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Translating into the Empire: The Arabic Version of Kalila wa Dimna

Author/Editor: Shamma, Tarek

Year of publication: 2005

Place of Publication & Publisher: The Translator, Volume 11, Number 1, pages 51-67.

Publisher URL: http://www.stjerome.co.uk/tsa/abstract/265/

Publication blurb:

The purpose of this study of Richard F. Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights and its reception in Victorian England is to examine one of the most prominent and widely debated theories of translation in recent years – Lawrence Venuti's advocacy of 'foreignizing' or 'estranging' translation. According to Venuti, this proposed practice, which does not try to minimize the difference of the foreign text, advances tolerance of the Other and attests to the courage to accept beliefs and cultural values different from one's own as they are, without 'domestication' or naturalization. This paper, however, argues that while Burton's translation was an example of all that Venuti recommends, it was not subversive, nor did it challenge ethnocentric or racist ideas. Indeed, its 'estrangement' of the Arabic text and culture only confirmed the stereotypes and Orientalist images that its readers had of the source culture, thereby acquiescing (often consciously) in the discourse of colonialism. It is suggested that the weakness of Venuti's and similar theoretical postulates lies in their neglect of the context of translation, and their confusion of the strategy of translation with its socio-political and cultural effects.

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