Blog Post 11: Translation, Transference, Transmedia…

Hi all,

This Wednesday we move from the aesthetics of the swede to another form of remaking and reenactment, one that we might call (as Legault does) translation, or transcription, or something along those lines — these rewritings of Dickinson and Melville take us back to literature as a specific genre, and raise questions of how writing fits into the practice of remaking in relation to authorship, visuality, language, and more.

emily-dickinson-hires-cropped.jpgSo part of our work with this material will be to figure out what rewriting (or at least this specific kind of rewriting) does — what kinds of material and linguistic departures do these translated versions make from their original, and what’s important about those? What’s added, lost, distorted, or otherwise altered in these processes, and what does that tell us about the originals? What does it mean to translate these authors — two of the most famous in all of American literature — this way?spouting-whale.png

You’re free to take up these and/or related issues in whatever way makes sense to you — just make sure that you pursue your thinking through some quotation and close analysis of both translated versions, so you have a chance to think about what they’re each doing.

Reminder: Your writing should go in the comments section for this post — click on the link near the top of this post where it says “Leave a Comment.” It should be at least 300 words, and is due by midnight Tuesday, November 15. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

17 thoughts on “Blog Post 11: Translation, Transference, Transmedia…”

  1. I will begin by stating the obvious departures that The Emily Dickinson Reader and Emoji Dick take from their originals. For the first, the archaic English prose is translated into contemporary, understandable English. As the translator himself writes, “Emily Dickinson wrote in a language all her own, thus the need for the English version of what she meant” (Legault, Translator’s Note). For the most part, the translations end up as sounding like understated humor. Dickinson’s poem #202 is already an understandable 4 line poem; “‘Faith’ is a fine invention/for Gentlemen who see!/But Microscopes are prudent/In an emergency!” is easy to get at face value. When Legault translates it, he simply states “Science has more practical uses than religion” (37). As if the reader of the original could not understand that. However, by staying understated in his translations rather than cynical or snarky, Legault shows his respect for Dickinson. If he were to have translated the poem as something like “Religion is dumb and science is good”, he would have been rude to the original work. And his translator’s note makes clear he has no intention of being rude, since he writes “if she were still alive, I would attempt, and inevitably fail, to be her best friend”. For Legault, the translation is one out of love, not cynicism, even if he does poke a little fun at her. The recreation is made with good intent.

    Emoji Dick is a little harder to get a read on. I can safely say, however, that the process of translation is appropriately American in its democratic and meritocratic nature and thus a fitting process for translating an American work, since we are built on democratic values (supposedly). As the introduction explains, the artist of the work was funded by internet users, the artist then hired Amazon Turk workers to translate the same sentence three times, and finally the artist had the other workers vote on which sentence was the best. That is about as American a process as you can get. The resulting work, in my opinion, has far less value than the process. Yes, as Paddy Johnson says, the translation from Melville’s isolated authorial writing style to something that “offers a picture of what we already have” is admirable, but man does it suck to read (xiv). I too “don’t know how to read it perfectly” and it frustrates me , more so than reading the original text by itself (xiv). Unlike with the Emily Dickinson Reader, the translation from words to pictures is too abstract for me to grasp. I cannot understand how one could translate “Chapter 1” into a thumbs-up, a 1, a cassette tape, and two more thumbs-ups, and think that is readable. But as I have said again and again, the process of Emoji Dick is quite admirable.


  2. I’ve never had any particular inclination toward poetry. I can be pretty impatient and get easily frustrated trying to decipher ostentatious diction. With that said, I very much like the way Paul Legault presents Emily Dickinson’s work—he gets the point across easily and doesn’t muddle the message with fancy rhyme schemes and confusing language. He actually makes Dickinson’s original poems easier to swallow. It reminds me of when I would buy No Fear Shakespeare books in high school to make sense of Othello or Hamlet’s wack prose. My favorite translation by Legault is of Dickinson’s poem 359. The original work reads: “A Bird, came down the Walk – He did not know I saw – He bit an Angle Worm in halves – And ate the fellow, raw…”. The poem goes on for 3 or 4 more stanzas, describing very ordinary bird-like behavior with a lot of rhyming and random capitalized letters. Compared to some of the other poems in the Norton collection, it’s actually not too ornate or confusing. Legault’s translation, however, reads “I saw this bird.” That’s it. No matter how many times you read Dickinson’s 359, the message doesn’t really change—she saw a bird, and the bird acted like a bird and did bird things. Legault’s work is easy to appreciate because he does the difficult job of analyzing Dickinson’s work and then recreates the poems in a more readily accessible way. If it weren’t for his introduction to his translated collection, I may have thought he was mocking Emily Dickinson’s poetry—or the poetry of her era as a whole—for its indigestible, archaic language. However, he does demonstrate an undeniable love for Dickinson, and the mere fact that he took the time to translate all these poems does, itself, imply a sort of infatuation with the work.

    I find Emoji Dick to be a far less successful mode of translation. To me, translating Melville with emojis seems more like a painfully obvious attempt to be avant-garde than a serious effort to recontextualize the original work. This failure to truly translate is obvious, as the original lines are provided directly under the emojis to give the reader any sense of what the fuck is going on. I guess each emoji sentence is as good of a translation that is possible given the tools the translators had. But even so, it does not do much for me with regard to my appreciation for Moby Dick the original. With that said—and indicated in Paddy Johnson’s intro—I don’t think it was the translator’s goal to try to “improve upon one of the greatest works of literature” in our history. Perhaps the overall objective was rather to make a statement on how it is truly impossible to convey meaning through instant messaging, even when it is bolstered by the use of the emoticon.


  3. I have to say, I am a little confused about this translation. I wonder a lot about the point of translation and if it is meant to add something to a text; if it adds an element of entertainment or accessibility. At first, I felt that Emoji Dick might have been adding an element of entertainment to Moby Dick because it’s emojis – something we can all laugh about. In fact, upon reading the first line “call me Ishmael” , one of the most well known lines of literature, and its subsequent emoji “translation” I thought I would enjoy the reading. But as I was reading the rest of Emoji Dick, I began to question how entertaining the actual text was – it wasn’t as amusing and intact, a little distracting. There were a few lines in which I felt that the emoji translation matched up to the text. However, inherently a large part of the meaning of the text is lost when it becomes first, broken up into small sentences and second, represented by only a few images. Though there also seems to be some comedy in the “Emily Dickinson Reader”, I think that this is a better rewrite/translation because it aides in the reader’s understanding of the content. Although some of the lines are funny like “This place is really great. Oh, wait. Damn it. Am I dead?”, it get’s the point across in a way that may even be easier for some readers to understand (versus emojis which still may take some interpreting/translating back into a language we understand). There is much to be said, though, about what it means to translate these authors. In the same way that many of the appropriative artists we studied used ubiquitous, recognizable pieces – these authors are doing the same thing. I was reminded a little of the first day of class when we read Pride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The humor and “artistry” in the works are prevalent and best appreciated because they are based on recognizable works.


  4. Legault’s translation of Emily Dickinson’s poems was an enjoyable read. In my experience, I haven’t read too much of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, making her original work difficult to understand at first glance. Her language is beautifully written and I can appreciate the flowery phrases she wrote. Paul Legault made Emily Dickinson’s poetry more accessible for me as a 2017 reader. Because I don’t read Dickinson very often, Legault’s translations provided a straight-forward, concise interpretation of the original poem. For example, he translates Dickinson’s poem, #112 to “You only want what you can’t have. That’s why dying people are so sad” (Legault, 25). He changed a three-stanza poem into two sentences. Legault translated a piece of well-respected and distinguished writing into a simple two sentences. In my opinion, I felt he made the point that Dickinson was writing in a modern and easy-to-read way. In the process of Legault’s translation, the beauty of Dickinson’s writing gets lost, thus simplifying her words into a mere few sentences. While the prestige of her writing is minimized, Legault provides a direct, truthful style of writing that gets to the point of each poem. I don’t believe he is criticizing her work – judging from his translator’s note, he truly appreciates Dickinson’s work and prestige and wants to make her writing more accessible and known in a different form.

    In Emoji Dick, this style of rewriting incorporated a culturally relevant symbol into a classic piece of literature. The use of emoticons made it extremely hard to grasp the meaning solely from the emoticons. I needed the text underneath to understand the translation. In Paddy Johnson’s introduction, he writes, “It does, however, provide a much needed record of engagement typical of Internet: exuberant exchange, hide mentality, and compulsive rewriting” (xiii). I agree in that it mirrors the age of the internet and the gages the significance of emoticons in speech today. Throughout all of my text conversations, emoticons are used to display emotion and humor; in this case, emojis were used to give Moby Dick a modern cultural meaning. It was well executed, however, difficult to read as a reader and gave me no more sense of appreciation for Moby Dick as I already had. I think it was an attempt to be witty and give Moby Dick a modern eye with the usage of emoticons, but I believe it distorted the true nature of a classic piece of literature.


  5. These readings, rather these rewritings of canonical works, work more as puzzles than as pieces of literature. Emoji Dick is, and I say this without passion or malice, completely incomprehensible except for the fact that the lines that are copied into emoji form are directly below the emojified line. While Amazon Mechanical Turk’s employees did their best, and in some cases even almost succeeded. For example, the line “Cactus Skull Snake Boar Camel (Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happens to be supplied with a metaphysical professor)” (Amazon Mechanical Turk 17) may be construed as an accurate translation if one were feeling generous and thought about it for a suitably long time. Others, such as “Shoe Fist Exclamation Question-mark Torch(?) Key Upset High-heel Person-walking Car Bus Diamond 1 7 Down-finger Down-arrow Egyptian-head(?) Column Leg Turtle(?) Teepee Scissors Paper Warning Stars Exclamation Nose Upset Glad Thumbs-down Umbrella A (The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us)” (Amazon Mechanical Turk 20) fail in this regard. In effect, the emojis separate the story into many separate entities, divorced from meaning from one to the next. The meaning of Emoji Dick’s translation comes not from forming the emojis into a narrative, but rather for questioning why certain emojis mean certain phrases, words, or feelings. Why does it take five happy emojis to say “Ah!” (Amazon 20). Through emojis, this reading deconstructs our own language, and the meaning behind it. Translation, then, is a means of understanding the original work, rather than it’s translated result. It is about looking backwards and deepening understanding of the original, rather than creating meaning in something new. The Emily Dickinson Reader works much the same way, though less in an experimental foray into emojis and more through a greater general understanding of Dickinson. Legault seeks to bring Dickinson forward in time, so that modern readers can move beyond the somewhat confusing construction “I’m “Wife”! Stop there!” (Dickinson 81) and get the meaning “It’s really “great” being a wife” (Legault 39) that modern readers may miss in the beautiful constructions.


  6. So I’m not entirely how to take these “translations.” On first glance, it’s hard to consider them seriously. They appear like they might simply be parodies, but that – think is where their meaning lies. I’ve been studying a lot of Bakhtin in my other course, especially his idea of the “Carnivalesque,” which is a dismantling of authority through laughter. I wonder if that concept can be applied to Emoji Dick and The Emily Dickinson Reader. Both Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville are giants of the literary world. Their works are cemented in the literary canon.

    By “translating” their works into “less-serious” or satirical pieces, the very authority of the literary canon is thrown into question. Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville should not stand as single voices of authority in the literary world, but should be subject to critique and the input of other voices outside of their work. By commenting on their works, as Benenson and Legault have done, they have joined a larger literary conversation – pulling Melville and Dickinson outside of themselves, and making them more accessible, and therefore destroying the idea of high-art.

    Yet, another part of me still thinks it’s just a joke – and overanalyzing it feels like a dismantling of the humor itself. To say Legault was ultimately trying to question the authority of Dickinson’s voice in the literary cannon by writing translating her poem, for example, “Faith” is a fine invention” to simply “Science has more practical uses than religion” seems to do both Dickinson and Legault a disservice. After all, these works seem also to play homage in some way to the literary prior-text. It’s almost impossible to comment on something without first being very aware of that work’s influence.


  7. I’m going to get this out of the way here so I don’t spend another class period talking about how I hate the material we’ve been given to read: I find both of these translation pieces to be in very bad taste. Yes, there are a lot of sexual innuendos in older works of literature which are not readily detectable, either because they are subtle to fit the modesty of the period, or the language that they were written in now reads as archaic. I have a strong distaste for people who think they are being revolutionary when they point out that there were dick jokes in Shakespeare, and I think declaring Emily Dickinson the “most infamous lesbian vampire of the nineteenth century” or saying that she is thinking about sex in a picture of herself is kind of in that same vein. As for “Emoji Dick,” I think most would agree that the emojis used do a poor job of translating Moby Dick, and it appears as though the “authors” of this book were so excited to be making a contrived statement about the evolution of language that they ignored this fact.

    That being said, I think that translations of existing texts, no matter the extent to which the source material is altered, depend on the contextualization of said source material more than other forms of appropriative art that we have looked at for this class. Of course, a compilation film can be better understood if one has seen the footage used in its original context, and a cut up is definitely enhanced when one has the original text memorized, but I would argue that a translation (I would say specifically one that has been done for artistic purposes, instead of just so something can be readable in other countries) requires the reader to possess some sort of comprehension of the original text for it to be interpretable at its most basic level.


  8. Reading the modern translations of Dickinson’s poetry and Melville’s Moby Dick, actively changes the pace and manner in which one reads these works. Emily Dickinson’s poetry is well-renown and is often comprised of short phrases, however reading and digesting her works can be a long process for many. To some extent, the nature of analyzing any poetry involves reading and rereading the poem, dissecting its individual stanzas, lines and words. Dickinson’s poetry can be especially difficult to decode as Legault writes, “[she] wrote in a language all her own, thus the need for this English version of what she meant” (Legault 7). While I believe all poets and even writers create their own language, this quote is intended to convey the inaccessibility of Dickinson’s specific word choices and metaphors. In reading Legault’s translations, in comparison, one can easily read twenty or thirty pages and find meaning and enjoyment reading them on their own. However to understand the specific and nuanced ways in which Legault chooses to interpret Dickinson’s poems, I found it was most useful to look at the original and translations side-by-side. Through this close reading, it is evident that Legault did not only alter the language of Dickinson’s work but often made specific reference to the format and style. For example, poem 249 (according to the Norton Anthology) is one of Dickinson’s shorter and seemingly more interpretable works, however Legault provides one of his longest and most convoluted translations. He stated his aim in the introduction was to clarify Dickinson’s poetry and while he is able to convey plot and meaning in more direct ways, these translations create more of a conversation between itself and the original as well as the reader.

    Emoji Dick places this conversation between original and translation directly in the text breaking the cohesive narrative style for line-by-line reading that feels more like poetry. In the introduction, Paddy Johnson describe her own use and understanding of Emojis stating the “pictorial gestures and emotions actually help to clarify my text” (Johsnon xiii). A relatable comment, as the pictured expressions can often convey a tone or sentiment that may be hard to communicate in text alone. However, the Emojis into which Moby Dick is translated very rarely feel like they clarify the original text. At best they are accurate representations, but attempting trying to replace every single word with an Emoji, the use of these emotive pictures feels much more limited. At many points I found myself questioning and more confused by the choice of Emojis than the words themselves, one example on page 16, in which “What do you see?” is translated into a Pisces symbol, a thumbs-up, a bag of money, a target,and a sign reading “Off.” Like other appropriation works we have analyzed, these works seem to make the reader more aware of the process of reading and interpretation instead of allowing one lose themselves in a compelling narrative or prose.


  9. Legault presents his translations Dickinson’s of Dickinson’s poems as just that—translations with interpretations. Dickinson’s poems can be grouped as personal lyric and, if Legault is interpreting them and creating his own meaning, then I suppose his too are just that—personal lyric. Legault projects the feelings that Dickinson’s poems give him and writes concise sentences either summarizing the tone of her poems are writing out the feelings he gets from her poems. After all, “Emily Dickinson used to exist. Now she’s doing it again” (8). I am somewhat familiar with Dickinson—her sociable ways turning into agoraphobia during the last 15 years of her life—Legault categorizes her as a vampire, something I am, interestingly enough, unfamiliar with. One of the poems that struck me (only because I am familiar with the original) is 320. In the original poem, Dickinson talks about how this certain slant of light in the North East can oppress someone—make someone feel so oppressive yet they cannot express the feeling, similar to how someone cannot define light. And, when the light leaves and departs, there is a looming feeling of death or distance. In Legault’s interpretation or translation, he writes, “I am dramatically affected by changes in the light. It might be because I’m a vampire” (52). Emily Dickinson often wrote about her own death and wrote from beyond the grave—maybe this is why Legault likes her to be a vampire. Specifically, in this poem, Legault brings up the familiar notion that vampires are affected by and cannot go into the light which is why Legault thinks she might be a vampire. It is humorous on some levels but odd that Legault reduces Dickinson’s writing to two sentences that lean on a fantasy or conspiracy. I guess that’s the joke though.
    Perhaps a little bit more comical to me is Emoji Dick—this is more upbeat and, since the original text is written with the emojis, less knowledge is needed. This is less interpretation and more of a puzzle—a literary masterpiece (to some) turned into pictographs. Without the original text, the story is truly up to any interpretation, “What is the chief element he employs?” turned into a question mark, a mustached man, a magnifying class, a border, and a sign of what seems to be a male. Though, that is just my interpretation of those emojis.


  10. When it comes to making comprehensibility, Emoji Dick and The Emily Dickinson Reader, are complete opposites. Emoji Dick is Herman Neville’s classic work translated into emojis, basically modern day hieroglyphics, is contrasted by the adaptation into a version of English that is more understandable to the reader that does not have the skill or determination to figure out the hidden meaning of each of Emily Dickinson’s poems.
    Reading a non-translated version of Emoji Dick is an exercise in patience and understanding the subtle aspects of a language with no formal rules. English is a language that is gone through hundreds of years of changes, while emojis were invented in Japan in 1999, and did not really get popular in English speaking countries until around 2011. The lack of translatability between the two written languages is seen in the reinterpretation of Moby Dick, when “Call me Ismael,” (Melville et. al. 15) becomes “☎️👨🏻🌲🐳👌🏻,”(Melville et. al. 15). Without knowing that that string of emojis is supposed to mean, could a person off the street know what that means. To prove that statement I asked a friend what he thought that those symbols and he said, “I called a man about a tree and the whale said okay.” Emojis without context are non-sequiturs.
    For Emily Dickinson’s poems, the opposite is true. Yet, in the translated work, The Emily Dickinson Reader, there is a problem as well. In her native form of English, Dickinson sounds modest and proper to the modern reader, however the translated work makes her sound like an edgy teen on her Tumblr.
    Maybe some works should just stay in their original context. A translation is supposed to make something clearer, this succeeded for The Emily Dickinson Reader, but failed for Emoji Dick. If a translation does not make a text clearer then it has failed at its job.


  11. Having read Emily Dickinson before and coming in to the reading with some familiarity of her work, I’m not crazy about Legault’s translation. Yes, it sounds pretty and reads smoothly/more like our contemporary language today, but I can’t help but let my own bias get in the way in preferring her words to the words of someone “translating” them.

    However, I do think this type of translation offers up a unique way to bring other forms of knowledge and accessibility to the original work. Legault’s translation might circulate to more people of this generation than Emily Dickinson’s original work because it takes much less effort to read. The fact that he took the time to sit down and translate her work for others to read easily and then interpret in their own way says a lot about the labor and care it takes to do this type of translation, which is respectable. There is something comedic about the way it reads as well and provides entertainment value.

    I think the work Legault is doing here is very interesting. In a weird way, he’s teaching us how to read through his translation, even though it’s a translation of words in the same language, we learn how to read Dickinson’s work through his. Yet, I don’t think he does a good job of justifying this complexity and depth of his project in the translator’s notes.

    I find Emoji Dick hilarious. There’s this way in which the translation lends itself to the reader to decide whether or not to take it seriously which I really appreciate. No one is “fluent” in emoji so the translation is obviously limited, but I think that’s what makes it a rich conceptual piece as oppose to a “literary” piece. Emoji is not a language, so what is it? I think this piece forces us to question the technological ways in which we communicate that break the boundaries of language. Do we even understand other people’s use of emojis or ourselves when we use them? Is there something lost in this weird limbo of a “language” or something gained? These questions intrigue me.


  12. Generally when I think of translation, I think of works like Beowulf of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Each of those works was translated from the original language into English with great effort by the author to make the new work evoke the style of the original author. Take, for example, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf. In that text Heaney does painstaking work to recreate the author’s own voice, with extensive notes as to why he picked certain synonyms over others, etc. His own voice as a writer is absent from the work entirely.
    This is not what I experienced with Emoji Dick or The Emily Dickinson Reader. Rather, these struck me as almost a mockery of the original text. True, in the Translator’s Note to the Emily Dickinson Reader, Legault writes, “If she were still alive, I would attempt, and inevitably fail, to be her best friend,” so he clearly has some love for Dickinson and her poetry, but that love manifests in a reasonably sarcastic tone, with translations such as “My dress is too big,” and “People get really worked up about death. Get over it,” (Legault 8, 14, 24).
    Perhaps translation is the wrong word for works such as this. Rather than translate, Legault simplifies. A true translation into contemporary English would remain a poem and would still require some interpretation, but would merely be written in updated language. What Legault gives us is entirely different. Our first Dickinson example is #39: “I never lost as much but twice – / And that was in the sod. / Twice have I stood a beggar / Before the door of God! / Angels – twice descending / Reimbursed my store – / Burglar! Banker – Father! / I am poor once more!” Legault’s ‘translation’ of this poem retains none of the voice or poeticism of the original work, but is rather a sarcastic, simple summary: “God keeps taking my things. Eventually he gives them back, but it’s really frustrating” (15). This is just one of many examples across The Emily Dickinson Reader and Emoji Dick, but I think it demonstrates how this brand of ‘translation’ oversimplifies and ultimately disregards the original text.


  13. These particular readings sounded hip and fun at first, and I don’t necessarily think the opposite now, but I struggled making my way through the text/emojis. In the Moby Dick rewrite, the lines were broken up by emojis, forcing the reader to read only bits at a time. I found myself taking a while, as I had to assess whether or not the emojis made sense with the text. This adds a whole new dimension of thought to the reading of “Moby Dick,” because readers would probably not question Melville’s words every two sentences. Especially because they’re emojis—something many readers are experts on—readers feel like they have more authority to validate the translation. There were definitely times when I thought some of the emojis could have been better selected. Additionally, while they are not in the same format as the original, the emojis serve as a text separate from the original manuscript. Do the icons mesh well with and help the understanding of the text of “Moby Dick,” or do they only distract. For me, they distracted, which is why I’m likely to think that the emoji thing was a fun idea but not necessarily a fun reading.

    The Emily Dickinson poetry was definitely easier to read, although the format of our book made it difficult to see the translation side by side with the original, so I didn’t really compare them on a word by word basis. Instead, I thought more about the difference in tone and the difference in thought and emotion evoked to the reader. When reading Dickinson’s original poetry, the reader thinks seriously about what it might mean. Meanwhile, when reading the translation, the reader reads the build-up that either is or sounds a lot like the original but then is taken in a whole new direction. In a way I find more drastic than the “Emoji Dick,” the translation of Dickinson changed its entire meaning. Both, one could argue, are parodies, as they cheekily modernize and lighten old classics. The Dickinson translation is just less predictable, because some of the actual text is changed, and the combination of serious literature and comedic alterations takes the reader on a roller coaster of feelings that the original work did not elicit.


  14. Honestly, I don’t see much point in the concept of emoji translation that is presented to us by Herman Melville in Emoji Dick. On a technical level, a lot of the emoji’s don’t actually reflect the text, and therefore do not stand in as a reasonable translation. It reminds me of the old game where you would see an image + another image + another image and have to figure out the phrase. I enjoyed those games, however this is asking for a lot of extra time and effort from the reader, while the text is easily readable right below. What is the point of having the extra emoji translation in the first place? It feels as if Melville is simply making fun of a classic piece of work and claiming that it can all be boiled down to emoji’s. It feels like the meaning and importance of the text is being stripped away by the emoji’s, and turning it into something laughable that should not be taken seriously. While reading it, I began to just glance at the emoji’s because in my head I kept thinking “this is ridiculous”. I don’t feel as if it adds any value to the text, if anything, it loses value.

    On the contrary, I did enjoy the translations of Emily Dickinson. I feel as if poems are very ambiguous. When reading poetry I often need to stop and “translate” them into simple language for my own good, simply to understand them better and digest them easier. These translations on their own would not hold much weight or enjoyment because it’s the comparison of the original to the translation that makes a difference. The comparison brings humor to the sophisticated, over the top, sometimes pretentious sounding language used in poems, and overall makes the experience more favorable for the average reader.


  15. Right off the bat after reading these texts, I have to say I have a bit of a hard time supporting the validity of their materiality. Beginning with Legault’s The Emily Dickinson Reader, I am drawn to the immediate translator’s note. Legault writes, “Emily Dickinson wrote in a language all her own, thus the need of this English version of what she meant. The translations presented here are my attempt to rewrite her poems (with their foreign beauty intact) in “Standard English.” I assume this line to be tongue in cheek, but the fruits of Legault’s labors are really appalling. Take for instance his translation of stanza 319. Legault “translates”: “Sometimes after a really good sunset, I feel like a pumped-up, on-top-of-the-world version of myself, and I realize that I’m better than everybody else. Compared to how great I am, everybody else is basically meaningless. Then I remember how I will die in obscurity.” Legault leaves out the original lines from Dickinson, but you don’t need them side by side to know that he’s failed spectacularly in keeping “their foreign beauty intact.” Perhaps this is the point and I’m taking the material of the work too much at face-value, but what originally made these lines masterpieces were their original language—this just feels too reminiscent of the “No Fear Shakespeare” translations that the assholes in my high school would read.
    Turning then to Emoji Dick, I find that after analyzing the Legault piece, I am able to justify, albeit slightly, the materiality of the text. Unlike Legault, Benenson includes the original text with his pictorial translation. The effect of this does less to annoy me as with Legault, but rather allows me to see the somewhat clever applications of simplistic emojis used to convey complex ideas. That being said, while some lines like “Call me Ishmael” are well done with Emoji, Lines like “there stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke,” are completely lost in translation. It is interesting to consider that to us the language of Melville is intricate and complex, but to a learned reader in the mid-19th century, the language is completely approachable, and conversely our modern hieroglyph emoji would be absolute gibberish.


  16. I initially found myself quite amused by the Emily Dickinson Reader. Legault’s translations are more palatable to a contemporary audience and even provide a humorous take on the confounding nature of Dickinson’s work. But I then found myself wondering if these translations eliminated the subjectivity of Dickinson’s poetry, which I think to be one of its defining virtues. In translation, we certainly lose Dickinson’s intended aurality and many subtler nuances. I am then compelled to ask whether or not translating Dickinson’s betters our understanding of her poetry or clouds it.

    Today’s assignment made me think a lot about the notion of literary translation in general. Is my inclination to dismiss Legault’s translation as reductive classist? I have had access to classes at my private liberal arts college and in high school in which we have looked at Dickinson’s work and dissected her imagery before. Because I know her work, the Legault feels very dumbed-down and forgoes qualities which I consider to be integral to her work. However, this may be the difference between Dickinson being understandable and not-understandable to a group of readers.

    I then go back to many academic debates I have had about the value of No Fear Shakespeare translations, which I used to be staunchly against, but am no longer after considering their use for students who’ve had less opportunity to experience this language than I. That said, I do not condone the use of No Fear Shakespeare— or the Legault— in lieu of the original text. I recognize its value as a tool for understanding, but by no means would deem it a worthy substitute/

    It is difficult, here, to draw in Emoji Dick as a learning supplement as well, except for one that may raise enthusiasm of millennial readers. The issue I have just discussed with The Emily Dickinson Reader does not stand for Emoji Dick, as it is not really possible for one to read Emoji Dick as a substitute for the actual Melville. In fact, I would argue that Emoji Dick demands a knowledge of Melville’s novel in order to be properly enjoyed by its audience.


  17. I think it’s first and foremost important to make a distinction between translation in the “old-fashioned sense” and this new term that Bhaba introduced to us — “Cultural” Translation. How writing fits into the practice of remaking in relation to authorship, visuality, language, and more is that language defined and delimited the particular world-view of its speakers, in the sense that what they could not say in their language was what they could not even conceive of. As Legault points out, “Dickinson wrote in a language all her own, thus the need for the English version of what she meant”. I won’t validate that claim but I do think that cultural translations does not mean literary translation involving two texts from two different languages and cultures. In fact ,it more so spells the very extinction and erasure of translation. As we see in Emoji Dick and the Legault piece, they are completely different texts from their original


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