Victorian corpse language

Pardon my lack of engagement with my blog lately (I’ve been really busy this week with the release of a book I was involved with AND also feeling slightly unwell) but I can’t help but share these few paragraphs about translation from the beginning of one of the two essays found in Deformation Zone. I just started reading it and it’s proving to be quite interesting.

As contemporary American critic Daniel Tiffany notes in his recent study of Pound, discussions surrounding translations seem to rack up corpses. Dryden for example compares a poet in “dull translation” to a “carcass.” Tiffany argues that the accumulation of these corpses comes out of the “impossibility” of translation; we can only imagine such impossibility as death.

According to Tiffany, Pound was obsessed with the attempt to rid poetry of “Victorian corpse language.” But he also saw translation as a kind of reanimation of the corpse of the original. About translating Guido Cavalcanti, Pound wrote: “My job was to bring a dead man to life” (189).

Pound sought to reanimate this “corpse” by abusing the “meaning” of the original through extreme literalism. Pound used radically materialistic forms of translation such as homophonic translations or the use of deliberately exotic or archaic words. The “meaning” may have been “lost” but the materiality of the text is brought to life.

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