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Title: The socio-cultural determinants of translating modern Arabic fiction into English : the (re)translations of Naguib Mahfouz's ‘Awlād Hāratinā
Author: Khalifa, Abdel-Wahab Mohamed
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 7221
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2017
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The idea behind this research is motivated primarily by pronouncements made by (co)producers of English translations of modern Arabic fiction concerning the untranslatability of ‘Arabic’ and its status as a ‘controversial’ language, which presents a ‘hurdle’ in the way of the cultural and literary transfer of modern Arabic works of fiction to English. Is it the Arabic language alone that conditions or circumscribes the translation activity of modern Arabic fiction into English, or are there other socio-cultural and historico-political factors that influence the volume of such activity? In an attempt to answer questions such as the above and to understand and evaluate the extent to which such polemic comments are true, this thesis traces the socio-historical trajectory of the field of modern Arabic fiction into English throughout its phases of development. It sets out to identify and investigate the determinants that condition or circumscribe the translation of modern Arabic fiction into English. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social practice and its heuristic concepts, to include field, capital, homology and (dis)position, the English translation activity of modern Arabic fiction is examined as a socially constructed and constructing practice and the related individuals and institutions are investigated as socially regulated and regulating agents. The study’s aim is to analyse and interpret the diverse range of practices in this field of cultural production. To guide the analysis of this thesis, English translations of modern Arabic fiction, published between 1908 and 2014, are compiled and analysed both statistically and sociologically. They are combined with historical and archival materials, including several exchanges between various translatorial agents that have not been previously examined. Various factors informing, conforming and/or transforming the field of modern Arabic fiction in English translation are identified and analysed, with specific attention to their impact on the field’s structure and the positions available in it, the capital at stake, the agents involved, the dynamics of production and the volume of activity within the field. In the process of mapping out the field of modern Arabic fiction in English translation, the thesis redraws the boundaries of the field and suggests alternative dates to, as well as a different structure from, the phases identified by Altoma (2005). It also investigates several socio-cultural and historico-political factors that are not mentioned in Khalifa and Elgindy (2014) or other related studies. The retranslations of Naguib Mahfouz’s most controversial novel, ‘Awlād Ḥāratinā, are thoroughly examined as a case study in order to provide further insights into how socio-cultural and historico-political forces function in concert within the field of modern Arabic fiction in English translation. Particular focus is given to how these forces impact the field and its activities—fostering or subverting its outlook—and how they mediate the relationships between its agents and other intersecting fields. Through an in-depth analysis of paratextual elements, the thesis illuminates how (re)translations can be used as a tool to claim distinction in the field of translation and exposes the struggle between its agents. The findings have implications for the fields of translation studies in general, and modern Arabic literature/fiction translation and its publishing trends in particular. They demonstrate that a progression in the production and publishing of translations has taken place since 1908. This is in opposition to the prevailing belief that the flow of English translations of modern Arabic works of fiction has been primarily hindered by the Arabic language. However, there have been fluctuations in the velocity and volume of the translation flow. These fluctuations correspond to various internal and external socio-cultural and historico-political forces that affected the translation production and consumption and, consequently, the structure of the field and its agents’ practices. The evidence presented suggests that, instead of focusing on the literary value of a work, several modern Arabic works of fiction were translated because of their sociological/anthropological significance. This mediated and framed, to a great extent, the way the Arab world was perceived by and promoted in the Anglophone world. Given this finding, translations of modern Arabic fiction should always be perceived within, and not in isolation from, the larger context of their production, circulation and reception, especially in the case of English translations.
Supervisor: Hanna, Sameh ; Munday, Jeremy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available