Today began with an excellent and creative presentation from Piotr Blumczynski, a Translation Studies scholar from Poland teaching in Ireland. His dissertation was on the influence of Atonement theology upon English Bible translations of the New Testament, and I look forward to reading it.
The day ended with a spectacular event, a farewell dinner for retiring NIDA luminary, Bob Hodgson. I am grateful that I was able to meet this scholar of deep generosity and insight, and man of many talents. The meal comprised an astonishing amount of pizza served up from the brick oven with appropriate amounts of Moretti, proseco, and Ashley's mojitos. I was also able to have a frank conversation with several people involved in international missionary translations of the Bible about the economic and theological pressures they face.
Piotr Blumczynski - "Reinventing the Wheel: Circulation of Ideas through Interdisciplinary Substitutions"
Piotr's paper was a thoughtful, personal, and romantic call for broad interdisciplinary engagement in the field of translation studies. He began by suggesting that in observing other scholarly discourses that we focus not on terms (which evoke the image of neat, orderly, complete taxonomies) but on concepts, which are qualititive ideas that allow for contradiction, conflict, discontinuity, and paradox. Although Western scholarship is typically propositional, focusing on the WHAT of knowledge, Piotr's method is a qualitative focus on the HOW-ness of ideas, the nature of their "being like." This more flexible approach enables us to look for "conceptual proximity" among disciplines.
Piotr suggested that translation scholars look for concepts in other disciplines that might yield partial insights and challenge the field to expand their terminology. He suggested the following as good possibilities:
* Philosophers: hermeneutics, understanding, interpretation * Theologians: incarnation, contemplation, transubstantiation * Linguists: construal, conceptualization, categorization, communication * Educators: learning, education * Anthropologists: cultural practice * Mathematicians, logicians, computer scientists: definition, communication
The second part of Piotr's paper was an exploration of concepts in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidgger, and Gadamer in their applicability to translation. Schleiermacher, for instance, argues that "translation is part of the art of thinking," and so we should see translation as thinking not doing, focusing on the process and intrinic value more than the result or skopos. [Piotr compared this romantic and existential approach to his love of sailing.] In each of these hermeneutical thinkers, Piotr drew out the notion of understanding as translation.
He finished with an interesting reflection on Schleiermacher's ideas that all knowledge depends on both speaking and translating, which takes place at one of three levels of human activity. The lowest level is that of the mechanical and spiritless translation, in which "words are tossed back and forth like a ball." This activity is found primarily in the marketplace, and might be comparable to machine translation today. The second level is that of "expertise" in the schools and universities in which, he says, "difficult passages are given wild and arbitrary explanations [and] beautiful passages are overlooked or foolishly distorted because of the translator's pedantic lack of sensitivity." The third level is that of art. Translation does not require art until you encounter something that does not make sense. This takes us beyond the WHAT to the HOW.