to these conditions, which acts to channel them into new directions by rewriting them in a novel form of expression. On the other hand, this theoretical framework is employed and further qualified by the historical analysis of translations of the concept of democracy in Britain. The primary texts used for this purpose are: translations of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, which define democracy in relation to conceptions of social organisation and structures; translations of Plato's Protagoras, which define democracy in relation to the notion of subjective autonomy and freedom; translations of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, which relate democracy to an ethics of duty; and translations of Sophocles' Antigone, which relate democracy to the concepts of justice and laws. These works are shown to have developed as a reaction to absolutist forms of politics and an endorsement of the liberal- democratic ideals that sustained the establishment of Britain as a modem bourgeois society. It is thus argued that translations from classical Greek acted to legitimise a political system that was directly related to the historical advancement of industrial capitalism and the challenging of older social structures and relations this enterprise entailed, by providing new social models to an ideologically perplexed audience that lacked a clear sense of its social and political identity. This move was realised by a process of transformation and manipulation of the source texts, which related democracy to an abstract ideal of formal individual freedom and equality and defined democratic politics as a system of contestable social hierarchies that was presumed to establish the rational basis for political decisions in a modem civilised society. This seemingly consistent ideological discourse was, however, at the same time interrupted and fragmented by conceptual gaps, contradictions and antinomies, which were inscribed in the translated texts and formed the precepts of a critique and problematisation of their historical context. The conclusion of this study turns from the nineteenth-century to the present context and seeks to reflect on the repercussions of modem thought on translation, knowledge and democracy for contemporary theorising.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Hidryma Kratikōn Hypotrophiōn ; Vardinoyannis Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JC Political theory ; P Philology. Linguistics