Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 6, No 2 (2010)

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Translation as Aesthetic Resistance: Paratranslating Walter Benjamin

Burghard Baltrusch


This essay is a brief study of translation as a practice of aesthetic resistance seen from a historical and philosophical perspective. Translation is perceived as the process of transition and negotiation within the ‘third space’ between various different hybrid cultural contexts and their discursive constraints, and referred to as ‘paratranslation’. It summarises the first attempts to think of translation as an almost ‘holistic’ paradigm and the aesthetics of intervention from Romantic philosophy onwards. It attempts to show how Walter Benjamin’s master narrative, the utopia of ‘pure language’, encourages continuous resistance to the totalitarianism of the idea of the ‘original’, to aesthetics (within the sense of the perception of the real) and to dominant discourses. It subsequently defines the idea of ‘progress’, which considers translation as aesthetic resistance, as a process of construction in constant deconstruction. It concludes by exemplifying the notion of translation as a paradigm of intervention in modernity with a brief analysis of the transcreation performed by Erin Mouré on Fernando Pessoa/Alberto Caeiro’s poetic cycle, O Guardador de Rebanhos (The Keeper of Sheep).

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