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The Death of the Translator in Machine Translation: A Bilingual Poetry Project

Author/Editor: Lee, Tong King

Year of publication: 2011

Keywords: death of the translator; différance; dissemination; Hsia Yü; machine translation

Place of Publication & Publisher: Target (Amsterdam: John Benjamins), 23(1), 2011: 92-112

Publisher URL: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/jbp/targ

ISBN/ISSN: 0924-1884

Publication blurb:

This paper explores the notion of the death of the Translator, inspired by Barthes' formulation of the death of the Author. It argues that the death of the Translator is caused by a loss of human agency in translation and is therefore most clearly exemplified in machine translation. Based on an avant-garde bilingual poetry project by a Taiwanese poet, the paper demonstrates that machine translation can produce unexpected new meanings through unpredictable routes of semantic and syntactic divergences from the source text. The poet's use of transparency as physical medium and of machine translation as mediator raises the following questions: does translation actually allow us to `read through' a source text? If so, to what extent is such translation `transparent'? How should we even come to terms with the concept of `transparency' with respect to the meaning of a literary text in translation? The paper argues that in the bilingual project in question, machine translation plays the crucial function of bringing the reader's attention back to the target language by way of delaying/blocking comprehension, hence rendering the corporeality of the target language `transparent'.

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